In the run up to the 2016 general elections in Uganda, many children took to using dramas, songs and poems to express their views over priorities that government should address. Across the world, we have seen youth led movements advocating for change or support of a cause spring up. In March 2018, thousands of students in the United States took to the streets to demonstrate in support of tighter gun control in what has famously come to be known as: March for Our Lives. Such movements empower children and youth with courage and confidence to participate in the civic and democratic space to advance their agenda.
In Uganda, children constitute 56% of the population and yet are invisible in critical structures that affect their lives. They believe they are not valued by society and that they are seen as a burden rather than key stakeholders in their country and its future. This is illustrated by the way current cultures, systems and leadership are failing to include children, hear their views and be influenced by their experiences. Additionally, power relations between adults and children remain a key barrier to meaningful participation of children. In many countries, children are best seen as vulnerable and in need of protection, and at worst as the property of adults.
Children’s right to be heard is internationally recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Uganda ratified both laws in 1990 and 1994 respectively. These instruments provide for and accord children and young people the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them. They also provide for these views to be given due weight in accordance with the child’s age, level of maturity and evolving capacity.
Children’s participation is crucial to ensure that governance is fit for children; their rights are not violated, that all stakeholders at different levels are held accountable to children for the provision of services and that every child is loved, protected and safe.
According to an article titled: ‘The role of children in reimagining democracy’ on https://www.civicus.org, societies cannot be considered truly democratic and participatory without meaningful opportunities for children, including the most marginalized and excluded groups of children.
“If we want to see children as peers and partners in civil society-led efforts to improve democratic spaces, we as adult-led civil society must open ourselves up to partnerships with children. We need to push for the creation of public and political environments where children’s voices are valued by adults,” the article partly reads.
It concludes that we need to question our internal values and acknowledge the wealth of experiences and insight that children have, and then progressively step back and let children take center stage, ensuring their safe participation.
The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development today convened the first of five inter-agency meetings aimed at providing oversight to The AfriChild Centre as they conduct two landmark studies that will be used to inform national policy on community-based child protection interventions and utilization of national violence against children (VACs) data.
The expert committee comprises members from the Ministry of Gender, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Internal Affairs (Child and Family Protection Unit), Uganda Bureau of Statistics, National Child Authority, and the National Child Protection Working Group.
Speaking at the meeting, Fred Ngabirano, Commissioner Youth and Children Affairs noted that the expert committee was constituted in line with the new Uganda National Child Policy 2020. The policy was developed to coordinate the efforts of the different sectors that have a direct and indirect mandate on children and deliver a comprehensive package of services encompassing all the four cardinal rights of the child (to survival, development, protection and participation) in a multi-sectoral approach.
“Under the new Child Policy, we are not working as individual ministries but collectively as Government to deliver. The studies AfriChild is conducting will not only inform the Ministry of Gender but different partners and the entire country,” The Commissioner said.
He noted that AfriChild is a close ally of the Ministry and thanked the Centre for the immense contribution they made towards the development of the new child policy and in the field of child-focused research.
“As a ministry, we want credible data on top of data from Uganda Bureau of Statistic (UBOS) that can help the ministry make informed decisions, conduct evidence-based advocacy, and for policy implementation. We thank AfriChild for the support to the Ministry and when it came to implementation of the National Child Policy, we brought the Centre on the steering committee.”
The two studies to be conducted by AfriChild are; Measuring the impact and sustainability of the community-based child protection approach in the prevention of violence against children in a post-conflict setting in northern Uganda funded by the Evaluation Fund and the second study is Household economic status, sexual violence, and utilization of services among adolescents aged 13-17 years funded by Together for Girls.
Speaking at the meeting, Clare Bangirana, Director of Research, and Knowledge Development at AfriChild, noted that under the study supported by the Evaluation Fund, AfriChild wants to find out what works and if the interventions can be sustained.
“We want to know whether when communities are energized and mobilized to take collective action, these actions are sustainable. As researchers, we want to learn from the intervention implemented and work with the expert team to influence policy and programs at community and national level.”
Lydia Wasula, Head of the National Child Wellbeing Unit at MGLSD noted that this is a novel project in terms of project design in the country.
“This is the first kind of study that is trying to measure impact. We are all crying of sustainability when it comes to child protection interventions,” she noted.
Under the second study, AfriChild builds the capacity of local researchers to analyse the VACs research data. Research fellows are currently developing research papers from the data to be disseminated for uptake by different line ministries, agencies, and CSOs.
