Refugee communities have hit the ground running in impressive style, preparing for the strengthening of early years education in Kyaka II settlement, Uganda. Since the launch announcement of the programme in May, new staff have been engaging in high quality training and creating colourful learning resources for centres.
What can I do?
If you would like to donate towards our early years refugee work in Kyaka II one way to do this is through our appeal with The Big Give in December, the UK’s biggest online matched giving platform.
Every donation you make will be doubled through our Big Give appeal and we are hoping to raise £30,000.
Please get in touch with us at email@example.com and we will send you more details of when and how you can give as the appeal approaches.
Seeing investment in action inspires a month of record breaking fundraising from The Body Shop at Home
This June started with a trip to Uganda and ended with a target smashing amount raised by The Body Shop at Home™.
Ben, our Executive Director, visited Jinja with Suzanne, Jade, Louise and Lauren - supporters from The Body Shop at Home. They visited the five communities we work with , to see the difference that The Body Shop at Home are making through their dedicated, year round generosity of their consultants and customers.
Children on the Edge Africa is at the forefront of efforts to lobby the Ugandan parliament to tackle child sacrifice through the legal system. We ask CEO Winnie Biira about progress so far...
I didn’t think this happened any more?
Child sacrifice has emerged as a horrifying form of child abuse in Uganda. In the past decade, sacrifice of children in Uganda has been cited by the media, police and Government of Uganda as a major child protection concern. Police records continue to highlight numerous cases of child sacrifice in the country. The media in Uganda is also awash with stories of gruesome murders on young, innocent children committed for various reasons.
Why does it happen?
A study carried out by Uganda Child Rights NGO Network (UCRNN) with support from Children on the Edge, showed how the practice is rooted in a number of socio-economic and cultural factors as well as traditional beliefs that the ritual murder or mutilation of children can bring health, wealth and good fortune. Children are more likely to fall victims to sacrifice compared to adults, because they are more easily lured and believed to be “pure”. Adults drawn to the practice are tricked into believing that the purity of child makes the ritual more powerful.
Why is the law not working?
Currently, human sacrifice cases in Uganda are prosecuted as murder under the Penal Code Act. These cases have a very unique nature, so the offence of murder is not sufficient to deal with the practice. For example a child could be kidnapped for sacrifice but get away, or could be mutilated but still live, and there is no law to deal with the severity of that crime. Sadly this results in perpetrators committing crimes with relative impunity. A statement from Uganda Police Force in 2015 showed how 87 cases of child sacrifice were registered over eight years nationwide, but only 23 were put before the High Court and only two people were convicted!
What needs to change?
This crime needs to be represented as an offence within its own right and sentences need to be strict, stringent and non-negotiable. Associated crimes need to be explicitly identified and processes put in place to facilitate effective investigation. This will lead to an increase in successful prosecutions and should deter those involved in the crime. Our work is consequently geared at strengthening legislation to prevent and prohibit human sacrifice and harmful practices.
What has been achieved so far?
It’s been a lot of work and a hugely complex journey, but I will describe some of the milestones…
At the start, Children on the Edge Africa worked with a group of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to engage the ‘Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children’ to draft a Bill to end Human Sacrifice in Uganda. It’s called ‘The Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice and other Traditional Harmful Practices Bill, 2017’.
Through 2016 we worked with the police, the media and traditional healers, looking at how cases are dealt with and promoting a petition to ensure witch doctors do not advertise through the media. In 2017, through work with UCRNN, we focussed on gaining testimonies from survivors and families and Honorable Atiku Bernard introduced a private members bill for the Act.
In 2018, World Vision Uganda spearheaded community consultative meetings in the law making process in Nakasongola, Buikwe, Busia and Rakai and by September 2018 with support from Children on The Edge Africa and Save the Children, a benchmark trip was made to Tanzania to research their legal approach to tackling human sacrifice. Shortly after this further consultations were facilitated, aiding in the improvement and momentum of the bill with MPs.
What is happening with the bill now?
Further refinements have been made this year and currently the bill is being reviewed by the Director of the Legal department of Parliament to make it ready for a Judges meeting in July. It has been a busy few years but we feel now we are very close to the first reading and the Bill making its way through parliament to become law.
Running concurrently with this national work, Children on the Edge Africa is rolling out of a community based model of eradicating child sacrifice incidents. Through voluntary Child Protection Teams, a simple method of community safety and awareness is established. After a pilot scheme stopped all abductions in Masese II slum, this model has been replicated in four further communities surrounding Jinja with excellent results.
