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Uganda launches education campaign for war-affected children

©UNICEF Uganda/2007/Hyun
A girl pupil in a crowd of boys inside the Karas Primary School in Uganda’s Nakapiripirit District.

By Sabine Dolan

The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child will be the theme of the 51st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women from 26 February to 9 March 2007. Here is one in a series of related stories from UNICEF.

NEW YORK, USA, 15 February 2007 – UNICEF Uganda and its partners have put education in the spotlight this week with the launch of their ‘Go to school, back to school, stay in school’ campaign to help 1.3 million children get primary education in the country’s conflict-affected north and northeast.

Although much of Uganda has emerged from civil war and economic chaos since the 1980s, the north of the country remains caught in a humanitarian crisis. As many as 1.6 million people displaced by violence live in camps in the Acholi and Lango sub-regions. Women and children comprise 80 per cent of the displaced population.

Eighty per cent is also the grim proportion of children there aged 7 to 18 who have never been to school – a majority of them girls.

© UNICEF Uganda/2007/Hyun
UNICEF has supported district local governments in northern Uganda’s sub-region of Karamoja for the past 20 years to implement key interventions for children.

Boosting school enrolment

The education campaign was launched on 13 February by the Ministry of Education-Sports, the World Food Programme and other partners at the Napumpum Primary School in northern Uganda’s Kotido District.

The initiative strives to accelerate primary school completion by both girls and boys. It adheres to UNICEF’s broader effort to provide quality education during emergencies and ‘build back better’ in the education sector in post-crisis situations.

“Low levels of primary school enrolment, retention and completion represent a basic violation of child rights and an urgent priority for action by all stakeholders,” says UNICEF Representative in Uganda Keith McKenzie. “The immediate impact of low education levels on individual health, HIV/AIDS prevention and protection from various forms of neglect, abuse and exploitation is critical.”

The ‘Go to school, back to school, stay in school’ campaign plans a series of regional launches during the current academic year. Besides the targeted children, it will benefit 13,000 teachers in 1,600 schools throughout 18 districts.

©UNICEF Uganda/2007/Hyun
Members of the Girls’ Education Movement club at Naitakwai Primary School in Moroto District, northeastern Uganda, perform songs and skits containing messages emphasizing the importance of school for girls.

A sense of stability

Although Uganda’s introduction of universal primary education in 1997 dramatically improved enrollment, the latest census data indicate that more than 700,000 children aged 6 to 12 have never attended school. Furthermore, at least two-thirds of children enrolled in primary school do not complete their full primary education cycle, and a significant gender gap remains.

The new campaign aims to boost the primary education of northern Ugandan children and help reverse the gap between boys and girls. As UNICEF strives to make education an integral part of its humanitarian response in Uganda and elsewhere, schools become a safe space that can provide psychological support, stability and a sense of normalcy to children affected by conflict.

“UNICEF and its partners reaffirm our commitment to avail all the resources possible to help communities in Karamoja and across Uganda send their children – girls and boys alike – to school,” says Mr. McKenzie.

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