By Ijuka Agnes Barongo and Jeremy Green
KAMPALA, Uganda, 30 September 2011 - Emmanuel, 17, from Masindi District, Uganda, sits contemplatively near a window, with an expression of quiet determination on his face. Bathed in the golden light spilling forth through the pane, his academic journey thus far has been anything but sunny.
|VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Karin Bridger reports on Ugandan children and stakeholders working together for violence-free schools. Watch in RealPlayer|
As he discussed the recurrent abuse he received at the hands of his teachers in primary school, his eyes grew darker. “They would tell us that if we have no ears then the best they can do is to cane us,” he said. “Cane the buttocks, using that as a means of opening the ears and the mind.”
Violating children’s rights
Violence against children is a problem in Ugandan schools, where corporeal punishment, verbal abuse, and other forms of cruelty are often accepted as a way of life.
The sad fact is that most children are unaware their rights are even being violated. “For me, I never knew whether it was violence,” said Emmauel. “They were violating my own rights and I never knew.”
He is determined to change this, however.
|© UNICEF video|
|A student writes "Zero Violence" on the classroom's blackboard as part of a “Zero Violence in Schools” workshop in Kampala, Uganda.|
Recently, Emmanuel took part in a workshop titled “Zero Violence in Schools” held in Kampala. Organized and funded by UNICEF, and facilitated by the Future Search Network, the workshop brought together 64 children from across Uganda to interact, share experiences, and come up with solutions for a safer school environment.
An important first step in raising awareness on this critical issue, the workshop gave the children a unique opportunity to voice their concerns directly to teachers, community leaders, parents, politicians and policy makers.
Earlier this month, Emmanuel attended another workshop on violence-free schools, this time held in the Gulu region of northern Uganda. Organized by the Future Search Network, the Gulu workshop aimed to put the ‘whole system’ in the same room, bringing together people from all ages, levels of society, and points of view, in order to talk about the problem of violence in schools and develop concrete action plans.
At one point in the workshop, a group of children gathered to shout: “Our voices are important!” It was a resonating rallying call, heard by everyone.