Find out more about our work in Uganda.
Only 13.4% of Ugandan children are enrolled in pre-primary education. This drops to 6.7% or children from the poorest households. Primary completion rate has declined from 60 per cent in 2001–2005 to about 55 per cent in 2011–2015. Save the Children state that one in four families cannot afford to visit a health facility or buy medication and 29% of children under five suffer stunting.
Half the population in Uganda are under 15 years old (the world average is 27%). Human Rights Watch estimate that over 56% of Uganda’s 37 million people are under the age of 18 and are the single largest demographic group living in poverty. UNICEF Uganda estimate that 55% of children aged 0–4 in Uganda live in poverty and 24% live in extreme poverty.
Why work in Jinja?
Slum communities surrounding Jinja in Eastern Uganda face a myriad of challenges. Located on the eastern bank of the Nile, around 20,000 people are crowded into eight slum areas.
As a result of the construction of the Owen Falls Dam (a hydroelectric power station) the presence of a railway line to Kenya (Uganda Railways Corporation) and the access to lake waters, Jinja initially grew into a premier industrial hub. However, during the political instability under the presidency of Idi Amin (1971-79) much of its economic base collapsed and the area was left with widespread unemployment and poverty.
Like all local governments in Uganda, Jinja depends heavily on the central government for revenues, but the funds are rarely enough to pay for the staff and services necessary to keep up with growth. In the slum areas, this has resulted in endemic poverty, destructive livelihoods, poor hygiene and sanitation. Crime rates are high and there is a lack of access to rights and services.
Women around Jinja are particularly at risk, with a prevalence of HIV/AIDS resulting in single mother, child and grandparent headed households. High levels of alcoholism often lead to domestic violence and abuse.
Child sacrifice has become a growing problem in Uganda. The practice is rooted in traditional beliefs, and a number of socio-economic and cultural factors (poverty, weak legislation and poor parenting) have been put forth by analysts to explain the sudden increase in its occurrence. Specific legislation and grassroots awareness and training is needed to eradicate the problem.
All these challenges have led to unsafe environments for children, leaving them vulnerable to maltreatment, neglect, exploitation and child sacrifice. Facing these problems for years, the hard-pressed communities around Jinja have struggled against a growing sense of apathy and a lack of hope to see change.
Kyaka II refugee settlement, close to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has approximately 700 new arrivals each week over 65% of which are children. Having fled armed conflict, ebola, and horrific human rights abuses, many suffer extreme trauma as a result of witnessing the brutality of war and displacement. They face serious child protection risks and have nowhere safe to go during the day.
The youngest refugee children need support
A number of NGOs are providing primary education in Kyaka II, but early years education provision is limited for the youngest children, at a vital time in their development. Our assessment showed a need for up to 30 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres across 30 communities within the settlement.
In these communities, local people are doing the best they can to provide early years learning, but provision and resources are variable at best. While some communities are doing well, with Centres in a relatively good state of repair, others have non-existent provision and broken down venues that are not fit for purpose. Many Centres lack consistent quality teacher training, or well established community ownership. Without this, trained teachers have no incentive to use their training locally, and leave to find jobs in other areas of Uganda, and communities have no support or resources to maintain provision.
Resourcing communities to provide early years education
Through training and targeted resourcing, we aim to support 30 refugee communities in Kyaka II camp, to replicate our model of best practice, ensuring high quality, cost effective ECD for their children.
With multiple conflicts stretching across vast areas of the country, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s most complex and long-standing humanitarian situations.
Civilians here are exposed to gross human rights violations, sexual and gender-based violence, chronic malnutrition, and various health epidemics including the serious spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
“We didn’t believe the CPT at first, when they kept on telling us that change was coming, but the area really has changed for the better.”
- Justine, Masese II
This time last year, we began a process where communities could come together and evaluate the changes that have happened in their lives that year. Each group spends time listening to each other's stories, then they vote for the one they feel is the most significant.
Last year, discussions focussed on the positive impact of the loans and savings groups. What came through was a sense of hope for the future and many individuals described feeling happier, gaining confidence and having pride.
In the last few months, these four communities (Masese I, II, III and Loco) have repeated the process, to evaluate how individuals and communities are being affected by the work of the Child Protection Teams (CPTs).
