|Life Skills for Young Ugandans- Secondary Teachers' Training Manual (UNICEF, 254 p.)|
|Section One: The Life Skills Education Initiative|
|4.0 Other Supporting Activities/Strategies|
In line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child passed in 1990, the Ugandan Parliament passed a law in 1995 known as the Childrens Statute. Its provisions are as follows:
Rights of the Child in Uganda
1. A child in Uganda should have the same rights, irrespective of sex, religion, custom, rural or urban background, nationality, tribe, race, marital status of parents or opinion.
2. The right to grow up in a peaceful, caring and secure environment, and to have the basic necessities of life, including food, health care, clothing and shelter.
3. The right to a name and a nationality.
4. The rights to know who are his or her parents and to enjoy family life with them and/or their extended family. Where a child has no family or is unable to live with them, he or she should have the right to be given the best substitute care available
5. The right to have his or her best interests given priority in any decisions made concerning the child.
6. The right to express an opinion and to be listened to, and, to be consulted in accordance with his or her understanding in decisions which affect his or her well being.
7. The right to have his or her health protected through immunisation and appropriate health care, and to be taught how to defend himself/herself against illness. When ill, a child should have to right to receive proper medical care.
8. A child with disability should have the right to be treated with the same dignity as other children and to be given special care, education and training where necessary so as to develop his or her potential and self-reliance.
9. The right to refuse to be subjected to harmful initiation rites and other harmful social and customary practices, and to be protected from those customary practices which are prejudicial to a childs health.
10. The right to be treated fairly and humanely within the legal system.
11. The right to be protected from all forms of abuse and exploitation.
12. The right to basic education.
13. The right to leisure which is not morally harmful, to play and to participate in sports and positive cultural and artistic activities.
14. The right not to be employed or engaged in activities that harm his or her health, education, mental physical or moral development.
15. A child, if a victim of armed conflict, a refugee, or in a situation of danger or extreme vulnerability, should have the right to be among the first to receive help and protection.
Who is a Child? A Child in Uganda should be defined as a person under the age of 18 years.
From the above, childrens rights can be divided into four main categories.
(i) Survival Rights (such as food, clothing and shelter).
(ii) Development Rights (such as the right to education).
(iii) Protection Rights (from exploitation, abuse, harmful initiation rights, battering etc).
(iv) Participation Rights (including the right to speak and be heard, to meet one another etc).
In the context of life skills (iii) and (iv) are the most important. Children need to know their rights and how to use life skills to keep those rights. The participation rights are the most controversial as many elders inmost communities do not accept automatically that children have the right to speak in front of, or disagree with, adults.
In the study of the Rights of the Child at the Village Level (Kakama, 1993), the participants agreed it was a good idea to listen and to consult children in decisions affecting them. It was however expressed that most people in the community do not respect the views of the child. Their time has not come, according to one key informant. In one area of the country where the study was carried out it was expressed that childrens views could be sought but the decision remains with the parents. The children said they are neither listened to or consulted and yet they felt they should contribute to decision making on matters concerning them (Republic of Uganda, 1995)
However, society is changing, and when it becomes clear that childrens participation does not lead to insubordination, and that the children actually participate more fully and more meaningfully if given the chance, communities (and teachers) can accept. Without the participation rights being discussed and negotiated, it is difficult to develop life skills such as self esteem and assertiveness.
In addition, there is always a need to insist on childrens rights within a life skills programme since knowing and asserting your rights successfully is an important part of self esteem and development. In addition, many vulnerable groups, such as orphans, street children, children with disabilities etc and girl children in general can be deprived of their basic rights, even to education and health.
In the pretest, participants commented that life skills and childrens rights go hand in hand.
· In knowing and understanding their rights, the children will increase and develop their self awareness and self esteem
· Life skills training, based on discussion of real life situations will help the children to discover how to assert themselves and their rights in acceptable ways
· Both life skills and childrens rights are interpreted within the cultural context of Uganda.
At the same time, it is worthwhile observing that the Childrens Statute emphasises both rights and responsibilities.
Responsibilities of the Child in Uganda
A child in Uganda shall first of all have responsibilities towards his or her Family, Society, Country and then the International Community.
A child shall, according to his or her age, ability and rights, have the duty:
· to work for the cohesion of the family, to respect his or her parents, elders and other children and to assist them;
· to use his or her abilities for the benefit of the community;
· to preserve and strengthen cultural values in his or her relations with other members of the society, in the spirit of tolerance, dialogue, consultation and to contribute to the moral well being of the society.
· to preserve and strengthen the independence, national unity and the integrity of his or her country.
This is in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child which talks of the responsibility of parents and guardians for ensuring that their children are brought up in accordance with acceptable cultural norms. Thus childrens rights do not mean the freedom to do whatever they want without parental guidance or correction. What is needed is to find the correct balance between adult guidance and childrens growing autonomy.