In 2020, The AfriChild Centre in partnership with Together for Girls rolled out a research fellowship. This fellowship was designed to meet the dual purpose of enhancing both individual and institutional capacity to analyse and utilize VACS data. Founded in January 2013, the AfriChild Centre is a child focused research institution that generates research to inform policy and programming with a vision of, “An Africa where child wellbeing is realized for sustainable development.” The Centre is uniquely and strategically positioned to convene research, policy and practice by working with public entities, academia, private sector and civil society to generate research that informs policy and practice for the wellbeing of children.
The Uganda Research Fellowship is premised in the Uganda National Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) that was completed in 2018. The VACS is a country wide survey that systematically measures the prevalence, nature and consequences of sexual, physical and emotional violence. The survey targets children and young adults between 13-24 years. For ages 13-17 years, the survey explores the existing trends and recent exposure to violence against children while for those aged 18-24 years, data is collected to understand the lifetime exposure and consequences of violence.
The data has since led to targeted interventions and policy actions aimed at preventing and better responding to VAC in Uganda. Nevertheless, the richness of the data can never be exhausted, which warranted further analysis to generate more evidence to inform policy and programming to enhance the wellbeing of children. It was against this backdrop that the Uganda Research Fellowship, a partnership between Together for Girls and The AfriChild Centre, was initiated. While numerous interventions have been implemented for VAC prevention and response in Uganda over the years, the evidence from the VACS provides a basis for reflection, learning and rethinking the interventions in place in order to design more effective programmes.
Much as the data was collected in 2015, the Uganda VACS still presents a myriad of opportunities to inform policy and practice to improve the overall wellbeing of children in Uganda. The Uganda Research Fellowship was designed with the intention of catalyzing action by strengthening capacities at different levels to enable the country leverage the opportunities presented by the VACS data. This article highlights the achievements of the fellowship in terms of strengthening capacity to analyse and utilize VACS data in Uganda. The country, partly in response to the VACS, passed the National Child Policy in 2020, which among others highlights the importance of addressing VAC. The new Uganda National Development Plan III also emphasises the need to strengthen evidence based programming and policy making. This fellowship therefore serves as a springboard for more work with the VACS data as several aspects remain unexplored in the dataset.
The fellowship targeted two research fellows: Dr. Kenneth Olido, a Senior Lecturer at Gulu University, and Agatha Kafuko, a Lecturer at Makerere University. In order to institutionalise the learning, three AfriChild staff –Clare Ahabwe Bangirana, Mathew Amollo, and Maria Ndibalekera participated as well. The fellows underwent a training led by a CDC expert Dr. Ermias Amene, an Epidemiologist, with support from Manuela Balliet of Together for Girls and attained skills in secondary data analysis as well as developing and refining a research question using secondary data.
During the four months of virtual training, the participants were exposed to the VACS processes and questionnaires, and developing a data analysis plan. Each of the participants was tasked with developing a research question and conducting analysis for it. The ongoing analyses will result in peer reviewed publications in selected journals.
With the skills gained in the fellowship, the fellows set out to cascade these to other in-country researchers. In April 2021, AfriChild convened 15 in-country researchers/faculty members who were selected from six universities in Uganda; Makerere, Kyambogo, Gulu, Uganda Christian University, Uganda Martyrs and Nsamizi Institute for Social development. The faculty members were reoriented on VACS data with the purpose of encouraging them to appreciate secondary data analysis of VACS. The in-country researchers were presented with the VACS and had a chance to have a deeper understanding of the VACS data sets.
During the training, Timothy Opobo, the Executive Director of AfriChild, called for collaboration between AfriChild and the researchers to generate further research on child-focused topics. The platform gave some researchers who are pursuing their PhD in the area of Violence against Children an opportunity to interact with the VACS data set they had always wished to.
One participant described the three-day training thus,
“I have gained appreciation for the importance of secondary analysis of data. The facilitators were knowledgeable and worked with us well to make sure we understood. We were a very good number so all questions could be answered. I liked the presentation mode and the eloquence of the facilitator.”
A quick feedback survey conducted at the end of the training revealed that majority of the participants would like more trainings of this nature. There was consensus among participants on the value this training added to the discourse on utilizing VACS data in Uganda.
Training of policy makers and practitioners to utilize VACS data
In line with the core mandate of convening research, policy and practice, this fellowship presented an opportunity for AfriChild to contribute to the VAC policy and practice discourse by conducting training of policy makers and practitioners in August 2021. The training was aimed at promoting the deliberate utilization of VACS data at the national and regional levels by policy makers and programme implementers. The training was facilitated by Ms. Lydia Najjemba Wasula of Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development and Ms. Stella Ayo Odongo from The African Partnership for Prevention of Violence Against Children (APEVAC), Timothy Opobo the Executive Director of AfriChild, and the Research Fellows.
