FORT PORTAL – 10 girls missed the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) in 2018 due to pregnancy in Ntoroko District alone, according to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Simon Bimbona.
Bimbona was speaking at launch of Community Action to End Violence Against Children today at Kaalya Courts Hotel in Fort Portal. He said violence against children forces them out of school and a concerted effort is needed to help the children, especially girls complete their education.
The project is a brainchild of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Uganda Chapter.
The Executive Director FAWEU, Susan Opok Tumusiime said their focus has shifted to the community as opposed to basing only at the school, because they realized that the environment at home determines a lot how children benefit from school.
Tumusiime called on all stakeholders to take keen interest in ending violence against children as it is a responsibility for us all to end this vice that seems to be deeply rooted within our society.
Bimbona enumerated the challenges his region faces in ending violence against children as abject poverty, cultural beliefs, the porous Congo border, the fishing communities lifestyle among others.
The CAO said due to poverty, many parents look at their daughters as a source of income and because their culture allows marrying off girls as young as 12, some still encourage and abate child marriages and commercial sex.
“Girls are abducted and married off with the consent of the fathers and the paternal aunties,” a resident of the region said.
The boda boda challenge is a big as any other, as many girls are lured into affairs by boda-boda riders who offer them free lifts to and from school. And due to the long distances that the girls trek, some end up falling for the tricks of these boda-boda men.
Although the school authorities with the help of district leaders tried to get the 10 pregnant girls to sit for their PLE regardless, they did not respond to the offer.
It is against such a background that FAWEU undertook a three-year project on prevention and response to violence against children in and around 12 secondary schools and 18 primary schools in the districts of Bundibugyo, Ntoroko and Kasese from 2015 to 2018.
The project worked with different stakeholders building their capacity as well as consolidating existing government efforts in the promotion of violent free school communities. As a result, a positive relationship has been built with children, schools, communities, district structures and central government ministries and departments, CSOs and other implementing partners.
Schools were supported to set up School Community Committees, comprising of school teachers, parents, and other members of the community. The committees which are multipurpose also play the sensitisation and watchdog role to respond to the different forms of violence against children such as neglect, assault, physical abuse, defilement and emotional abuse.
FAWEU facilitated the setting up of Child Rights Clubs within the 30 participating secondary and primary schools through which the children are empowered to demand for their rights and speak up against the violence meted against them.
The Woman Member of Parliament for Bundibugyo District, Josephine Biribonwa said the intervention was timely as she plans to carry out a sensitisation programme for my constituency against violence against children.
Biribonwa said in Bundibugyo polygamy is widely practiced and it strains the family’s meagre resources. “In the end, the boys are chosen over girls to receive education,” she said. The legislator called for training of Senior Women teachers and the Senior Male Teachers in gender-responsive pedagogy.
Biribonwa said there are allegations that some teachers write suggestive notes to their pupils and unfortunately many cases of defilement are not reported to police at all.
“Some defilement cases are settled on the spot, the parents taking a few millions and the LC 1 Chairman may not even get to know about it,” she said.
The Commissioner for Youth and Children Affairs, Mondo Kyateeka, who spoke on behalf of the Minister of Youth and Children Affairs, Hon Nakiwala Kiyingi, said men have a duty to stand for women and children.
Kyateeka said the Violence against children done in 2014, showed that 10,270 children had been married off in one year in the districts of Bundibugyo, Kasese and Ntoroko.
The Commissioner said the laws that govern children should be employed without fear or favour and child marriages are defilement and they should be treated as a criminal offence.
He called upon local and cultural leaders to create awareness and encouraged them to make use of the liberalised media to campaign against violence against children.
“We need to make use of our cultures to protect our children instead of using them to hurt them. In Africa we do not have orphans, if your sibling dies, you are supposed to take up their children as a parent,” he said.