The Uganda National Teachers Union(UNATU) has launched the go back to school campaign in the Karamoja region.
In many parts of Karamoja, school-going children are engaged in activities that include mining and hawking, while the boys are trapped up in the kraals looking after cows.
Filbert Baguma, the General Secretary of UNATU, observed that the school-going children who are supposed to be at school are exposed to dangerous activities while others are used to committing crimes.
He said that schools are the only best and safer place to save the children whose parents have turned into the breadwinners of their families.
According to Baguma, through their project dubbed “Work No Child Business”, which is implemented in the majorly mining sub-counties of Tapac and Rupa in Moroto district, they have been moving around mobilising parents to appreciate what they mean about child labour.
Baguma said that the biggest problem with school is that students don’t go because they have to work in small businesses to make money.
He urged the government to ensure that the school environment is improved and friendly to children.
Baguma also told the district leaders that they should make laws that make sure all kids go to school and that parents who keep their kids home will be punished.
Joyce Agwang, a senior woman teacher at Kodonyo Primary School in Tapac Sub County, says that when they went to the community, they found that most parents, especially those of girls, didn’t want their kids to go to school.
Agwang said that even though kids want to go to school, their parents are still a problem because they don’t understand how important education is.
“These are parents who have never been to school. It is hard to convince them, but we are trying all possible ways to make them understand the value of educating children, “Agwang explained.”
Agwang also suggested that the government set up boarding schools in primary schools so that parents wouldn’t be able to bother their kids while they were trying to learn.
One of the parents, Justine Tuko, confirmed that many of their children in rural areas are stuck in the kraals taking care of cows because their parents don’t think school is important.
Tuko said the only way of managing education in Karamoja is through applying force to ensure that no child is found in the animal kraal when it’s time for school.
He asked the district government, through the local councils, to make rules that say if a child is found in the bush grazing cows on a school day, they and their parents should be arrested.
George William Wopuwa, the Moroto Resident District Commissioner, attributed the major cattle raids to low illiteracy levels in the region. He said there is a need to break the chain of raids through compulsory education to all those of school-going age so that their minds are changed.
Wopuwa said that different groups, including parents, need to be brought together to make sure that their children can go back to school. This is the only way to free Karamoja.
The children are expected to report back to school for the second term on the 12th of September 2022.