The training brought together policy makers from the first cohort of one of AfriChild’s flagship programmes – The Policy Makers and Practitioners Utilizing Research Evidence (PPURE) programme that has been in place since 2018. This programme alongside another AfriChild programme, The Inter University Research Methods Program complete the cycle of strengthening both the supply side and the demand side of rigorous child focused research in Uganda.
While the PPURE programme strengthens in-country capacity to utilize research evidence, the inter-university research methods training programmes works with university faculty members from seven institutions of higher learning to strengthen in-country capacity to undertake rigorous child focused research. This fellowship provided an opportunity for AfriChild to consolidate the achievements of these two programmes by further harnessing these capacities in-country. The participants who represented both government and non-state entities across the fields of health, education and social protection appreciated the training, which enabled them to reflect on pertinent issues of VAC whose prevalence had enormously increased in this era of COVID as confirmed by a study by AfriChild “The effect of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of children in Uganda” and several administrative reports.
What the Research Fellows Say:
Dr. Kenneth Olido- Lecturer, Gulu University and Senior Research Fellow on the Uganda Research Fellowship
The fellowship commenced on the 1st September, 2020 with a training to develop an analytic plan for secondary data analysis for the Uganda VACS data. The training provided key insights on the VACS data, developing hypotheses, analytical strategies, selecting relevant indicators of interest from VACS data, preliminary analysis, and organizing references using open source bibliography software (Zotero).
During the fellowship, I have been privileged to learn how to reference using Zotero, develop problem indicators from complex large studies, and analyzing complex data using STATA. I worked closely with other researchers from AfriChild that helped me build more skills through team work. I have managed to produce one as first author. The paper has been reviewed by my mentor in the programme and peer reviewed by the other research fellows. The research fellowship has helped me identify my inadequacies in research particularly in areas of data analysis and research publication.
Agatha Kafuko, Lecturer, Makerere University & Research Fellow
Being a research fellow on this fellowship has been an exciting and rewarding experience. I appreciate the data analysis skills that I have received. Previously my knowledge of data analysis software was limited to SPSS. I have now learned how to use STATA, and I am excited about honing my STATA skills and using it for future work. The approach used for training was experiential, and ideal for the nature of work I was expected to do. The mentor support under this fellowship was also invaluable. The fellowship was unique and provided me with the opportunity to participate in training other researchers and policy makers. The interactions with professionals from diverse backgrounds has broadened by professional network. I am grateful for the flexible and participatory approach adopted by the AfriChild Centre in the management of this work. As a fellow, I felt valued because I had the opportunity to give feedback and participate in decision making. I am confident that with the skills I have obtained, I will be able to analyse data and provide evidence that can be used to make informed decisions for child wellbeing in Uganda. I look forward to a brighter future for children in Uganda. We can now use evidence to make a case for investment in children. We can only get better. Thank you AfriChild and Together for Girls for this opportunity.
Maria Ndibalekera- AfriChild Researcher participating in the Research Fellowship
The fellowship has been a whole new and enriching experience for me. I have gained a deeper understanding of VAC and its consequences, an opportunity to work closely with an amazing team and super growth in my career aspirations. Although this was not my first encounter with the findings and the report, having participated in the study Regional Dissemination Meetings in 2017, participating in the secondary analysis provided deeper insights on how enormous the consequences of violence go to affect every aspect of the survivor’s life. In this process, all hidden consequences of VACS were left bare as we ran different regressions with colleagues. The company of great Senior Researchers; our Lead Trainer Dr. Ermias Amene, Manuela Balliet, Dr. Kenneth Olido, Agatha Kafuko, Clare Ahabwe Bangirana and Mathew Amollo too made this journey memorable. Listening to their conceptualization and discussion of matters provided newer intuitions into my initial perspectives on VACS. This fellowship has inspired my career path. I dream of becoming a Social Work Action Researcher. Thank you, AfriChild, Thank you, Together for Girls!
AfriChild’s overarching goal is to contribute to investment for child wellbeing by providing policy makers and practitioners with excellent research evidence to inform policy actions and interventions. This fellowship has laid a solid foundation for the researchers to work independently.
Both the research fellows and the other researchers trained are now fired up to carry out further data analyses on their own in the future as well as empower other researchers and their students with these skills.
Bridging the gap of limited use of research evidence in policy making processes and in interventions targeting children remains at the core of AfriChild’s work. The Centre will continue to focus on promoting the increased use of research evidence in policy and practice working closely with policy makers and practitioners to provide timely and reliable evidence for decision making. The Centre will consolidate the gains from the research fellowship by continuing the discourse on the utilization of data, identifying entry points for VACS data utilization in policy processes and ultimately increasing access and use of evidence in policies that impact on child wellbeing specifically informing the response and prevention to VAC.