These are some of the highlights for 2018:
Better health and hygiene
A safer environment for children, at home and in the community
This was a strong theme across all the stories, with people talking about improvement in parenting through workshops and support. Children described how they were no longer neglected and how they now felt protected and loved by their parents, many of whom reported that the workshops helped them realise they hadn’t been caring for their children properly.
Outside the home, neighbourhood watch schemes have helped with the return of many missing and kidnapped children. There have been thwarted abduction attempts and a reduction in the occurrence of child abuse. On the 3rd February 2019, kidnappers stole Raymond’s three year old daughter from his home. The perpetrators gave up, as the community immediately sounded the alarm, and the girl was rescued. Raymond says “Had it not been for the CPT instilling a ‘community watch’ for local people, telling us that everyone counts, and that every alarm is for a reason, my daughter would be no more”.
Education loans are having an impact
Loans were a popular topic last year, and this year was no different, but what became even more prominent were examples of how the loans are having an impact on the children themselves.
Barbara is 12 years old and explained how “We used to sleep like soldiers as we had nothing to cover ourselves. In the day we walked around Masese III almost naked and other children would always laugh at us. Since my mother started her charcoal business we now have some bedding, we are assured of a daily meal and through the little money that she earns, she has been able to send me and my brother to school”.
Children are leading and having a voice
Younger voices were featured more in this year’s stories, because younger people are now more active through the activities of the Child Rights Clubs in Loco and Masese I. After a session on rights and responsibilities facilitated by the CPT in Masese I, Harriet said “After this, the community children felt more protected, as before no adult took time to listen to their views”.
These stories are a tiny reflection of an overwhelming amount of the examples shared and the hundreds of lives changed, all through the dedication of forty local volunteers, across four communities. To support this work further, just click the buttons below.
Aisha, one of our Child Protection Team members in Uganda has recently been elected as Secretary for Women's Affairs for the local Jinja authorities. This is the first time someone in her area has been elected, who has such a broad knowledge and understanding of women’s and children’s issues.
Our local partners in Uganda have a strong focus on ensuring opportunities for women. Many women, like Aisha, are involved in the running of our Child Protection Teams.
Aisha has been volunteering as the Chairperson of the Masese II Child Protection Team for over six years. Working with our local partners, Children on the Edge Africa, we support five slum communities around Jinja to create protective environments for their children through these Teams. They are made up of 10 elected and trained local volunteers work closely with their communities.
What do the Child Protection Teams do?
Child Protection Teams have become the ‘go-to’ for their communities because of the dedicated work they accomplish on behalf of vulnerable children. As a result, they have quickly become the first port of call not only with residents but also with the local authorities. Lost children are often brought to the teams by local people when found wandering, sometimes miles from home.
As Secretary for Women's Affairs, Aisha is now leading a team of five people and is confident that becoming the Secretary for Women’s Affairs will strengthen the work of the Child Protection Team in her community even further.
Aisha said: “Those who hide after violating the rights of women and children are now more afraid, because they know am the community member’s representative as both a Child Protection Team Chairperson and a council leader, recognised by local government".
Aisha puts this knowledge down to working with Children on the Edge, saying “I have taken this office with lot of hands on experience of both women’s and children’s issues because Children on the Edge Africa embraced our Child Protection Teams as their very own right from the start. They gave us training and helped us with networking. There was a tremendous improvement in terms of our case management”.
We're delighted for Aisha and can't wait to hear about her progress in the role.
Read more about our work with slum communities in Uganda. and how we're bringing vital change.
Less than two months away from the opening date of our new Early Childhood Development Centre in Wandago, Uganda, we look at how we developed a model for best practice and why we’re ready to replicate.
The model we have created together with Children on the Edge Africa in Loco Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre, has been developed in partnership with Madrasa ECD Programme, who have over 25 years of experience in developing an approach that makes a real difference in children’s cognitive development and later success in school.
In conjunction with our own 28 years of experience working with vulnerable children and the use of our Child Protection Team model, this approach has produced a successful blueprint of best practice ECD, that is ready to replicate to new and different areas.
Supporting around 70 children aged 3-6 a year, the Centre is currently being considered for designation as a centre for excellence in the Eastern Region.
1. Community ownership
Loco Child Protection Team (CPT) work to identify the most vulnerable households, ensuring their children benefit from education. They encourage local families on the importance of education through a number of events (see photos above), meetings and celebrations, provide small business loans and support parents throughout the term, ensuring high retention rates.
