Decades of war in the DRC have caused a mass influx of refugees in South Western Uganda. Here, thousands of women and children live traumatised by the extreme violence they have experienced. Far too many are unable to access their rights, like education. With 450 children arriving every week, schools are overcrowded. The most marginalised children miss out. Many girls and children with disabilities have never seen the inside of a classroom.
However, right now no children are in school in Uganda. Schools remain closed because of Covid-19 and have been for most of 2021. Every day that passes, children are falling further behind with their education. Out of school, refugee girls often turn to dangerous sex work to survive. They’re at risk of teenage pregnancy, child marriage and exploitation. And it’s girls and children with disabilities who are the least likely to return to school after closures.
Only a quarter of refugee girls complete primary school. Cultural attitudes and stereotyping means families put boys’ education first. In the Kyaka II refugee settlement, 40% of girls are out of school compared to 28% of boys. And many more will drop out before they finish primary school.
In Kyaka II, we found that 44% of children had a functional disability or developmental delay. Yet in schools, it was just 2%. Children with disabilities are stigmatised and schools aren’t set up to support them. Just 2.5% of teachers have any special needs training.
Most families in Kyaka II have no way of earning an income. They rely on food rations: the equivalent of £3.50 a month. So sending their children to school, where a uniform costs more than the monthly rations, is simply not possible for thousands of families.
593 days out of school, and counting
Girls like Joyce, who is 15 and lives in Kyaka II, have been out of school for 593 days. And counting. She dreams of becoming a doctor. But with every day that goes by her dream is fading.
“I am forgetting everything I’ve learned. And I no longer have time for schoolwork because I have to cook, wash and dig outside to grow food”. Without the right support, Joyce may never finish her education. Without an education, she won’t escape poverty. And she’ll never achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.
Life in Kyaka II is tough: children must survive on food rations the equivalent of 12p per day
We can’t return to the ‘old normal’: every child deserves a quality education
When schools open in Uganda next year, we can’t go back to the ‘old normal’. Girls are left out because of their gender. Children with disabilities are stigmatised and excluded from education. But we do have a chance to build a brighter future, where schools are inclusive of all children. We’ve started by launching a vital new project in Kyaka II, alongside our incredible partners in Uganda: AWYAD and Embrace Kulture.
Across the next three years, we are ensuring girls and children with disabilities can realise their right to education. We’re directly supporting the families who need it most to send their children to school, by supplying school equipment such as uniforms, pens and books. And when they get to school, we’re ensuring that no child feels excluded by providing quality training to teachers and teaching assistants.
Education for 1,400 girls, children with disabilities and children living in extreme poverty
Our project will build a brighter future directly for 1,400 children who will have the chance to go to school, many for the first time. We’ll supply school uniforms and other essential materials, like pens and books, which refugee families are unable to afford. Plus, we know that when girls start menstruating they are much more likely to drop out of school. So we’re tackling period poverty by providing menstrual hygiene packs, ensuring girls can keep learning.
For children with physical disabilities, we’re providing personal assistive devices such as wheelchairs and hearing aids, as well as training teachers to ensure children are included in the classroom.
Our vital new project in Uganda will…
Train 130 teachers and school staff in child safeguarding and inclusivity.
Provide small business grants to families so they can earn an income and send their children to school.
Run community events, radio broadcasts and more to foster a culture of inclusivity at the local level.
Generate essential evidence as to why girls and children with disabilities continue to be excluded.
Make your donation count and build a brighter future
Refugee children in Uganda need urgent support. Families need help to bring in an income, so they can buy food as well as send their children to school. And as schools reopen next year, we need to ensure they work for every child. Girls and children with disabilities must never be left out.