Positive Strides by Save the Children in Northern Uganda’s Refugee Settlements
Following community wide sensitization on the objectives and targets of the EUTF programme, a mapping exercise was conducted in the Northern Uganda intervention districts of Adjumani, Arua, Kiryandongo, Yumbe, Koboko, Nebbi, Kitgum among others to identify out-of-school children for enrollment as Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) learners.
A total of 2,529 learners (880 Male and 1,649 Female) were identified, and 1,678 were successfully enrolled in the ALP program in 17 centers managed by Save The Children.
Some 321 learners (184 boys and 137 girls) in Arua and Adjumani successfully registered to sit for Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) administered by Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB). Of the registered candidates, 254 (79%) are refugees while 67 (21%) are nationals.
One of the challenges facing this activity is the high dropout rate among the learners. Many of them have family responsibilities and are forced out especially when they fail to get basic necessities like food, clothing and sanitary materials. The migratory nature of some refugee households who keep shifting to new places also affects the children’s learning.
Table showing ALP enrollment according to location and level of schooling
|ALP enrollment according to level|
|Level 1||Level 2||Level 3||Total|
Sixty-eight (68) qualified primary school teachers were recruited, trained and deployed to teach children in 17 ALP centers in Arua, Adjumani and Kiryandongo. Twenty-three (23) of the teachers are refugees while 45 are nationals.
Table showing distribution of teachers according to location, gender and nationality
|Districts||No. of ALP Centers||Teachers by Gender||Teachers by nationality||Total|
Miniki Primary School, Baratuku Settlement, Adjumani
John Michael Ding, 28, is a refugee and a lead ALP teacher. His role is to direct and coordinate the teaching plans. Ding leads 4 (2M, 2F) ALP teachers responsible for 158 students under ALP. The teacher-student ratio is 36:1 at Miniki Primary School.
“As an A-level certificate holder, teaching ALP students has given me employment where I earn an income to take care of my family and I am grateful to EU and Save the Children,” says Ding.
He notes that on recruitment, he was enrolled for ALP teacher training where he learnt: how to prepare work schemes, lesson planning, teaching methods such as learner participation, class control, how to treat learners with different backgrounds and problems, training in psychological support.
“Sunday Mandre, a student in level 2, lost both his parents to the conflict and was traumatized. He was always crying and could not concentrate in class, using the counseling skills I learnt, I was able to counsel him and closely monitor and engage him over time and now he is progressing well in his class work. The relatives he lives with in Angwarapi village have reached out to me to confirm a change in his behavior at home too. This brings me joy to have made impact in such a difficult situation,” says Ding.
To build capacity of instructors to deliver a better ALP methodology, 68 ALP Teachers (38 Male & 30 Female) including Ding have received training on effective delivery of ALP curriculum, child-centered instructional strategies, child rights and protection, learner assessment, effective classroom management techniques, Learners’ discipline and provision of psycho-social support.
ALP teachers like Ding are paid a monthly stipend in accordance to the market rate for their qualification. All the 68 ALP teachers in the intervention districts have been paid since their engagement. There were initial challenges associated with high turnover due to low remuneration, however, this has been overcome with additional resources to match other NGO’s level of remuneration for teachers.
Pagirinya 11 ALP Center
At Pagirinya ALP Center, we are greeted by a rather quiet environment, unusual of a normal school. Empty makeshift buildings surround a permanent structure built as Office of the Prime Minister’s food distribution center but currently serving partly as the office, staff room and classroom with curtain demarcations.
The unusual silence at the school is justified by the upcoming PLE exams the following day, thereby keeping the other pupils at home to enable the mandatory briefing session for Primary Leaving Examinations candidates.
