Olivia Garner IRT explores how children in StepUp communities have been coping with lockdown and the closure of schools. International Refugee Trust is passionate about the importance of education as a way out of poverty. Through IRT’s StepUp programme in rural northern Uganda, families are taught the importance of sending children to school and the […]
IRT explores how children in StepUp communities have been coping with lockdown and the closure of schools.
International Refugee Trust is passionate about the
importance of education as a way out of poverty. Through IRT’s StepUp programme
in rural northern Uganda, families are taught the importance of sending
children to school and the enormous benefits and opportunities an education
provides. As another component of the programme, the Organisation for Community
Action (OCA), IRT’s partner, has established a scholarship scheme which pays
school fees for girls in StepUp communities. In northern Uganda, national
lockdown and the closing of schools has had a significant impact on children’s
studies. Students from rural areas, without internet access, are unable to
benefit from the remote online teaching embraced in other parts of the world.
At first, when schools closed it was a difficult adjustment for a lot of families. Many students were given holiday packages by their schools to complete whilst in lockdown, but the lockdown lasted a lot longer than anticipated. The students made other efforts to keep up with their studies by listening to remote education through the radio and having group discussions with classmates within their villages.
StepUp participant Martine told OCA’s trained experts on the ground that “as a result of schools being closed, some irresponsible men are taking advantage of this situation to marry off the girls in the village by telling them that COVID-19 will not end and that school will not open again. However, parents that received StepUp training are talking to their children on the dangers of early marriage and engaging them on agricultural activities to keep them busy.” Martine said the children have really helped with domestic work. They have been of great help in growing cabbages which were harvested this season, with part of the profits to be kept for school fees when school reopens.
Angella, a Senior Two student with a StepUp scholarship at Wisdom High School, testified that she has been able to complete her school work in addition to helping out with domestic work. When interviewed, she said, “My parents are giving me and my siblings enough time to revise our books which we do in the afternoon, late evening and very early in the morning at around 5:00am since we have lamps. At my school we were given a holiday package which I have completed.” She added, “I want to thank my parents for being so supportive towards our education by giving us enough time for holiday studies. And I also want to thank OCA too for sponsoring my studies.” Angella’s grandmother Faustina was pleased to see her sons helping Angella and her other grandchildren with school work. She said, “Seeing all this makes me so happy because even though the children are not at school, they are showing a positive attitude towards education that shall make a better future for them.”
Despite the lockdown adding another barrier to education,
especially for girls, it is rewarding to see that families in the StepUp
programme remain committed to the future generation having an education.
It is so inspiring to see the long-lasting impact that StepUp training has, and
it is hoped that the students are able to continue their education throughout
the duration of the pandemic and beyond.
Why refugees’ self-reliance is important.
February 25, 2020
Our new volunteer Marina Munoz writes about her experiences living for a year in Nairobi. She observed the difficulties that refugees experience integrating in Kenya and addresses the benefits of Uganda’s approach to refugees and how IRT contributes to it. Uganda: A Role Model for Refugee Integration Uganda, as of February 2020, hosts around 1.4 […]
Our new volunteer Marina Munoz writes about her experiences living for a year in Nairobi. She observed the difficulties that refugees experience integrating in Kenya and addresses the benefits of Uganda’s approach to refugees and how IRT contributes to it.
Uganda: A Role Model for Refugee Integration
Uganda, as of February 2020, hosts around 1.4 m refugees that run from political instability and violence from neighbouring countries such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Despite the massive influx of refugees, Uganda is considered one of the most progressive refugee hosting countries in the world because of their ‘Refugee Self-Reliance Strategy’. Under this model, refugees have the right to work and move freely within the country, which is believed to have supported the national economy’s development. Moreover, Uganda’s government has been allocating plots of land for these refugees so they can grow their own food, which makes them less dependent on food aid, boosting their self-esteem and providing them with useful skills that they can use in rebuilding their communities upon return.
How is IRT working towards the achievement of this goal?
IRT acknowledges the importance of self-sufficiency for refugees by partnering with the Organisation for Community Action (OCA) which operates in Uganda, and aims to empower people to force a positive change through their StepUp Programme.
StepUp is divided in four main areas: sustainable agriculture, social ventures, savings, credit, gender and community development. In order to promote sustainable agriculture, better farming as well as crop management skills are taught. The social venture project is mainly focused on three enterprises: improving hygiene, raising awareness about solar lighting and production of sanitary pads. As a member of the community expressed: “I was very ignorant because I did not go to school. Because of OCA, I acquired a lot of knowledge. I now use a sewing machine and make reusable sanitary towels for women and young girls in the community”. Refugees were also trained to manage their own finances, explore small scale business opportunities and loan record keeping. As another member of the community indicated: “OCA taught me how to do business, and I thought about selling cooking oil, soap and onions. The business is helping me in paying school fees, that is why I thank OCA for the plan that they gave me”. Lastly, IRT aims to empower women within their own community encouraging them to take on leadership roles and offering girls basic education. As refugees, Aceng Collin and Ogwal Bruno, shared: “I thought girl-child education was useless, I never advised my children to study hard. We did not bother to check their report cards. When OCA came in, they trained us on the importance of education and encouraged us to give our girls equal treatment as the boys.”
My experience in Kenya compared to Uganda
I think that IRT’s support to the StepUp Programme is crucial to ensure the self-sufficiency of refugees to remind them of their autonomy and agency. Fleeing one’s home is a traumatic experience for many refugees, normally having terrible consequences for their mental health, self-confidence and integration in the host society. During my experience last year living in Kenya where there is an encampment law that does not allow refugees to leave the refugee camps, I understood how relevant projects like StepUp are to provide refugees with the skills to depend on themselves and integrate. IRT acknowledges this issue and needs your support to make the life of refugees in Uganda much better.