The combination of poverty and disability is toxic. Add stigma and discrimination, and the mix is even more destructive.
There are an estimated 2.5 million children with disabilities in Uganda. According to a UNICEF-backed 2014 research study*, over 90% may not be in school.
Of the children with disabilities who do attend primary school, a staggering 94% of them will fail to complete primary education. Only a tiny 6% – around 15,000 children across the whole country – make it to secondary education. Factor in the reality that the most of these are children with hearing or visual impairments, and for children with mobility difficulties, the picture is even worse.
We want Global Care’s 35th year, and the years ahead, to be a time of transformation for more children made more vulnerable because of the toxic combination of poverty, disability and cultural stigma.
Our pioneering work with children with disabilities in Soroti, in northern Uganda, over the last five years, has seen transformation in the lives of some extremely vulnerable children. Thanks to the work of The Ark, children who were once isolated and shunned, sometimes locked away at home for hours, are now in school. Others have learned to walk with aids, to speak, to recognise letters. To laugh and have fun in an atmosphere of love and acceptance, instead of stigma and fear.
The Atira Disability Action group is mobilising a whole community to challenge stigma and develop sustainable mutual support.
We want to build on this experience, but turn our focus to a different part of Uganda – to Rukungiri, in the south-west. South-western Uganda has the worst rates of school participation for children with disabilities in all of Uganda, apart from the war-ravaged north-east.
We want to raise a minimum of £35,000 to develop new initiatives targeting children with mobility difficulties in rural Rukungiri.
Initially, we plan to develop a residential unit on the site of Kahororo Primary School, a Church of Uganda-run government school with whom we have a strong partnership already.
We will complete adaptations to the buildings at Kahororo to make them fully accessible to children with disabilities, and provide term time accommodation to allow children with mobility difficulties to attend the school.
Getting to and from school is an enormous challenge for children with mobility difficulties, especially in the remote and hilly terrain in the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains. It would be impractical to provide daily transport, but a residential unit would be extremely effective.
We would like to make Kahororo Primary School a centre of excellence for children with mobility difficulties in this mountainous region, and give children with mobility difficulties the chance to fulfil their potential through accessing education and improved healthcare. What a fitting celebration this would be for Global Care’s 35th year, in the country where our work began.
*Situational Analysis of the Rights of Children with Disabilities in Uganda. Unicef May 2014