“There are 156 pupils and 4 teachers at the center,” says 46-year-old Stephen Idra Benson, the head teacher of the school. Save the Children has supported this school with scholastic materials, furniture, salaries for the teachers, and has trained teachers in the ALP curriculum, psycho-social support, ToT on hygiene and handling vulnerable children among others” he adds
The school faces the following challenges: –
- High rate of school drop-out of pupils especially child mothers and boys heading families
- No meals provided at school
- Water, sanitation and hygiene issues due to limited number of latrines with limited water supply
- Movement of teaching materials back and forth from makeshift classrooms to offices
- Low remuneration for the ALP teachers
Pagirinya ALP center has 6 child-mothers and 4 boys heading homes (child-headed families) in level 3 planned to sit PLE. They share their stories;-
Charity Lemiya (Not real name) walks long distances to school. She arrives late at school during the rainy season and also because she first cleans, fetches water and cooks’ food for her baby and sick grandmother before leaving home.
“I want to become a nurse after school. But I want to go to a secondary school away from this settlement where they do not know that am a mother so that I can concentrate on my studies” says Charity
At 16, Charity has a one-year-old baby and is among the Primary Seven (P7) candidates. Her school attendance has been irregular due to lack of where to leave her child while she is at school. Sadly, Charity is an orphan who was brought up by a grandmother that is currently suffering from appendicitis.
Despite the challenges that Charity faces, she has been able to stay in school through monitoring visits and child support activities by Save the Children funded by EUTF. Indeed, Charity is determined to sit her exams with other candidates. Save the Children also provided her with scholastic materials.
Richard Drichi (Not real name) heads a family of 3 siblings who came unaccompanied from South Sudan. He narrates: “Our mother left us with our grandmother and married another man. Unfortunately, our grandmother later passed away when I was 7 years old so we have been living on our own while in South Sudan, but when the war broke out and we witnessed people being killed, we fled for our lives following fellow countrymen through the forests bushes into Uganda”.
His sister, Jackline Kadi, is 15 years and attends the main primary school in Pagirinya; his younger brother, Ambayo Patrick, is 12 and attends level 1 at the ALP center.
“I have been inspired by my teacher, Mr. Alumai Richard, who encourages me, follows up on me and my siblings when I do not attend school during difficult times when we do not have food,” he says
“I thank Save the Children and I am encouraged to read hard and become a doctor so that I can treat people because I lost my father due to poor treatment,” adds Richard.
“Return to school because education is key, without education you have no future” he advises school drop-out children.
In company of his grandmother and seven (7) cousins, Stephen Dominic (Not real name) fled the South Sudan conflict to Uganda and is enrolled to sit for the P7 exams at the ALP center in Pagirinya.
Just like Richard and Charity, Dominic was supported by Save the Children with scholastic materials, through the EUTF funding.
“My life has changed while in Uganda. I have made friends at school and gained knowledge that is going to help me enroll to secondary next year. It is my dream to become a nurse and treat the sick”
In order to engender quality education for pupils such as Dominic, Richard and Charity, EUTF, through Save the Children, has strengthened local government education teams to effectively plan for, supervise and monitor ALP activities. In each intervention district, education teams from the district have been trained on effective monitoring and supervision of ALP.
As part of the ALP, there is need to support the development of safe recreational facilities for children, furnish/ rehabilitate education facilities with respect for gender and children with disabilities. The assessment of physical statuses of learning facilities in each of the ALP centers showed that all the 17 centers had not met the requirements of Quality Learning Environments (QLE) guiding principle 2, which focuses on supporting the education intervention to provide protective learning environments for children’s physical wellbeing.
Most of the host primary schools were found to have insufficient learning spaces and limited furniture. This had resulted in overcrowding which consequently was affecting quality of learning. However, through the intervention, 13 classrooms were renovated (10 in Kiryandongo and 3 in Arua), 40 school desks (3-seaters) were distributed to 2 ALP Centers in Arua; two blocks of temporary learning facilities, and a block of pit latrines of 3-stance were set up in Adjumani.
As a sustainable effort for community participation, members of school Management Committees (SMCs), Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA), Center Management Committees (CMCs), from 17 ALP centers across three districts of Kiryandongo, Adjumani and Arua were trained in community mobilization, sensitization, and effective monitoring of ALP activities. Training was jointly facilitated by ALP officers, Center Coordination Tutor (CCT), District Education Officer and representatives from Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in each district.
