Advocating For Safer Schools And Better Learning
For Children In Church Of Uganda Schools
Church of Uganda over the years has been involved in nurturing children, spiritually and physically, through church ministry, teachers, leaders, and parents. Our children are deeply cherished; many of these adults including parents make incredible sacrifices for their children and entire communities look to children for a brighter future especially by taking them to school and providing the necessary support. However,too many children in Uganda continue to be at risk even from the very adults whom they depend on for safety and well-being.The Education / Children’s Ministry believes that strengthening of Church Structures and Governance Systems to promote holistic quality informal and formal education for children cannot over emphasised now than ever before if we have to see better learning for our Children, but how can this be if our children live in unsafe environments?
The recently trends in the survival rates in our Education at Primary School level are very worrying. A report on the National Forum on the state Children (Sept 2015) indicates that while the Primary School enrollment rate is high, more than 70% of children who start P.1 do not complete the Primary school cycle. In 2013 and 2014, only 30.10% and 32.10% survived to primary 7 and dropout rates are higher between Primary 5 and Primary 7. Both boys and girls experience low survival rates at Primary School level. This is not surprising because the same report quotes violence against Children, the Uganda Police annual Crime and Traffic reports 2011 and 2013 indicated that 12,410 and 19,301 children were victims of various offences ranging from neglect to infanticide, with same reports indicating that defilement cases continue to increase from 7,360 in 2009 to 9,588 in 2013 representing a 30% increase.
As a Coordinator, I have had no peace, because each time I am out, I see a child being beaten, I hear a story of a child who has been defiled and I read or even watch a story of a child who is faced with a risk for their life: How can my country expect better? Who is responsible to change this? These are some of the questions facing all the stakeholders; -leaders, parents and all good people.
It is still sad as the analysis on Children in Uganda (UNICEF, 2015) indicated that 77.7% and 82% of primary and secondary students respectively, reported experiences of sexual abuse in schools. The UNICEF 2013 report revealed that 60% of girls and 61% boys had never reported any case of abuse due to fear of being victimized but the perpetrators. 67% of the perpetrators were found to be male teachers!!!!
In Uganda, widespread ignorance of laws against Child Abuse, Violence and Neglect has contributed to the persistent violation of children’s rights in all its forms yet it remains on the increase. It is very unfortunate that these acts of commission or omission that endanger or impair children’s physical/ emotional wellbeing, healthy development still dominate our societies. Children from all over Uganda, even from families where parents are literate continue to suffer from abuse, including neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Teenage pregnancies, child sacrifice, child trafficking are very common stories. Protection and safeguarding of our children is a great need.
The Church of Uganda believes strongly that holistically develop of the child’s capabilities for healthy physical, moral value and spiritual growth especially in Pre-Primary and Early Childhood Centres is our responsibility. Currently the Church of Uganda has 13million members, withover 56% under 18years of age. We realize that protecting and safeguarding the young people is equally our responsibility like it is for the Family, NGOs, Community and Government. As a Faith Based Organization, we must demonstrate our commitment on Children by putting in place measures to ensure that our children are kept safe and protected from all harmful acts. Our Children should grow up with knowledge that they are cherished and protected at all costs. One of objectives of the Church is to reach children for Christ and facilitate their spiritual learning and growth for Christian witness. This cannot be done while they are living in an unsafe world.
We read in Matthew 19:13-14, “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus did not just love children, he wanted them near himself, protected and safe.
The Education Department is ensuring that there is quality assurance, Christian teaching and spiritual nurture in Church of Uganda founded education institutions. Ensuring accessible, quality, equitable and efficient Education service delivery in the Province cannot be left for the Government any longer. We must build capacity of all Church governance and management Structures and heads of Education Institutions to enhance their skills in strengthening holistic education system in our Schools. The church must monitor, inspect and supervise and coordinate the establishment and functionality of church founded Education Institutions.
My Unit is engaged in developing guidelines and standards as well as equipping and training for Dioceses, Archdeaconries, Parishes and sub Parishes, Schools and all affiliate Organisations. We have developed and published 2500 copies of the Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy for the Church of Uganda and over 150 Children’s Leaders and Teachers have already been trained. We have also developed and intregrated the Children’s Descipleship Curriculum, meant for Children at Risk, with bible truths, character transformation and life skillsintergrated into our Churches and Schools’ learning and over 1880 Children’s Leaders and Teachers have been equipped. I have already trained 330 school Chaplains as stewards, shepherds and spiritual gate-keepers, for all our Schools.
I believe we have the duty to develop and strengthen safe school environments for all our Children if the situation is to change. The will to have our children safe should go beyond the Government to all stake holders; the Parents, the Religious Leaders, the Judicial Officers and Law enforcement officers. We cannot allow our children continue fearing learning because of the risks they face. We cannot let the children be treated like they are aliens in their own Country. We cannot let violence and harmful practices keep our young generation from learning. We must have safe schools environments for better learning. It is time to act now!
Rev Richard Rukundo 2016