In addition to translating research evidence in formats that can be easily used by policy makers and practitioners, the Centre will build on the work started during this fellowship to continue strengthening in-country capacity to analyze and utilize research evidence for policy and practice through its flagship programmes- the Inter-University Child Focused Research Methods training and the Training of Policymakers and Practitioners on the Use of Research Evidence (PPURE).
Working with the research fellows and the policymakers and practitioners engaged throughout this fellowship, AfriChild will carry out targeted dissemination of sector specific findings and policy implications to contribute to enhanced evidence-based policy making, programming and practice across the relevant sectors.
On Thursday 1st August, the Ag. Executive Director with guests from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, the International Center for Child Health and Asset Development (ICHAD)and the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center; had a courtesy meeting with the Vice-Chancellor Makerere University- Professor Banabas Nawangwe. The meeting discussions focused on joint opportunities for research with Makerere University and as well as scholarship opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students at the Brown school
The newly-elected Chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children, Hon. Margaret Makhoha has called on The AfriChild Centre to furnish members of the forum with research that can enable the legislators to make informed presentations about children on the floor of Parliament.
“We ask you to furnish us with information so that when we are on the floor of Parliament, we speak based on fact,” Hon. Makhoha said.
She made the remarks yesterday during the UPFC Annual General Meeting held at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala. During the AGM, the legislators elected the new leadership to champion the children’s rights agenda in the 11th Parliament.
Timothy Opobo, Executive Director, the AfriChild Centre presided over the elections and promised to work closely with the legislators to go beyond legislation and policy advocacy to action.
“Previously, we have worked on legal and policy frameworks and we have achieved a lot. Now we need to focus on action. We need to ask ourselves what is not working and what we can do differently,” Opobo noted.
He called on the new leadership to focus on action to address the plight of children in the country. He promised to support UPFC so that whatever the forum does is evidence-based.
“The research we do helps inform policy and programming. AfriChild is committed to working with you and we will provide you evidence so that whatever you do is evidence-based,” Opobo added.
Clare Bangirana, the Director of Research and Knowledge Management at AfriChild presented some of the landmark studies the AfriChild Centre has conducted. They include; The Violence Against Children Survey, The Effect of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of Children in Uganda, and a Scoping Review on The State of Uganda’s Fathers among others.
Bangirana highlighted the role AfriChild plays in linking policymakers with relevant research data on children and noted that building a strong relationship between the Centre and UPFC will ensure that the policies formulated by the legislators have a positive and lasting impact on children’s lives.
Reflecting on the presentations, the legislators thanked AfriChild and noted that these studies will assist them heed the call made by the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Jacob Oulanyah to Parliamentarians when he asked them to research before they make presentations on the floor of Parliament.
While inducting the legislators on the Rules of Procedure at the opening of the 11th Parliament, Hon. Oulanyah asked MPs to ensure their debate is evidence-based and called for quality and balanced debates that will see resolutions taken without any disputes from all political affiliations.
The Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children (UPFC) was initiated during the 7th Parliament to create an avenue through which the status of Ugandan children, especially those in difficult circumstances could be addressed. Aware of the vantage position of MPs in the public policy field, the UPFC is a platform where MPs from different political shades collectively lobby for the rights of children in situations of competing needs and priorities where children’s rights are often neglected.
The membership of UPFC is open to all members of Parliament, especially those with the conviction and commitment to promoting the rights of children in all legislative and policy processes.
The new UPFC Executive
Chairperson- Hon. Makhoha Margaret
Vice chair- Hon. Ssewungu Joseph G
Sec. General- Hon. Milton Muwuma
Treasurer- Hon. Kunihira Faith Philo
Publicity- Hon. Betty Naluyima Ethel
Regional Representatives East – Hon. Macho, North/ West Nile- Hon. Leku Joel, West – Hon. Kahunde Hellen and Central – Hon. Sebikali Joel.
The AfriChild Centre has qualified for the second phase of Humentum’s Administration Costs Research (ACR) Project whose purpose is to enable international grant-making foundations and other funders to understand more clearly whether, or not, they are sufficiently covering grantees’ financial needs.
The findings will be used by the community of international grant-making foundations to help inform their future policies in relation to cost coverage accordingly.
AfriChild was one of the 90 organizations selected to take part in the first phase of the research which sampled grantees from foundations based in Western and Eastern Europe, East and West Africa, Latin America and South Asia.
50 organizations including AfriChild qualified to take part in the second phase of the research, where issues of administrative costs will be explored in more depth. During this process some organizations will be invited to be one of the case studies included in the research.
