The current global pandemic has created universal challenges to accessing education that millions have never faced before. This summer, children all round the world are getting ready to return to a very different school environment.
This summer also marks 30 years since the beginning of Children on the Edge. We’ve been overcoming barriers to education for the most marginalised since 1990, so for us, lockdown has been just one more hurdle to jump. The children we work with have been amongst the hardest hit, so we’ve been providing regular support and finding creative ways to get them back to school.
In slum communities surrounding Jinja, teachers from our Early Childhood Development Centres have made regular doorstep visits at each student’s household to keep education going. They have discussed learning, given out home study packs and checked in on children’s safety and wellbeing. They often found that children and their work books were dirty and advised parents on how to keep them clean.
Our digital programme in Bangladesh has helped transform the way Rohingya children learn in the Kutupalong refugee camp and the slums in Cox’s Bazar. Digital education content is projected in each classroom, tackling language barriers and helping to bring learning alive.
When we think of distance learning during lockdown, the images that often spring to mind are interactive whiteboards, back-to-back digital lessons and a variety of personalised online programmes. In the situations where we work, there are many distinctive barriers to simply protecting and connecting with children during lockdown, let alone delivering effective learning opportunities, but our partners are rising to the challenge.
Despite heavy rain interrupting a number of workshops and activities in the last few months, the five Child Protection Teams have had a great impact on their respective communities. Here are a few highlights from what they have achieved:
Elijah is 4 years old and he started baby class at Loco ECD Centre a few terms ago. During the first parent -teacher meeting, Elijah’s father mentioned that he can be mischievous at home and needed close supervision. Doreen is Elijah’s teacher, and she noticed within the first few weeks that he often snatched snacks from other children, would always disappear outside the class and didn’t seem to trust anyone apart from his mum and dad.
It’s been one year since Wandago Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD Centre) opened. Since then huge progress has been made and the 75 children who attend the ECD Centre are benefitting significantly from their education and achieving increasingly impressive results.
Gali is three years old and his parents fled to Kyaka II refugee settlement about four years ago after a life-threatening conflict erupted between the Hema and Lendu tribes in their village of Ituri in DR Congo.
Uganda is a leading example to the world in the way it hosts refugees, but Gali’s mother Maurine says that since crossing the border into the country life has not been easy. “I was a farmer back in DRC and although the government gives us land here in Uganda, it is too small to use for an agricultural project. We are solely dependent on handouts from the World Food Programme and support from UNHCR”.
Not only this, but the children here have been leading transformation since 2017. When we first started working here, we asked the children what needed to change. They took us on a tour of the area and told us about some of the problems they faced. We interviewed many of them, and they created a map of Wandago with sticks, leaves and stones to show us the places that were safe and the places where they felt afraid.
They told us about high levels of child exploitation, that there was little access to education and a lack of healthy jobs due to all the dangerous breweries that dominate the area. One of the main problems they described was how when they went to the well for water alone, many girls had been victims of rape and sexual assault.
In the last few years, the Child Protection Team in Wandago have been working to stop this. They have done regular spot checks at the well, many workshops on child protection and ensured that no-one walks there by themselves. Since this point there have been no attacks.
They have been working on wider issues too, supporting the opening of a new Early Childhood Development Centre, and starting a small loan scheme to create healthy livelihoods and make it possible for parents to send children to school.
The same children who raised their voices about these needs in Wandago are now part of the Child Rights Club, piloted in Loco, but now also active in Masese I and Wandago. They are trained about their rights and work hand in hand with the Child Protection Team.
Babra is the social worker for Children on the Edge Africa. She says,
Children in Wandago are now not only safer, but teaching other children about being safer, delivering regular workshops to hundreds of younger children, and talking to parents about how to clean up the area and make sure children can go to school.
They started the change, and they continue to lead, watch the video above and share the great news about the impact these children are having.
After their first Community clean up campaign in Loco, Uganda, the Child Rights Club here have been inspiring and training hundreds of other children around Jinja.
Two more clubs have been launched in the last year, one in Masese I and the latest in Wandago. Clubs are given regular workshops on rights, responsibilities, how to work hand-in-hand with local Child Protection Teams and how to prevent instances of child labour, exploitation and abuse. They then take their training out to a wider audience of children in their communities.
Here’s four examples of the clubs in action and the kind of difference they are starting to make.