Uganda: Children quit school as aid dries up
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||25 November 2008|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Uganda: Children quit school as aid dries up, 25 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/492faf3cc.html [accessed 21 September 2014]|
GULU, 25 November 2008 (IRIN) - Poor learning conditions and lack of food in primary schools have forced thousands of children out of class in northern Uganda over the past three months, local officials said.
"The problem has been made worse as displaced primary schools relocate back to their original sites in villages when UN food aid support to primary schools has stopped," Robinson Obot, Gulu District education officer said.
Some 11,123 children below 15 years of age, he said, had dropped out of primary education in Gulu alone. Most were girls - of whom many had been married off to older men.
"This is a region that has been experiencing war, where families have been displaced in camps and had no means to feed their children," Obot said. "They [the families] are only [slowly] beginning to grow food."
In Amuru District, education officer Ben Okwamoi said the school-feeding programme, managed by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) during the conflict, had encouraged children to join school.
WFP provided schools with maize flour, corn soy blend, vegetable oil and beans.
Statistics from the district education office showed a sharp rise in drop-out rates to 6.1 percent in the past few months. "This is a failure [of] the universal primary education programme if something is not done to help address the problem," Okwamoi said.
Bai Sonkoh Mankay, head of WFP operations in Gulu and Amuru, said the school-feeding programme was stopped because Ugandan government policy provided that parents had a duty to feed their children.
"We were doing this in the past to schools in the hard-to-reach areas because of the humanitarian need," Mankay said. "We stopped the programme at the beginning of the term in August. Of course [it] had helped improve attendance and enrolment but there is nothing we can do."
WFP, he added, would instead support initiatives to help people produce their own food and become self-reliant.
Local leaders in the region expressed concern over the situation. "In some schools in villages like Mucwini, Agoro, classes are empty with no children attending," said Aturu Abraham from Kitgum District.
At Odek primary school, headmaster Ochola Augustine told IRIN that enrolment had slumped, with only 308 children attending class out of 1,200 who enrolled at the beginning of the year.
Gulu District Commissioner Walter Ochora said it was a policy that parents provide food to their children and all children should be in school under the government's universal primary education programme.
Some parents, however, said that while the government policy was good, they were unable to adequately feed their children because most of them had just left camps and had not started producing food.
Mankay said WFP was carrying out an assessment to find out the exact number of children who had dropped out of school after the end of the school-feeding programme.