Where do the kids go?
Most of those who live in or visit Ruhanga have probably asked the question on a return visit to the village “where did a certain child go?” as they seem to have disappeared from the school(s). The answer will inevitably be they have gone to somewhere called “fine” however the reality is often nobody knows, they have just “gone away”.
What we do know, however, is that there are 2.5 million orphans in Uganda and a further unknown number of children who have been lost or abandoned and also that there are some 10,000 street children living in Uganda most of whom are on those streets due to poverty, violence, death of a parent or family reconstruction.
We also know that, according to the U.S. Department of State “Trafficking in Persons Report 2012”, children in Uganda are trafficked both within the country and to other destinations for work in agriculture, cattle herding, mining, stone quarrying, brick making, car washing, scrap metal collection, bars and restaurants and the domestic service sector as well as exploitation in prostitution.
What we don’t know is the extent to which, if any, children from Ruhanga and its vicinity are part of this pattern of activity although the homeless street kids, the 25-30,000 children abducted from Uganda to engage in armed conflicts elsewhere and the children labouring, some in the gravel pits that you will see when you travel to Lake Bunyonyi, came from somewhere; mostly villages in rural Uganda from where they have been taken, often with the consent of impoverished parents, on the promise of “a better life” by those who turn out to be traffickers.
We also know many children in Ruhanga are living within extended families as orphans but we often don’t know how secure and viable those arrangements are or what happens to the children or newly orphaned children if and when those arrangements become unviable due to pressures including behaviour, poverty, family breakdown, illness and death.
To clinically establish what local need there is and how that need can best be met, a piece of work has been commissioned and will be undertaken independently by a research associate at the Institute for Research and Development in Africa (IRDA) based in Mbarara. The consultation may well find (amongst other conclusions):
- There is no identifiable need for any particular or additional provision for such vulnerable children in Ruhanga (but maybe elsewhere in the district).
- There is a need but it can best be addressed through family strengthening which may include offering support to existing families caring for orphaned, lost or abandoned children through support to get those children to boarding school during term times with extra help during the holidays.
- There is a need and a care provision for such children should be established in Ruhanga to meet those needs.
- There is a need and a care provision for such children should be established in Ruhanga to meet those needs and additionally there is a need for a family strengthening to support existing orphans placed within extended families to prevent family breakdown creating a need for admission to a home etc.
Whatever the outcome of the consultation process, what is clear, even at this stage, is that, should any home for children be developed locally and proceed with the approval of the Ugandan Ministry of Gender and Labour, then children placed would do so through the Probation and Social Welfare department in Uganda and not directly by families themselves.
Any such facility would also be developed and secured with the consent of the community and not only would it serve to meet local children’s unmet needs to keep them within their home community, social and school environment, but would also create further employment in the village. And, because of the external skill base available to assist those vulnerable children with their practical and emotional development, provide an additional project for suitably equipped volunteers to engage in whilst staying at the Ruhanga Resource Centre
The consultation process is running through until the end of December 2015 and perhaps provides a unique opportunity to reach out to those young people in Ruhanga whose needs may not always be met through the provision of main stream services or even be identifiable at all. Your support to assist those young people is welcomed.
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