A Dubai Cares delegation led by Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares, has successfully concluded a field visit to launch three new education programs in Uganda. The first program provides education for South Sudanese refugee children who fled the civil war in their home country and are now settled in Northern Uganda, as well as children from the host communities in Uganda; the second program aims to promote science and technology among Ugandan primary and secondary school girls; while the third program supports the enrollment and integration of children with disabilities into mainstream primary schools. The three programs, which are set to benefit more than 21,500 children and young adults in Uganda, are worth AED 11,356,142 (USD 3,091,368).
In Adjumani, Dubai Cares has launched a 15-month education in emergencies program titled “Providing Emergency Education to Refugee and host community Girls and Boys in Uganda”, in partnership with Plan International. This AED 4,172,930 (USD 1,135,955) program aims to provide education to South Sudanese refugee children and adolescents, as well as children from the host communities in northern Uganda. The focus is primarily to improve access to quality primary education for children, especially for marginalized girls in refugee communities in West Nile Region (Adjumani and Yumbe) in Northern Uganda. This program was originally launched in July 2014 in South Sudan, but due to the escalating conflict in the country, the implementation of the program moved to northern Uganda to accommodate the needs of the South Sudanese refugees and Ugandan host communities there. The program is set to benefit 15,000 children and young people.
Discussing the significance of the new program, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares said: “The South Sudan crisis is one of the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crises in the world with more than 3 million South Sudanese refugees have fled to neighboring countries, and over a million of them are located in Uganda. The civil war in South Sudan broke out in 2013, and in 2016 the spate of fighting reached its peak, triggering another max of exodus of South Sudanese who fled to Uganda. The education needs of children in this region are immense, and with the continuing influx of refugees, the majority is not enrolled in schools, causing major protection concerns. The Adjumani district has also very poor education infrastructure and is struggling to cope with the enrolment of large numbers of South Sudanese refugee children. As part of Dubai Cares’ Education in Emergencies strategy, our aim is to target girls and boys in the refugee settlements to give them access to quality education that will lead to relevant and effective learning outcomes.”
His Excellency Abdullah Mohammed Al Takawi, UAE Ambassador to Uganda said: "The wise leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, continues to inspire and influence the journey of giving and contribution to the advancement of developing countries. Today, the United Arab Emirates stands out among other nations in the humanitarian and charitable sector, thanks to the nation’s broad foreign policy framework established by the founding President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. With the conclusion of the UAE’s 'Year of Giving 2017', I would also like to highlight Dubai Cares' pioneering and active role in providing access to quality education to children in Uganda, particularly those living in remote areas. Dubai Cares’ launch of a portfolio of educational programs in Uganda will undoubtedly benefit the society and economy of this country."
According to a UNHCR report in 2017, the majority of South Sudanese refugees have sought safety in Uganda. By the end of March 2017, the country was hosting 852,300 South Sudanese refugees and is struggling to cope with the ever-increasing needs. Some 195,000 South Sudanese arrived in the first three months of 2017 alone, an average rate of 2,000 refugees each day. Over 60 per cent of the new arrivals are children. An estimated 400,000 new arrivals from South Sudan are expected to enter Uganda in 2017.
Along with the new program aimed to support South Sudanese refugees and host communities in Northern Uganda, Dubai Cares launched another new program in Lira District partnership with the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education among girls in Uganda. This AED 4,365,146 (USD 1,188,280) 3-year program seeks to address gender disparities and barriers girls face in STEM. The program benefits 6000 girls and responds to the 2030 agenda of positioning STEM as a pathway to socio economic development. Additionally, the program aims to improve teaching and learning practices by advancing pedagogical methodologies utilized in mathematics, science, engineering and technology learning; geared towards the promotion of educational excellence in STEM amongst girls in Uganda’s secondary schools. The program will also have a major focus on girls’ skills development.
As part of this program, forty schools across four main regions in Uganda will establish resource-equipped science clubs. Those schools will then participate in school-based competitions for students and annual mentoring camps for STEM competition winners. A web-based interactive portal will also be available to STEM participants (students and teachers), where it will serve as a virtual depository for additional support, tips and messages. Furthermore, 400 teachers and 40 head teachers will be trained to have improved skills in gender responsive pedagogical teaching of STEM and trainings will also be extended to teacher training colleges where 100 lecturers will also be trained on the same topic.
In Uganda, gender equity is compromised in school processes, text books, subject choices, and teacher’s attitudes. Gendered curricula in schools have continued to promote gender based stereotypes through specific subjects being exclusively allocated either to girls or boys to study; and girls are often discouraged from enrolling in pure science and technical subjects that are dominated by male science teaching staff. This program is in line with Dubai Cares’ gender equality approach which aims to secure equal access for boys and girls to safe learning environments with adequate facilities, materials and academic support from gender sensitized teachers and communities.
Dubai Cares delegation then moved to Amolatar district to launch the third program in partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD). The program aims to ensure that 500 children with disabilities in the same district are enrolled in mainstream primary schools. This AED 2,818,066 (USD 767,134) ‘Inclusive Education in Northern Uganda’ program will indirectly benefit more than 21,400 members of the community, including teachers, parents, and government staff. In addition to supporting the actual enrolment of these children into mainstream schools, the program will also ensure referrals for medical/rehabilitative treatment for those who need it. Finally, the program will seek to provide a successful model to the government on how to support children with disabilities within the school system in order to reduce the number out of school children in the country.
Speaking about this new program, Al Gurg said: “This program falls under Dubai Cares’ new mandate of inclusive education for children with disabilities. Based on recent research, special needs schools in Uganda are scarce, and the cost is prohibitive for vulnerable families. In addition, there are only 11 of them distributed throughout the country - none of which are situated in Amolatar district. We believe that incorporating children with disabilities into mainstream education is the best option with regards to future integration in society, not to mention sustainability. Opportunities for children with disabilities will be curtailed, if they are not provided with access to education, and their exclusion further perpetuates the cycle of poverty for them.”
According to UNICEF, only 9% of children with disabilities currently attend primary school, against a 92% general enrolment throughout Uganda, consequently a large population of children with disabilities are missing out on basic education.