“It was a dream for us to get to the second level and a big learning for us,” Vivian Letasi, Finance and Administrative Officer at AfriChild noted. “This research will help us to review and improve our costing and budgeting processes” she added
Administration is essential to the effective, efficient and safe delivery of projects and programmes, but without adequate funding, such functions may be inhibited. Alternatively, the organization either has to draw on reserves to fund such functions, or fund them disproportionately from unrestricted income.
In Uganda, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rely heavily on restricted funding to support their project work and there is a risk it could undermine their organizational effectiveness or financial resilience. Restricted funding for project or Programme grants does not typically cover a full share of the administration costs incurred for the organization as a whole.
Fatherhood is associated with responsibilities of love, care, and meeting children’s needs especially education. But how do Ugandan men measure up to these expectations?
Professor Rosalind Lubanga, a research associate at AfriChild posed this question to the Men Engage Network while presenting the findings of a study the Centre conducted to establish the impact of men’s active positive presence in the lives of children in Uganda. Prof. Rosalind, the Principal Investigator made the presentation during the Men Engage Network Annual General Meeting held at the AIDS Information Centre in Kisenyi, Kampala. The Men Engange Network brings together different institutions, CSOs, and individuals who work with men and boys to promote gender equality in Uganda. The network is part of the global men engage alliance.
Are fathers doing enough? According to Prof. Rosalind, most fathers try their best to meet societal expectations but not wholly. Many fathers focus their attention mainly on providing education by paying school fees and providing scholastic materials. However, they spend minimal time with children at home. Some do not fully participate in school education programs such as visiting children at school to monitor children’s academic performance and discipline. She further revealed that there were variations in the way fathers were present, active and positively managing their children. Some fathers were physically present but not active and positive to their children. Some fathers lived in distant places but kept being active and supportive to their children. Other fathers were active momentarily and left the responsibilities of caring to mothers, grandparents and other relatives.
The consequences Whatever the style of fathering, it had negative and positive impacts on the child especially in terms of how the fathered child behaved later in life. For example, some study participants who were neglected by their fathers as they grew up decided to be present in their children’s lives so that they (the children) do not suffer as they did. There were numerous positive outcomes from fathers being active and present in their children’s lives. These include: children being disciplined, self-driven and performing well at school. Prof Rosalind added that the negative impacts of absentee and inactive fathers are: engagement of children in child labour in an attempt to meet needs not met by their fathers, child marriages, early pregnancies, low self-esteem, and high rates of school absenteeism and dropouts.
Policies not adequate Although a child protection policy and parenting guidelines exist in Uganda, there is not a stand-alone policy. According to the parenting guidelines and Uganda Constitution, parenting is the responsibility of the father and mother in a family. However, agencies that address issues of fathering in Uganda are still very few. Additionally, probation officers and the family and child protection unit of police handle remedial cases of child neglect, abuse and family conflicts. The study was commissioned by Heartlines, an NGO based in South Africa which is concerned with developing edutainment messages in films, videos and other media that promote human values. In Uganda, the study was conducted in June 2019 and disseminated internationally in Johannesburg in October 2019. AfriChild will use different platforms to disseminate the study findings further to inform programs of different institutions and CSOs.
Mathew Amollo, research manager at AfriChild trains research assistants at the AfriChild offices in Makerere University ahead of the baseline survey.
Children who experience physical and sexual abuse are more likely to perform poorly in school tests, miss classes, and to drop out of school which directly affects their educational performance and life trajectory.
AfriChild has started baseline survey data collection for phase two trial of the Good School Toolkit for secondary schools.
The baseline survey aims to explore the violence prevention needs of students, their life experiences and the mental health status of students. The survey will be conducted in 8 schools in Wakiso and Kampala.
The findings of the baseline study will be used by Raising voices to monitor and assess the effectiveness of the Good School Toolkit before it is rolled out to other schools after a pilot phase.
This pilot trial is a collaboration between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Raising Voices and the AfriChild Centre, Makerere University.
The Good School Toolkit
Raising Voices, a Ugandan non-governmental organisation, has developed the Good School Toolkit, an intervention to prevent violence from school staff towards students, and peer violence between students. It is a whole-school approach which aims to reduce multiple forms of violence and change power dynamics underpinning violence, by changing the operational culture of the school.
The toolkit helps educators and students explore what makes a healthy, vibrant, and positive school and guides them through a process to create their vision.
In a study conducted in 2005 in Uganda by Raising Voices, over 60% of children interviewed said they experienced violence at school on a regular basis. To address this urgent issue, Raising Voices developed The Good School Toolkit, a methodology for creating violence-free schools.
The toolkit contains six steps that are designed to take a school through a process of growth that mirrors the stages of behavior change.