2. Local culture
Teachers work to establish which language is most commonly used amongst Centre intake and adapt materials accordingly. They draw upon available local resources through all areas of teaching and learning, and focus on the strengths of local culture and values.
3. Quality child friendly curriculum
We use the Ugandan ECD Framework which was developed in consultation with UNICEF and Madrasa, which is a detailed curriculum of five core areas and an assessment framework to ensure children are learning and developing. Instead of rote learning, a regular day at the Centre will feature songs, dances, craft and games.
4. Health and socialisation
The Centre helps children to deal with routines, develop great friendships and improve behaviour so they can transition well to primary school. Regular health checks pick up concerns including malnutrition, which is addressed by the provision of high calorie porridge and nutritious snacks. Children arrive clean and washed and teachers focus on health and hygiene with songs, rhymes and regular hand washing routines.
It has resulted in improved:
1. Educational progress
We have seen core skills and learning improve significantly, with primary school teachers reporting that where young children previously started at primary school with no reading or writing knowledge and no means of coping within a classroom environment, now they arrive prepared to learn at the right level.
2. Valuing of education
The relationship between the teachers and the Loco CPT has yielded tremendous results in terms of attendance, with regular meetings encouraging parents on the importance of their children’s education.
3. Child Protection
Child Protection Teams have been key in ensuring that child protection cases are followed up, bridging the gap between the Centre and the parents. They follow up on cases identified by the teachers and often make home visits to ensure children are safe.
4. Health and Socialisation
After a few months of being at the Centre, children were visibly clean and healthy, despite being on the edge of malnutrition when they started. The external evaluation also identified huge progress with the socialisation of the children, with a teacher reporting that “Children’s discipline has changed. The way our children behave is not the way other children in the community who don’t access ECD or who attend other ECD Centres behave”.
We are hopeful that over time, this model Centre will become a training centre where Congolese teachers from this area can come to learn and develop their teaching skills, and improve the quality of early childhood education for refugee children across the region.
Over 90% of our small business loan recipients in Uganda now feed their children better and send them to school
Education loans are small business loans given via the CPTs to the most vulnerable households, enabling them to create a source of income which covers the costs of providing for their children and sending them to school.
After the most needy households are identified, people are invited to attend a series of training workshops, which include a focus on saving, small business training and opportunities to form self help groups.
These ‘education loans’ have gone from strength to strength, with an external evaluation in September 2017 stating how loans have ”boosted the economic capacity of respective households to meet their needs such as education, food [and] medical care…”
To receive the loan, a prospective business owner will make a business plan and write an application with support from the CPT. They are given a timeframe within which to pay it back, by which time they have a thriving business, a child in school and a good knowledge of how to manage their own finances.
The external report included feedback from many recipients including a mother from Masese III who said “I thank God for bringing Children on the Edge, because I was really struggling but they gave me 200,000 Ugandan shillings and I am now able to educate my children, buy books, feed my children and even pay rent. Although there has been a problem with hunger in the community, my situation has not been as bad as it would have been without Children on the Edge support. That capital helped me to start a small business where I sell tomatoes and silver fish”.
Repaid loans are then available to be passed on to someone else in need. With recipients paying a little interest, the loan pot can gradually grow, in order to help an increasing number of households. The repayment of the loan with a little interest also teaches business and budgeting skills, rather than dependency, and makes the fund itself sustainable.
A community evaluation of the ‘Most Significant Changes’ in the area, facilitated in January 2018 showed how the development of a ‘savings culture’ had significantly improved the financial status of those involved. Robina from Masese II described how “I was able to start saving as well as reserve some money to send my five children to school, provide them with basic needs and scholastic materials. So basically I am happy because my children are back to school and I can provide for the family needs as a single parent.”
The workshops introduce the benefits of saving and give hints and tips on how to put money aside, even through times of financial stress. Each person attending has a trial period of demonstrating they can save money and budget, before they are given their first loan.
Over 90 people are currently participating in the loan scheme, nearly half of whom are supporting five or more children. Not only have over half these people increased their savings, but an incredible 92% have reported that they are now able to feed their children twice a day. 93% are also now able to send their children to school, maintaining regular attendance.
Find out more about the difference these loans make in people’s lives by reading Lydia and Irene’s stories. Just click their images below:
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Kyaka II Uganda
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