“After escaping South Sudan, my life is finally changing for the better. Now I am busy making soap with my women’s group and selling it at the market. Working together, and being able to trade and sell at the market, gives us a great opportunity to learn new things and to secure some financial stability”.
A mere thought of her journey from South Sudan to Uganda boarder brings tears to her eyes, as 23-year old Nancy Maneno cuddles on to her 6-month old baby. She soaks in more tears while reminiscing of the attack on her family during the war. “When the war broke out, my three children and I stayed in the bush for days with no food. Coming to such a peaceful environment in Uganda is a like miracle” she says.
Next to her is 27-year old Betty Ekisa who came to Bidibidi refugee settlement in August 2016 after her home was attacked by rebels in South Sudan. She walked for two days with her husband and 4 children to the Ugandan boarder, where they were later transported to the settlement.
Betty and Nancy are comforted by 34-year old Josephine Ayuru who describes the skills they just gained from a short-term training in soap making as transforming. Josephine is the treasurer of Manjoora women’s group comprised of 30 women to which Betty and Nancy belong. “After escaping South Sudan, my life is changing for the better. Now I am busy making soap with my women’s group and selling it at the market. Working together, and being able to trade and sell at the market, gives us a great opportunity to learn new things and to secure some financial stability”, she adds.
These three women have one thing in common. Despite being victims of the South Sudan conflict they have put their tragic tales aside to work and support each other in these difficult times. Manjoora women’s group is found in Bidibidi refugee settlement area, the largest settlement in the world hosting 272 000 refugees.
The women’s group was formed by CEFORD, a community empowerment organisation for livelihoods under the consortium led by Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and were trained in livelihood actions based on the participatory driven Enabling Rural Innovations (ERI)/ Participatory Action and Enterprise Development (PAED). As part of collaborative efforts between livelihood and skills interventions, Belgian Development Agency (BTC) has trained the women in their pilot skills development through an entrepreneurship voucher scheme. The goal is to enhance livelihood and labour market relevant skills for youth, women and girls of the refugees through short term vocational training and entrepreneurship support.
Group members such as Nancy, Betty and Josephine gain skills in soap making for subsistence and income generation. This will empower them financially. Manjoora women’s group plan to specialize in soap making business for their zone in Bidibidi refugee settlement and empower fellow women outside their group for financial stability. The group has 30 members, all women, who meet twice a week.
Since the beginning of the EUTF SPRS-NU programmes throughout the second half of 2016, the refugee situation in the Northern Uganda has taken a dramatic turn. With the renewed fighting in South Sudan and the continuous influx of south Sudanese refugees, Uganda has now become the top refugee-hosting country in Africa and host of the largest refugee settlements in the world. The influx from South Sudan shows no sign of stopping. South Sudan crisis is now the largest refugee situation on the continent and Uganda is experiencing the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world.
The excitement on the faces of students at the animated motions and sound coming out of the computers is astounding. This happens to be a first-time experience for students of Lokopio Hills Vocational Training Institute (VTI) in Bidi-bidi refugee settlement in Uganda to learn coding using an easy to use software, thanks to the support from the European Union Trust Fund (EUTF).
“My first time to use computer was when I joined institute a few months ago, today am able to code using blocks and create motions of a cartoon with sound. It is this simple.” Says 20-year-old Apio Immaculate. Immaculate is one of the 90 refugee and host community youth that are undergoing the coding training at Lokopio VTI.
This year’s Africa Code Week focuses on how to use ‘scratch’, a visual programming language developed by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab to lower the technical threshold for coding. Coding is widely considered as the “blue collar” job of the 21st century and is introduced to trainees in order to equip them with skills that can support them in today’s world.
In Uganda, ACW 2017 partnered with a number of partner such as Makarere University as well as with Belgian Development Agency (BTC)’s Support to Skilling Uganda project with an aim to empower future generations with the coding tools and skills needed to thrive in the 21st-century workforce and become key actors in Africa’s economic development.
