UNICEF gives half a million children a chance to go to school in northern Uganda

UNICEF gives half a million children a chance to go to school in northern Uganda

A campaign backed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) aiming to help school 450,000 children returning home from displacement camps in the war-torn northern region of Uganda kicked off today.

A campaign backed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) aiming to help school 450,000 children returning home from displacement camps in the war-torn northern region of Uganda kicked off today.

Over the next two years, this scheme will also target 4,500 teachers in 650 schools in the Lango sub-region in northern Uganda.

UNICEF reaffirms its commitment to avail all the resources possible to help communities across Uganda send their children – girls and boys alike – to school,” said Keith McKenzie, the agency’s Representative in Uganda.

Northern Uganda has been ravaged by fighting between the Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for over a decade, and thousand of civilians have been killed or abducted while more than 1.5 million have become refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Orum Primary School, where today’s launch took place, was operational during the height of the violence between 2003 and 2006, and played host to 14 other displaced schools which have since been reestablished.

This programme is part of the larger ‘Go to School, Back to School, Stay in School’ scheme – a joint effort by UNICEF, other UN agencies, the Government of Uganda and civil society organizations – which started last month and targets 1.3 million children and 13,000 teachers in 1,600 schools.

The latest statistics from the 2004-2005 school year show that over 7 million children were enrolled in school in Uganda, and half were girls.

However, recent Government data shows that in the Lango sub-region, less than 50 per cent of children enroll in primary school at the Government-designated age of six. Of those who did enter school, fewer than half completed the first cycle of schooling.

“Low levels of primary school enrollment, retention and completion represent a basic violation of child rights,” McKenzie said. “The immediate impact of low education levels on individual health, HIV/AIDS prevention and protection from various forms of neglect, abuse and exploitation is crucial.”

UNICEF is distributing educational materials such as writing tools, mathematics sets and school bags; hygiene supplies including cloths and soap; and sports equipment such as volleyballs and footballs. The agency is also providing teacher-training materials for teachers and caregivers.