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AfriChild Blog Post

    Day Of African Child 2021: AfriChild Convenes Child-Focused Research Symposium, Launches Study On Effect Of COVID19 On Wellbeing Of Children In Uganda

24 apr
8

Day Of African Child 2021: AfriChild Convenes Child-Focused Research Symposium, Launches Study On Effect Of COVID19 On Wellbeing Of Children In Uganda

“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.

Mondo Kyateka, the Assistant Commissioner for Youth in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, moderated the comprehensive discussion

 

About 2.5 million children (13%) live with some form of disability in Uganda.

Walakira said that while children and young people with disabilities (PWDs) are a focal point of policy and programming efforts, major challenges remain.

‘COVID-19 has exposed our limitations in advocating for children and young people with disabilities with regard to accessing education and health services,’ he said.

For instance, they hardly access e-learning facilities and many, like Toffa, face difficulties in transiting to the world of work.

Makerere University vice-chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe attended the symposium as the guest of honour.

Makerere VC Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe says Makerere University is a vibrant research institution

‘The quality of the future of any nation depends on the quality of the care for the children of that nation,’ said Nawangwe.

‘We are facing challenges, and all over the world, people are concerned about the future of their nations, given the effects of COVID-19 on the children – including their mental health.’

Nawangwe launched three publications on the day, including a report by AfriChild Centre on how COVID-19 has affected children in Uganda . The other two are books – one on parenting initiatives and the other on empowering vulnerable youths in Uganda.

The vice-chancellor announced a donation of 150 copies of each publication to the Makerere University Library, and 50 copies of each to Kabale University, Kyambogo University and Uganda Christian University.

He said Makerere intends to become more research-intensive ‘because we believe that it is through research that we will be able to find solutions for our socio-economic development’.

Key collaborations with partners, including Government, will also continue, added Nawangwe.

Timothy Opobo, the executive director of AfriChild Centre

The symposium was held on the eve of the International Day of the African Child, observed every June 16 to rally people around the world to highlight the need to improve the education system in Africa.

More broadly, the intention here is to underline the importance of what it means to be a child on the African continent.

‘The key message from today is that in whatever we do, research is important. That if we are going to inform the policies that govern this country, they should be informed by evidence,’ said Timothy Opobo, the executive director of AfriChild Centre.

Dr. Robert Doya Nanima, Uganda’s representative to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of Children, said children need to be ‘at the centre of any research’.

He also talked of the need to ensure that due diligence is a part of research work. And that the best interest of the child is considered in whatever situation.

Meanwhile, while highlighting the tenets for the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children, keynote speaker Stella Ayo-Odongo said simply having legislative frameworks in place is not enough.

‘It is important that these frameworks are functional,’ she underlined.

Stella Ayo-Odongo of APEVAC

‘The ministry of youth is the most underresourced across the continent – yet it deals with more than 50 per cent of the populations,’ added Ayo-Odongo, who is the co-ordinator of African Partnership to End Violence Against Children (APEVAC).

She feels it is important to create a community of practice involving practitioners and researchers in setting the research agenda.

Researchers should also engage in new terrain – neglected issues, neglected children and sensitive or controversial issues, she added in her delivery on the day.

Meanwhile, Damon Wamara, the executive director of Uganda Child Rights NGO Network (UCRNN), rallied stakeholders to continue with the discussion on children.

‘We have begun seeing an interest in child-related research,’ he told the meeting.

‘Until our children are safe, let us continue to talk – until every child thrives, let us not stop talking.’

Key findings from the report

Meanwhile, Mathew Amollo, the research manager at AfriChild Centre, presented the key findings of their study on the effect of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of children in Uganda.

AfriChild Centre research manager Mathew Amollo presented their study findings

Conducted from June until August 2020, the researchers found that:

– children were more vulnerable during the pandemic restrictions
– the violence experienced by children in that time was almost equal to their lifetime experience of violence
– the violence against children remained gendered – boys suffered more physical violence than girls while girls suffered more sexual violence than boys
– more than half of the abuse cases were never reported by the children or those close to them
– access to child protection services was low – both in urban or rural setings

More worringly, the perpetrators of phyiscal and emotional violence at home were found to be parents.

At home, around 42.1% of children told the researchers that they did not eat their favorite food because their families could not afford. Relatedly, around 30% of the households indicated reduction in the number of meals – again because they could not afford.

In terms of education, four in 10 children were not accessing learning materials. 

Traditional media – radio and TV – were underutilised for children learning, the team found out. Less than 25% of the children used these channels for learning.

Meanwhile, this year’s Day of the African Child is being commemorated under the theme: ’30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children’.

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We strive for an Africa where children's wellbeing is realized for sustainable development.

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The AfriChild Centre exists to generate research that informs policy and practice for the wellbeing of children.

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