KAMPALA – Following the escalation of Covid-19 second wave in the country, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni on June 18, 2021 announced tough measures to mitigate the infections.
Amongst the measures was closure of schools for 42 days which will end on Friday, July 30.
Whereas the President is expected to address the nation on the case on Saturday 31, the Education Minister Janet Museveni while releasing 2020 PLE results recently said that her ministry is still uncertain when schools will reopen.
Mrs. Museveni said that it is premature to start discussing school reopening when coronavirus cases are still surging.
Several reports indicate that the lockdown has exposed children to different challenges including; sexual abuse, early marriages among others.
To fight these, Child’s i Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation that helps children return to families by rebuilding family support systems has come out with the “Keep a Child Safe” Campaign to raise awareness among parents and caregivers about keeping children safe during this lock down.
To understand more about the campaign, PML Daily’s Nelson Mandela sits down with the Foundation’s County Director Ms Susan Ajok in one-to-one interview.
QN. Tell us about keeping a child-safe campaign
ANS. The keeping a child safe campaign is geared to raise awareness among parents and caregivers about keeping children safe during this lock down. It shall seek to address parenting strengths and skills necessary to protect children from harm.
QN. Covid-19 has almost affected everyone regardless, why is the campaign, particularly about the children?
ANS. We are concerned about children because they are the most vulnerable during such times. Besides, children continue to experience some form of violence – physical, sexual, emotional or domestic. Girls in particular are at risk of early marriage, teenage pregnancy and child labor. This campaign underscores the importance of addressing the safety of children during this period.
QN. This isn’t the first lockdown we have had, why the campaign now?
ANS. The context of service delivery for children is not static, where as there was a focus on children in the previous lock down, the second lock down has emerged at a time when the children were already struggling with the impact of the first lock down e.g disrupted attendance of school, poverty, to mention but a few. Further to this, it is observed that children continue to suffer harm. This campaign requires that we profile the issue of children’s safety as critical.
QN. As Child’s i Foundation, how have you discovered that the Covid-19 situation has affected the children?
ANS. Child’s i is in regular contact with children through its structures in the communities. These include our community volunteers and champions who keep the organization updated on the situation of children and their families. At various fora such as the technical working groups, the issues of children’s wellbeing is a critical agenda for deliberation by the partners serving children.
QN. Usually, vulnerable populations including persons with disabilities are marginalised. How have these been affected by the lockdown and what measures do you think should be employed in their rescue?
ANS. In many communities , there is usually stigma associated with persons living with disability. As a result, during lock down, they are usually the most marginalised in the delivery of services. It is recommended that there should be strengthened advocacy to increase public awareness about disability. Sensitization sessions should be intended to generate general awareness about disability to dispel the myth that surrounds disability. This will greatly contribute to changing of community attitudes and perceptions towards disability.
QN. How would you advise parents/guardians to keep their children safe during the lockdown against all odds?
ANS. Parents and guardians can potentially influence the behaviour of children. During lock down, should be more involved in addressing the wellbeing of their children eg education, safety. Most importantly they should serve as good role models in the lives of their children.
QN. We understand that Child’s i Foundation, via various projects, has often come out to help vulnerable children and families. How does the Foundation intend to fight for these in this Covid situation?
ANS. We have been doing all within our means to ensure that families offer support and that children under their care continue to thrive and remain safe. With the current restrictions, we are working with our network of community volunteers to reach the families and children through rendering psychosocial support, providing supplies such as food and other household items. During this period, we are also ensuring that their safety from Covid-19 is paramount. The families are receiving information and resources to prevent Covid-19.
QN. Do you think the government has done enough in keeping children safe and how do you advise it to handle the case?
ANS. The government has been focusing on supporting some vulnerable families in dealing with the lock down, however, there could be a lot more to do in ensuring the safety of children. It is recommended that this is handled through the existing structures such as the Uganda police, local councils working in close collaboration with civil society organisations. At community level, the government should spearhead the safety agenda for children by working with community structures to reach the households.
QN. How best do you think the government and the CSOs should collaborate to rescue children out of the lockdown effects?
ANS. During this period , government and CSOs should collabrate through harnessing each others resources to serve children better. This includes coordinating efforts at national and district level to address the effects of lock down. As a priority, advocacy on addressing the lock down impact should be addressed across other sectors e.g education, health, to mention but a few.