“The Good School Toolkit enables teachers and administrators to excel as educators. It enables schools to become the pride of their communities. It enables students to gain greater skills, knowledge and confidence—for becoming the parents, professionals and leaders of our future.” Dipak Naker, Co-director, Raising Voices
Scaling up to Secondary Schools
The toolkit was initially developed for primary schools. The toolkit was tested in a cluster randomised controlled trial of primary schools in 2012-2014, where 21 schools received the Toolkit and 21 received it after the study ended.
The Toolkit reduced reported past week physical violence inflicted by school staff on young adolescents (mean age 13 years) by 42%, physical and emotional violence between peers, and severe physical violence and injury from staff towards students.
In 2015-16, a study was conducted to better understand the secondary school context in Kampala and adapt the Toolkit for use in these schools.
Raising Voices partnered with two secondary schools, and spoke to administration, teachers, students and key stakeholders in Kampala to explore their violence prevention needs.
Data from the survey showed physical and emotional violence from peers remained prevalent in secondary schools, with more than 60% of students reporting some past year exposure.
Sexual violence was much more common in secondary schools – for example, 20.4% of secondary vs. 3.9% of primary girls, and 7.6% of secondary vs. 1.6% of primary boys, reported past year sexual violence from a peer.
Intimate partner violence was also commonly reported by students who had an intimate partnership: 30% of female and 21% of male students reported past year physical, sexual or emotional violence.
Violence and Children
Physical, sexual and emotional violence against children and adolescents are widespread. School is a prime risk environment where children and adolescents are exposed to such violence.
Main perpetrators of violence against children and adolescents include peers, intimate partners, and school staff.
The recently published national survey of Violence Against Children in Uganda found that 59% of young females and 68% of young males reported experience of physical violence, 34% young females and 36% of young males reported emotional violence, and 35% of females and 17% of males report sexual violence under age 18.
Disease burden and poor education outcomes
In Uganda, sexual and intimate partner violence (IPV) are one of the top 10 leading causes of disease burden.
Experience of violence is a well-known risk factor for ill-health and for poorer educational outcomes. Those who have experienced violence as children, for example childhood sexual abuse are at increased risk for depression, suicide, sexual risk behaviours, and increased alcohol consumption.
Children who experience severe physical violence are at increased risk of adverse mental health outcomes, injury and disruptive behaviour.
AfriChild staff completed a three-day change management training facilitated by the CBLI Centre, a leading capacity building and leadership training organisation based in Tanzania. Ms. Dolygene Anyana, a consultant at CBLI facilitated the training which took place at the Hilton Garden Inn located in Kampala.
The goal of the training was to enhance efficiency and effectiveness within AfriChild by creating a winner mentality among staff.
“Staff have to understand how the organisation is operating, what gaps exist, and what we need to put in place to get to the desired future,” Ms. Anyana told the staff during training.
“A change in mindset and adoption of an operational culture that is supportive and upholds the values of the organisation will propel AfriChild to its desired goals,” Ms. Anyana added.
Currently, AfriChild is in the final stages of developing its new Strategic Plan (2021-2026). The new plan will guide the direction the institution takes in the next five years.
Speaking at the meeting, Timothy Opobo, Executive Director, AfriChild, called on staff to espouse the values of teamwork, commitment and leadership so that AfriChild can continue shining as a Centre of Excellence in child-focused research not only in Uganda but the entire region and continent.
”We must allocate the adequate resources both human and ﬁ nancial to implement the laws. Because these laws are implemented by people who also need resources they need transport fuel money to go investigate cases and arrest the criminals so we must resource the necessary structures. We need to also disseminate these laws widely we need to deliberately share what is in these documents collectively, we also need to simplify these laws into language that a common person can understand the legal language is too complicated for most people to understand in that respect we need to translate the laws into languages that our people understand if the laws are to be implemented effectively. On poverty, we need to have economic strengthening programs especially for the most vulnerable households including households with the elderly. A least we have the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) Scheme which is baby steps but in the right direction. We need social protection services targeting these vulnerable people to economically empower households of orphans (child headed households with children looking after fellow children) we need to target vulnerable households with children for economic strengthening interventions and build social safety nets for these children to register somewhere and receive help to go to school and get heath care otherwise they will be working in bars the streets stone quarries because they have to survive. We can’t eliminate poverty absolutely but in respect to children we need economic strengthening interventions and build social safety nets.”
Aware that children have been affected greatly during the pandemic, the AfriChild Centre has continued using mass media to disseminate its study findings and call on communities and authorities to prioritize child protection in these times of uncertainty.
On March 3rd, 2021 between 5-8 pm, AfriChild’s Program Manager (Research), DenisNono shared highlights on the current situation of children based on studies conducted at the Centre and presented some of the measures to keep children safe and engaged during the COVID-19 situation.
