KAMPALA – Uganda is currently hosting 1.3 million refugees from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda, the highest numbers of refugees in Africa and the third largest in the world.
The high number of refugees in Uganda is partly explained by the country’s hospitality and good refugee policy. International bodies including UNHCR have lauded Uganda refugee policy as one of the most progressive.
The refugee policy and act offer refugees various rights, i.e. allocation of land to each refugee household, access to public social services, right to engage in income generating activities and to seek employment , security and protection and freedom of movement.
This therefore provides a pathway for refugees to establish their own livelihoods and attain a degree of self reliance. Statistics show that refugees are mostly women and children.
Refugee children are encouraged to study with Ugandan children in regular schools but the national education sector itself is faced by a number of challenges, underlying poverty, limited teaching capacities, poor infrastructure, overcrowded classes, poor learning environment and girls’ limited school enrolment, retention and completion rates.
In addition, the presence of refugees exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and renders the population in the refugee hosting communities less resilient to economic and or environmental shocks.
As per the theme of this year 2018, Day of African Child; No Leaving any Child behind for Uganda‘s Development, Quality education is key in transforming the lives not of only the children but society as whole.
UWESO in partnership with United Arab Emirates is contributing towards reducing this gap.
Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO) is an indigenous National NGO established in 1986 to respond to the needs and concerns of Orphans and Other vulnerable children (OVC).
UWESO exists to promote the Survival, Development, Participation and Protection of OVC in Uganda.
The thematic areas in UWESO’s Strategic Plan; 2016 – 2020 are: Sustainable Livelihoods, Education and Child Protection, Promotion of Community Health and Institutional Development/Technical Support Services.
In partnership with the Government of Uganda and with support from United Arab Emirates (UAE), UWESO is implementing a project, Advancing Rights and Opportunities to Education for Vulnerable Children in Uganda for the period; 2018 – 2019.
The Districts of implementation are; Mbarara and Isingiro in 11 sub counties i.e. Mbarara sub counties are – Mwizi, Bugamba, Kakoba, Kamukuzi and Nyakayojo.
While in Isingiro District the sub counties of operation are; Rushasha, Rugaga, Kikagati, Isingiro Town council ,Ngarama and kashumba.
The project focuses on refugees and host communities.
The project aim is to reduce vulnerability among refugee and host communities’ children in Mbarara and Isingiro Districts.
It is envisaged that by 2019, 22,500 women and men in Mbarara and isingiro Districts will have boosted their household income in order to provide education for their children. Secondly the project seeks to improve access to quality education for 4,500(3,700 girls, 800 boys) refugee children in Mbarara andIsingiro Districts by the end of the project; December 2019.
Provision of integrated financial services to 22,500 women and men through formation of not less than 750 Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and promotion of collaboration and linkages to other Financial Services Providers (FSPs) out for the mature VSLAs are key in the AROC Project.
The VSLA methodology is a savings-based financial service which facilitates the mobilization of group members’ savings and on-lending among members only with no external liabilities.
The VSLA model emphasizes provision of simple and accessible financial services, to the vulnerable and poor communities in the rural and peri – urban areas of Uganda.
Self selected members agree to form a VSLA these (members) are trained on group cohesion, savings and credit management, development of internal rules and regulations, election of committee members and simple record keeping.
Minimum amount to be saved is determined by the group members and the highest saver does not exceed five times of the minimum saving value.
A VSLA operates with a metallic cash box where important records and any un-borrowed monies are kept. The VSLA methodology therefore reduces dependency syndrome hence empowering rural communities both socially and economically.
In Uganda this intervention was designed to mitigate the gaps in the finance sector where formal financial institutions see the rural poor as a high risk segment and more often than not put emphasis on collateral as opposed to promotion of micro savings thereby exposing the poor to greater risks.
The long waiting period for funds due to the legal requirements of the institutions and the expensive processing fees make VSLAs the best convenient and affordable alternative for the rural communities.
Best practices and lessons learnt have been documented by UWESO and other implementers as a result of implementing VSLA and they include:
• Improved saving culture of the poor and marginalized communities of rural communities.
• Increased incomes.
• Improved livelihoods (nutrition, clothing, etc).
• Improved capacity to meet requirements like medical and education.
• Increased asset accumulation notably like furniture for home, radios, bicycles, mobile phones and ox ploughs to increase agricultural productivity.
• Improved social net works and capacity to take up leadership roles at community level by VSLA members.
• Improved self esteem and control of household resources especially by women.
• VSLA acting as platforms to discuss Child Protection issues.
In addition, the project will advocate and create awareness on the rights of the child and education, through children clubs at school, paintings on the walls – Murals, disseminate 30,000 IEC materials among other interventions.
There is going to be improved retention of learners especially girls in the participating schools where the girl child will be provided with sanitary pads and all the 4,500 children will be supported with scholastic materials.
Ultimately the project aims at creating a collaborative environment between the Schools, VSLAs and the local authorities thereby strengthening structures such as Parents Teachers Association (PTA), School Management Committees (SMC), Child Protection Committees (CPCs) for better provision of socio economic interventions for the child.
This Article Appeared in the Official Printed Ugandan Edition of The Day of the African Child 2018 Magazine – a publication of the National Children Council (Uganda Government), whose production is facilitated by Post Media Ltd (publishers of www.pmldaily.com).