Chance for Childhood has been working in Uganda since 2008 to support marginalised children and young people affected by conflict, children in conflict with the law, and children and young people in refugee settlements.
- Population: 39.5 million, with a median age of just 15.8 years old.
- Human Development Index: 163 out of 188.
- 86% of Ugandans living in rural areas depend on agriculture to make a living.
- Only 51% of children complete primary school.
- 1.5 million refugees live in Uganda.
Decades of civil war between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army have left northern Uganda in chaos with dysfunctional social welfare systems. Uganda also has the second youngest population in the world, with youth unemployment in North Uganda at 83%. To survive abject poverty, young people often have no choice but to break the law to survive.
Strengthening inclusive education in refugee settlements
Uganda hosts nearly 1.4 million refugees, making it the largest refugee hosting nation in Africa. Approximately 75% of all refugees are from South Sudan, though recently there has been a sharp increase in new arrivals from the Democratic Republic of Congo as people flee both war and Ebola. Among them are almost 700,000 children of school age. While there is a wider plan for education in place for refugees and host communities, there is little data available about the number of children with disabilities in these settlements and their access to education.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
To address this gap in data, we have worked with our partner African Women and Youth Action for Development (AWYAD) to assess the needs of children with disabilities in both Kyaka II in the west and Palabek Refugee settlements in the north of Uganda.
These studies form part of our wider focus to increase access to inclusive education for marginalised children of primary school age with special needs and disabilities. Through our research, we have been able to establish the prevalence to date of children with disabilities in two informal settlements, their education status and main barriers to education. We mapped out existing resources dedicated to inclusion of children with disabilities into school, and will use the data to put together a response to address the long-term educational needs of children with disabilities.
Giving vulnerable children access to fair justice and rehabilitation services with Right2Change
In northern Uganda, where we work, 60% of children are apprehended for petty crimes (e.g. theft of food, school materials, sanitary pads). Petty crimes are punished harshly by the authorities. Far too often, children are sent to adult prisons where they are subject to sexual abuse, violence and appalling conditions.
The chronic lack of probation officers, prosecutors social workers and pro bono lawyers means that children are held in prison for long periods of time with limited access to fair and legal treatment and protection and no prospect of rehabilitation. Current reoffending rates are 32%. For many of these children, there is no way out of a cycle of poverty, violence and crime.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Our award-winning Right2Change model tackles these issues by providing legal advice, counselling and vocational training, enabling children’s successful reintegration into society. Children who have committed petty crimes receive legal aid, are put onto community-based rehabilitation programmes and are offered vocational training such as hairdressing, tailoring, brick laying and carpentry.
Between 2015-18 in partnership with Passion for Community, we supported over 2,000 of some of the most vulnerable young people across the Agago, Pader, Kitgum and Lamwo districts. An amazing 99% of children and young people helped didn’t reoffend and 95% of our graduates are now earning an income. Before starting Right2Change, just 3% of young people had received information about the procedures of their cases, compared to 55% at project completion. Our approach was found to deliver excellent value for money, with each £1 invested in our Right2Change project, a social return of investment of £10.30 was generated.
Giving vulnerable young people access to employment and food
With endemic poverty and unemployment in northern Uganda, young people have no means to improve their prospects. Agriculture is by far Uganda’s largest employer, with 86% of Ugandans living in rural regions relying heavily on subsistence farming. However, in northern Uganda, agricultural production and know-how have been greatly disrupted by two decades of conflict, poor government investment in infrastructure and the effects of climate change. The Covid-19 pandemic and locust attacks have further exacerbated the threats to food security for many people in Uganda.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
We provide 3-month practical training courses and mentoring opportunities on agribusiness and entrepreneurship to vulnerable young people. This enables them to obtain higher agricultural yields, access the job market and eventually set up their own agricultural business. We also provide ongoing psychological support delivered by our social workers and peer educators. We aim to improve well-being and reduce vulnerability for all young participants.