The two-hour interaction explored different topics and approaches in supporting children in the COVID-19 period including how to engage children in activities that boost their mental prowess, the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children, how COVID-19 has fueled violence against children, myths and misconceptions people have about mental health in children, supporting children to cater for their mental health needs and parental involvement in the protection and care of children during the pandemic.
Other aspects that were shared in this discussion included results of the study on the “Impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of children in Uganda” that was carried out by the AfriChild Centre between June and August, 2020 especially focusing on how the findings will help policymakers and other stakeholders in devising measures to support and protect children during the ‘new normal.
“The findings interestingly showed that 95% of the children who participated in the study were attending school at the time the government ordered school closure, and yet almost four in every ten children (44.5%) had no access to any of the education platforms available during the lockdown/school closure and this did not only exacerbate the school dropout rate but also exposed children to different forms of violence during lockdown” – Denis mentioned.
He discussed the prospective challenges that some children resuming school might face including challenges in reintegration and comprehending knowledge, adjustment challenges (some may be bound to pressures of drop out), school pressures and exhaustion related to the urge to complete school syllabus within the government allotted time, inability for schools to meet the minimum requirements set out by the MOH and MoES. Others included inability to meet school requirements, early pregnancies among others.
“I foresee huge challenges ahead of us in reintegrating children back to school during this pandemic and it takes the role of all stakeholders (parents, teachers, school heads, government, and communities) to embrace educational programs and timetables that have curved out and realigned to ensure that children are able to learn and improve on their skills and knowledge for development as a country”, he mentioned.
Denis concluded the on-air discussion by outlining policy and program recommendations, and his last message to the listeners was centered on taking responsibility for our children and ensuring that listeners and everyone observes MOH guidelines and precautions set out by the government in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“We ought to take responsibility for our children bearing in mind that in order for children to achieve the best in life, primary caregivers need to strengthen their support to them. We need to utilize the relevant government and non-state actor facilities to ensure that children thrive and follow the MOH guidelines set against the spread of COVID-19 in order to realize holistic development”.
AfriChild held an orientation meeting for trainers and mentors of the Inter-University Program. This activity was held in preparation for the rollout of the mentorship program for the second cohort of child-focused researchers. The researchers selected for cohort II were picked from seven universities in Uganda. The meeting took place at Kabira Country Club in Kampala.
Prof. Fred Wabwire the Lead Trainer of the Inter-University Program asked the Mentors and Trainers to play their role in developing the capacity of the newly recruited researchers to ensure that child-focused research is enhanced and prioritized by academia.
AfriChild also trained the Mentors and Trainers on the use of a Training Manual developed to aid in the rollout of the program in the selected Universities.
Speaking at the orientation meeting, Timothy Opobo, Executive Director AfriChild, encouraged researchers to utilize the manual in conducting child-focused research.
“I want to thank Professor Rosalind Lubanga for the effort you put into the development of this manual. I call on child-focused researchers to utilize this manual so that we can create impact and influence policy and programs for the benefit of children in the country,” Timothy said.
Under the mentorship program, AfriChild takes on mid-level child-focused researchers from seven universities in Uganda and equips them with skills in child-focused research methods, grant acquisition, and publication. The seven Universities are Makerere University, Kyambogo University, Nsamizi Training Institute, Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda Christian University, Gulu University, and Muni University.
Through the “Building the Next Generation of Researchers” project, the AfriChild Centre builds the capacity of academics, policymakers, and practitioners to conduct rigorous child-focused research. Key areas of focus include education, health, and child protection.
In 2017, Africhild initiated an Inter-University training program targeting a total of 30 mid-level researchers from seven universities in Uganda and equipping them with skills in child-focused research methods, grant acquisition, and publication.
Following the success of the first Inter-University research methods training program, AfriChild recruited the second cohort.
”The most important stage in a child’s development is from 0-5 when the child’s brain is developed and abilities shaped. This area has been ignored. Government needs to invest in early childhood development centres. ”
Children are at risk of being the biggest victims of COVID19 unless urgent action is taken to develop and implement evidence based interventions to respond to their needs.
That is why, we are mentoring a new crop of child focused researchers to undertake rigorous child focused research which will be used to inform policy makers and programme implementers.
#COVID19 has impacted negatively on children. Numerous studies done so far indicate that cases of child abuse, teenage pregnancy, child labour, violence against children are at all time high.
And as children continue to be out of school, some may never get an opportunity to complete their education.
Aware of these challenges, early this week, we selected 30 child focused researchers from seven universities in Uganda and we are taking them through a rigorous scientific writing workshop to develop, strengthen their skills and competencies in research.
