Ugandan children work with community leaders to end violence in schools
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.
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.
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.