Although the Ugandan Government of President Yoweri Museveni and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) concluded peace talks to end the long-running war in northern Uganda, the final accord was not signed by LRA leader Joseph Kony. Now flushed out of their bases in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and split into smaller groups, the LRA are accused of mass murder, rape and pillage in both the DRC and Southern Sudan. They have been particularly violent since December 2008 when the Ugandan government, with the support of the DRC and Southern Sudan armies, launched an offensive against them. Hopes for a peaceful end to the conflict rose on 30 January 2009, however, when IRIN reported that a senior LRA commander, Okot Odhiambo, had defected. Some opposition leaders expressed doubt as to whether these reports were true.

The political instability and conflict in Uganda has badly affected the minority Batwa community – for example, on the country's western border with the DRC, which is close to the home districts of many Batwa communities. However, there is a lack of official data on the communities and the government does not officially recognize the Batwa as indigenous. According to the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), an NGO representing the Batwa throughout the Great Lakes Region, there are approximately 6,700 Batwa living within the state boundaries of Uganda. According to an MRG report in 2008, the Ugandan Equal Opportunities Committee has conducted a survey of ethnic groups in Uganda, but it has not been published and the Batwa are not acknowledged to be a priority.

In a September 2008 report, the FPP described recent evictions and exclusions of the Ugandan Batwa from their forests, and their endemic marginalization within Ugandan society. The FPP calculates that almost half of the Batwa squat on other people's land, while working in bonded labour (essentially slavery) for non-Batwa masters. Those who live on land donated by charities still experience poorer levels of health care, education and employment than their non-Batwa neighbours.

Batwa children have historically faced extreme exclusion in accessing and staying in school. Discrimination against children from ethnic minorities, and the quality of education they receive, were identified as major issues for dialogue between the Committee on the Rights of the Child and Uganda. Uganda's Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2007 established a committee to monitor and evaluate state bodies, NGOs and businesses to ensure that they comply with equal opportunities and affirmative action policies. Education is identified as a policy priority area. The Act could significantly help the situation of the Batwa in Uganda, and stand as an example to other governments in the region.

Uganda's Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), first formulated in 1997, provides the framework for education policy and planning towards the attainment of the MDGs. In the most recent January 2008 version, areas identified for intervention include shifting public expenditure allocation in favour of broader access and quality to basic education and improving retention. However the Ugandan government is now dropping the PEAP in favour of a National Development Plan, which is more focused on economic poverty than the basic social dimensions of poverty affecting the Batwa. The civil society consultation process which is under way as the PEAP is replaced by the National Development Plan may allow Batwa organizations and other civil society bodies the opportunity to press their case to the Uganda government and donors.

The Karamojong people in Uganda has experienced similar difficulties to the Batwa in accessing education – fuelled in part by a long-held suspicion of the formal education system. According to the UNICEF Uganda country report 2008, in Karamoja, where communities are largely pastoralist or agropastoralist, complex armed conflicts stemming largely from inter-communal large-scale violent cattle raiding and exacerbated by climate change, have resulted in enrolment and completion rates as low as 6-8 per cent in four of five districts. Girls' enrolment been particularly affected. Severe poverty is another barrier to access; MRG has reported that often the Karamoja cannot afford to pay for school materials, or lose children's labour during school hours.

Education is a key tool for peace building in such an environment. Non-formal education schemes such as Accelerated Learning Programmes (ALPs) for northern Uganda and Alternative Basic Education for Karamojong (ABEK) were included in the Education Act (2008). They seek to make education more relevant by including topics such as animal husbandry, and health and sanitation, which are not offered by the national curriculum, and offer a more flexible schedule. These innovations can help to soften parental resistance to sending their children to school.

UNICEF has reported that such programmes have sparked a debate on whether they are indeed beneficial or if the emphasis should be placed on formal schooling. Difficulty moving from non-formal education programmes into more formal schooling has impacted negatively on student retention in ABEK, as well as similar interventions offering mobile schooling or boarding schools.

In 2007 and 2008, the Go-to-School, Back-to-School, Stay in School (GBS) campaign, created after national-level consultation between government, civil society partners and UN agencies, increased enrolment in both northern and northeastern Uganda. In Kamwenge District, for example, comparison of pre- and post-campaign data indicates an increase of 14 per cent (15 per cent for boys; 14 per cent for girls) over a six-month period. Girls' Education Movement (GEM) statistics indicate that 299 children (141 girls) enrolled in school as a result of GEM mobilization. In Kitgum and Pader districts, 1,416 learners (64 per cent girls) were mainstreamed into formal primary schools through the Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP). Another 1,891 learners (91 per cent girls) are accessing primary education in the ALP centres under the tutelage of all-female community instructors. In north-east region (Karamoja), there are an additional 35,643 learners (59 per cent girls) enrolled in ABEK centres.

Smaller minority groups in Uganda, such as the Acholi, and other minorities such as the Alur, Kakwa, Lugbara and Madi in north-west Uganda, continue to be disproportionately disadvantaged. Many Acholi children have been abducted to serve as child soldiers and have missed out on education entirely. The Acholi used to enjoy among the highest per capita representation in Uganda's higher education. Now, however, Acholi children lag behind the rest of the nation in all educational areas.

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