The 5 day training will equip the researchers with the skills on how to bring to the fore key issues affecting children during and post the pandemic.
The virtual scientific writing workshop started on Monday and will end on Friday.
The researchers are from Makerere University, Kyambogo University, Nsamizi Training Institute, Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda Christian University, Gulu University and Muni University.
#COVID19 has disrupted the way we work and live but we shall continue to leverage technology to find solutions that support the wellbeing of children.
A research team from the AfriChild Centre has concluded a study visit to three districts in northern Uganda in preparation for an upcoming impact study on child protection interventions in Kitgum district.
Led by the Principal Investigator, Dr. Firminus Mugumya, the AfriChild research team met child protection stakeholders in Gulu, Pader and Kitgum to introduce the study to different actors and identify a comparator district.
The team met Anena Jessica, Probation Officer – Gulu, Michael Ogweng, Senior Probation and Welfare Officer – Kitgum, Oyera Jane Rose Okello, Vice Chairperson, Matidi Sub county – Kitgum, David Okech, Probation and Social Welfare Officer – Pader and Festo Okidi District Community Development Officer – Pader.
Other members of the AfriChild research team were Clare Bangirana, the Program Manager Research, Isaac Kimbugwe the Project Statistician and Maria Ndibalekera a Research Assistant on the project.
Following a number of meetings with stakeholders, Pader district was selected as the comparator.
“We selected Pader because it has similar characteristics to Kitgum and will give us good comparisons,’ said Clare Bangirana.
AfriChild will conduct a study to assess the impact and sustainability of the community based child protection model implemented by ChildFund International under the Empowering Communities to Protect Children project in Kitgum.
The overall objective of the impact evaluation is to generate evidence on the impact of interventions which are effective in prevention of violence against children, so as to inform policy and programming for children.
The study was commissioned by the Evaluation Fund, Global Partnership to End Violence and the Africa Partnership to End Violence Against Children.
On his way, he was offered a lift by a bodaboda cyclist. However, the bodaboda man never stopped at the centre. Instead Emma was transported up to Asuret village, Soroti district in Teso. He was then shown a herd of cattle and promised sh20,000 monthly pay. The young boy could only manage a week and decided to escape. Emma was rescued by a woman who took him to the police but for better shelter he was transferred to Amecet, a renowned registered charity home for orphans and vulnerable children in Soroti. Emma stayed at the shelter for a week. He was probed about his home and with enough credible information reconnected with family. Like Emma most children from Karamoja continue to suffer the same misfortune. If they are not being lured and forced into labour, they are bought off from their families, Simon Orugon, the Assistant Manager at Amecet, said. The concern The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. 25% of them are children. 81% of them trapped in forced labour. Every month between two to three children trafficked from Karamoja are brought in the care of Amecet centre when they are intercepted while in transit, or when they run away from their employers. Sold to provide cheap labour, they are mainly intercepted while in transit. “There are checkpoints on the transit routes. However, the traffickers have even stopped bringing them in the buses. But we know how a child being trafficked to be sold into slavery looks like, the places where they are sold, they are busy markets, we can tell, you can see and sense something is going on,” Orugon said. The ILO estimates that forced labour and human trafficking is a $150b industry worldwide.
“The quality of the future of any nation depends on the quality of the care for the children of that nation,” says MUK VC Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.
When Toffa (not his real name upon request) was three years old, he was taken up by his lonely grandmother, who just wanted some company.
A few months into his stay, the little boy caught an infection in the eyes. His grandmother applied herbs onto his eyes in the belief that he would get healed. But after three weeks of no improvement, Toffa’s grandmother relented and took him to hospital.
Nothing could have prepared them for the dampening news from the doctor after his checkup. It was too late – the boy’s eyes had been infected beyond repair. Cataracts had robbed Toffa of his eyesight. He would never see again.
For a person who has cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. That was Toffa’s fate.
Now aged 24, Toffa, who hails from Omoro district in northern Uganda, has long resigned to his sad reality. To worsen matters, he is struggling to get employment. He believes it is his visual impairment that is pushing away potential employers.
Toffa’s tragic experience growing up is one that many other Ugandan children go through, according to Prof. Eddy Walakira of Makerere University, who shared his story during a scientifically held symposium on child-focused research on Tuesday, June 15 at the university’s main campus in Kampala.
Walakira heads the Department of Social Work and Social Administration. He was Toffa’s supervisor for his research work at Makerere.
‘Evidence shows that most of the causes of child disabilities are preventable,’ the social scientist told a large virtual and physical audience that keenly followed the conference organised by AfriChild Centre and his department, and themed around the role of child-focused research in accelerating the implementation of Agenda 2040.