Parents learning from each other for better child upbringing

UNICEF introduces the model parent approach to improve childcare and development

Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
parenting, child care, child development, Uganda, Karamoja, education, protection, health, model parents, child upbringing, parenting practices
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Mugisha
10 May 2022

When children are growing up, they need guidance from parents and caregivers. As they transition through the different stages of development, they look up to parents as role models for all sorts of behaviours, including emotion regulation. For instance, as young people manoeuvre through adolescence, a stage characterized by several changes in their bodies and life in general, they have more questions than answers. Often, they need an adult to hold their hand. 

But what happens when parents and caregivers are absent during child upbringing or worse still lack proper parenting skills to support children as they grow up? Children will lack the proper guidance and support needed. 

In the past, Kathile Parish located in Kathile Sub County, Kaabong District in the remote sub-region of Karamoja, was characterized by poor parenting practices that eventually translated into rampant violation of child rights.

Filibert Okemos the LC 1 leader, attests that many parents were absent in parenting. Harmful cultural practices, child neglect, child labour, and beatings were very common and education, health, and protection of children were not a priority for many parents. Health-seeking behaviours, especially for children and women were  poor. The number of children immunized was very low despite its enormous benefits, children  had to fend for themselves, and many went hungry for days. Absence of parents exposed children to violence. 

“Parents cared about the number of children and not the quality of life they obtained. To them, the more children one had, the more wealth (cows) they would obtain in terms of dowry,” Mathew Kubal, the Ag Probation and Social Welfare  Officer, Kaabong District shared. 

While a few leaders spoke to parents encouraging them to adopt positive parenting practices, messages communicated fell on deaf ears. The decaying situation would lead to a lost generation of children in Kaabong.

In 2021, Kathile Parish was one of the six - sub-counties that benefitted from the UNICEF-supported programmes on positive parenting delivered using financial assistance from the Spanish National Committee for UNICEF. Through this programme, a total of 30 model parents (15 males and 15 females) identified by the community as role models were trained on a specialized package that included the five models of positive parenting, child protection, case management, reporting, and referral of violence against children and the 22 key family care practices. The model parents would eventually reach out to other parents in their localities to share knowledge on positive parenting behaviours to change their attitudes and behaviours towards proper child bringing and support. 

“Through the approach, we believe the model parents will act as role models for other parents to learn from in many ways – educate children, support women during antenatal care, prevent violence, among others,”

Kubal shared. 

Model parents changing attitudes and communities for better parenting

Winnie Loongo Apun from Nakosowan Village is among the model parents selected and trained. Before her new role, Apun was known by her village mates as the ‘peace champion’. She traversed communities speaking to the populace about the need to create - violence-free homes for children to thrive. At the time, child and domestic violence were very rampant. She also visited schools uninvited and spoke to adolescents and children about their rights. She educated parents and caregivers about proper child upbringing in church and village meetings.  No wonder when asked to nominate model parents, Apun’s names ranked high.

The role presented through the UNICEF-supported programme and training further boosted Apun’s confidence and drive to continue educating communities and this time with the right knowledge. Apun confirms that she gained additional knowledge on parenting, childcare, identifying, tracking, and reporting violence which she now passes on to her fellow parents through community gatherings and church services, twice a month. 

Appreciating the new approach, Apun mentions that many people lack knowledge of children’s issues.

“So as a model parent they learn from what we say, do and how we behave,”

she continued. 
parenting, child care, child development, Uganda, Karamoja, education, protection, health, model parents, child upbringing, parenting practices
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Mugisha

Registering gains for children

Only one year since UNICEF and the district introduced the model parent programme, Apun confirms they are registering gains. Parents are aware of their responsibilities and now supporting children. As a result, school enrolment has increased as more children return to school. Violence against Children (VAC) has gradually reduced following sensitization drives by role model parents on the importance of positive parenting; child rights and responsibilities, identification, reporting and referral pathways of violence in schools and communities. 

Filibert Okemos confirms that since the programme was introduced he has noticed that parents are now moving away from old to new parenting practices. 

parenting, child care, child development, Uganda, Karamoja, education, protection, health, model parents, child upbringing, parenting practices
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Mugisha

“I am seeing parents sending girls to school, which in the past was uncommon – boys were prioritized, parents are embracing proper sanitation and hygiene practices, children are being immunized, men are escorting their pregnant wives to the health facilities and more men are involved in parenting,”

he continued. 

Apun confirms that the gains registered are a result of concerted efforts. As model parents, they work closely with other established child protection structures supported by UNICEF – social welfare officers, para-social workers, adolescent clubs and local leaders. 

With their work cut out for them, model parents in Kathile are ready to take on the task and are optimistic that children in their communities will enjoy their childhood through improved parenting practices.