22-year-old Matovu Joseph who awaits his graduation in Electrical Engineering, a lead trainer at Lokopio shares his experience “this is my first coding class. It is an opportunity for me to transfer knowledge to such a vulnerable group of refugees. The students have appreciated the simplicity in using scratch for coding as a programming language; it is like computerized way of building blocks”.
While taking place in Lokopio VTI with support from the European Union Trust Fund, the ACW was concurrently hosted in Buhimba VTI in Hoima district, St Daniels Comboni and Nakapiripirit VTI in Karamoja region, St Joseph Virika in Kabarole district and Kasese Youth Polytechnic in Rwenzori region with 450 beneficiaries from the respective Business Technical Vocational Education Training (BTVET).
ACW in Uganda is part of 35 African countries that are hosting over 1,500 coding workshops involving 500,000 children and youth across the continent. The trainers of coding in Lokopio are part of the youth that were trained at Makerere University (MUK) in partnership with BTC, MUK College of Engineering, Design, Art & Technology (CEDAT), College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS), Resilient Africa Network (RAN), Hive Colab and Women In Technology Uganda (WITU) to extend Africa Code Week (ACW) to BTC’s SSU project.
23-year-old Edith Ndagire, a third year Telecom Engineering student, who was trained as a trainer and was part of the instructor team at Lokopio says “the students here are enjoying the coding lessons and have grasped faster than I expected. They are disciplined”. “As a refugee student of Agriculture at Lokopio VTI, I plan to use coding knowledge in creating awareness cartoons focusing on stopping environmental degradation in agriculture for the community” says Immaculate who comes from a refugee family of 8.
The ACW initiative empowers refugee youth such as Immaculate with skills on how to use the computer software and this put them in a good position of not only passing the knowledge to their trainees but also to create income generation for themselves. BTC’s participation in ACW targets VTIs, refugees and host community populations that are often neglected when innovative interventions such as digitalization are rolled out.
Having spent days interacting with persons with one thing in common; refugees from South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, I have come to realise how realistically beautiful they are. No make up, black flawless beauty.
Capturing images of this beauty through their excitement of being part of development interventions by the European Union Trust Fund-my day job. Interventions of Livelihood, Education, Skills development, WASH and Conflict management brings new hope having lost their all in the never-ending war that caused them to migrate.
These are genuine signs of hope, real smiles in acknowledgment of happiness.
The Holy Spirit is not an “it,” not a “force,” and not a “thing.” The Holy Spirit is deity. He is one of the three persons of the triune Godhead. He is God, having the very same essence, attributes, and characteristics of the other members of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit serves a varying role than that of the Father and the Son.
A fact worth pondering.
Abraham and Sarah had waited their entire married life for a child. Even after God promised them a son, they waited for many years. Then Isaac was born. Here was the promised one. Here was the one through whom God would bless the world.
Then God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. “What! I’m supposed to kill the child of promise?”
Hebrews tells us Abraham believed God could and would raise Isaac from the dead. In effect, Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead, because when God stopped him from killing Isaac, he stopped a man fully committed to follow through on his decision to kill his own son.
Abraham believed God, and so was credited righteousness. Why credited? Because righteousness is God’s to give, not ours to earn. The same righteousness credited to Abraham is credited to us, not because we deserve it, but because we accept it.
Do you see why righteousness is a by-grace-through-faith reality, rather than a behavioral exercise?
“[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
We receive both of these when we, like Abraham, “believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead”(Romans 4:24).
Abraham could not earn God’s blessing by his own behavior. Look at his failures – Hagar, two different kings with Sarah – when he tried to “help” God’s plan. But he did receive God’s blessing when he took God at his word. Note those two words, “earn” and “receive.”
We simply cannot earn God’s blessing, but we can, by faith, receive the gift offered. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees it.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1, 2).
Because Jesus lives, I live. I have no fear of what tomorrow brings. Because He lives; His Grace abounds.