KAMPALA – AfriChild Centre in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has launched the National Dissemination of the National Child Focused Research Agenda 2022-2026.
The Knowledge Hub launched at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel on Wednesday is anchored on the Government of Uganda’s National Child Policy (2020) which provides a framework for addressing issues related to children’s rights and well-being in a holistic and coordinated manner by providing an enabling environment to assure their survival, development, care and protection, participation as well as strengthening of systems for child wellbeing. The research agenda is hinged on the lessons learnt and challenges encountered during the implementation of the first National Child Focused Research Agenda (2015-2020).
Mr. Timothy Opobo, the Executive Director at AfriChild Centre says the agenda seeks to provide guidance for undertaking child-centred research that is anchored on the national child policy areas and actions to improve the realisation and enjoyment of all children’s rights to survival, development, protection, and participation by all children in Uganda.
“This document is identifying the key research gaps that we have as a country on issues to do with children across different sectors of health, education, systems and structures, and child participation. So, the idea behind this agenda is we want collective efforts instead of people beginning to do research in areas that may not be beneficial for us as a country.”
“What we did is to get all these research areas and put them in one document so that all actors working in areas to do with children have a reference point to know that if I want collect information, or contribute, the areas have already been identified,” he added.
Opobo gave an example that in the education sector there is a challenges of school dropouts which the agenda seeks to look into to understand the real problem involved in this.
“We also have the issue of early childhood education development; this is most important stage in the growth of the child. However, it is also the area that is fully in the hands of the private sector. So, we want to make the case why it is important for the government of Uganda to invest in that stage of education.”
On health, Opobo said it is involved with the issues of access to reproductive health, especially by teenagers.
“We now have a serious challenge with our adolescents where we see an increase in levels of HIV/AIDS. There are issues to do with access to treatment, addressing stigma but also, there is a critical issue of mental health which increased following Covid-19 pandemic. Children are showing signs of depression, many doing suicidal, and losing hope. So, we want to see what to do and what information can we gather that can help the issue of mental health in this country,” he said.
Speaking at the event, Professor Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice Chancellor – Makerere University said that this research agenda presents an ambitious and wide-ranging framework to transform the lives of children.
Represented by Dr. Eric Awich Ochen, a Senior lecturer at Makerere University’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Nawangwe said that as a nation with one of the youngest populations in the world (56 percent), Uganda must recognize that this presents immense potential for its national posterity.
Projections indicate that the population of children will increase exponentially, and triple by 2080.
Prof. Nawangwe, however, says that the growth and benefits the country anticipates to reap from its young population are not going to happen automatically, or by chance.
“It has been severally echoed that if we are to benefit from the demographic dividend, we must be intentional. It is for this reason that we must applaud the efforts of all those institutions that have invested in developing and presenting to us, the national research agenda on child-focused research.”
“This research agenda presents us with the opportunity to focus our research efforts in areas that matter for the transformation of children, their families and society. As a country, we must recognize that research is a prerequisite to guide our innovation and to generate solutions that will propel us to the future as espoused in the different development targets that we aspire for, such as vision 2040, agenda 2063, the 2030 sustainable development goals.”
“As we embrace research as a pillar of our development process, we must also take stock of the considerable challenges in this endeavor: the limited research funding, the economic crisis, difficulties in transforming research into implementation solutions, new technologies and modes of working. All these challenges mean that as that as a country, we cannot afford to rest,” he added.
Mr. VC committed on behalf of Makerere University their readiness to take on the challenge.
“For the last 100 years, we have established a track record of excellence in training professionals to lead and transform this nation. We have registered commendable growth in our internal capacity, and we have also embarked on building strategic partnerships with others across the globe.”
“As we celebrate Makerere University’s 100 years, I pledge on behalf of the University, that we will continue to consolidate our efforts as a research resource hub in Africa and to contribute to Uganda’s engine of development. We fully welcome and embrace this research agenda.”
Giving the keynote address, Professor Fred Ssewamala from Washington University blamed most of the violence against children on escalating poverty.
“Half of the children living in Subsaharan Africa are living in poverty. We have a big number of young people and this can be a blessing or curse depending on how we invest in the future generation.”
“Poverty makes people fail to adhere to their medications. Even if there’s free ARVs and these young people are still poor, they’ll not be able to protect themselves.”
He, however, said that no violence against children is justifiable, saying that all violence against children is, however, preventable.
“Over 1 billion children are subjected to violence every year across the world. Many children face emotional abuse by teachers, sexual violence and physical abuse from parents.”
Officiating at the event, Diana Nankunda Mutasingwa, the Minister of State – Office of the Vice President commended the organisers, saying that the research agenda comes at time when the country recognizes and appreciate the role of research in policy formulation and implementation.
“From my position, I can attest to the profound importance of using research to inform policy formulation, policy analysis, policy advocacy and policy implementation for the promotion of child wellbeing in Uganda. From the past and the current policy formation, it is evident that the government recognizes the need to harness the full potential of children as a key strategy of economic transformation leading to the attainment of a middle-income country by 2040.”
In light of this, the minister said the government has made significant strides towards creating an environment that allows every child to realize their full potential.
“Key among is the launch of the national child policy 2020, action plan 2020, 2021, 2025-2026 which provides a framework of child wellbeing. The national child-focused policy research agenda is unifying documents for state and non-state actors to jointly reflect on the state of children in the country and the new research areas that will define new commitments for common action in the promotion of child health and survival.”
“As the timeline of the 2040 vision draws closer, it is critical for Uganda to get all efforts to emulate and address the challenges to maximize children’s potential. Accordingly, a focus on generating relevant research evidence is important and very timely.”
The highly participatory process of developing the National Child Focused Research Agenda 2022-2026 was led by the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development supported by a steering committee comprised of officials from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the National Children’s Authority, the AfriChild Centre at Makerere University and UNICEF Uganda.