As Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a study commissioned by United Nations Children’s Fund and Ministry of Gender reveals that about 2.5m children live with some form of disability in Uganda.
The findings of the research study on Children with Disabilities Living in Uganda conducted between November 2013 and April 2014 have been compiled into a report to be launched by President Yoweri Museveni in Kayunga on December 3. The theme for the day is “Technology for Persons with Disabilities: Promoting Inclusion and Sustainable Development.”
Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative Uganda
About 9% of boys and girls of school age with disabilities attend primary school and only 6% of them continue studying in secondary school, reads the research briefing note.
The dropout rate is high due to a number of reasons ranging from limited number of inclusion schools that facilitate learning of children with disabilities, inadequate number of teachers to support children with special needs, inadequate budget resource allocation and limited attention paid to the specific needs and rights of children with disabilities, among others.
Twenty five years ago, the world made a commitment to children when it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which provides for ‘All rights for all children.’ Uganda ratified the Convention in 1989. According to Article 2 of the same Convention, there should be no discrimination against children because of their race, religion, colour, sex, disability, language and ethnic group.
However, children with disabilities remain one of the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups in society. “The situation of children with disabilities is evolving over time. Assessing their needs and the realisation of their rights should be an on-going process rather than a one off exercise,” further reads the research briefing note.
Identified too from the study was the need for increased knowledge and awareness about the state of children with disabilities, in order to reduce the stigma and discrimination there little ones are subjected to. The widespread stigmatizing attitudes towards children with disabilities leads to rejection, neglect, denial of access to basic services, abuse and marginalization.
UNICEF focuses on reaching the most deprived and marginalized children including children with disabilities. The research findings will therefore define strategies to ensure all children are reached. Every child counts! With the data collected, UNICEF together with the Government of Uganda will be able to design and implement programmes that support inclusion of children with disabilities across all sectors i.e. in health, education and protection in response to the issues faced by children with disabilities from 2015 onwards.
Despite Uganda ratifying the CRC and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a big number of challenges still remain: children with disabilities still lack access to basic services: issues to do with children with disabilities are not prioritized, some provisions included in the 1995 Constitution and in most of the laws and policies established to promote and protect the rights of persons and children with disabilities, are not fully implemented because of limited budget allocations; the programmatic responses in place are limited in scale and scope and only address immediate and obvious needs with only the easy-to-reach children benefitting from these projects.
“Inclusion of children with disabilities in society is very possible but requires a collective effort starting from changing the negative perceptions around these children; understanding that they too enjoy the same rights as other children, as well prioritizing their issues by policy makers, said Ms. Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative.