|Life Skills for Young Ugandans - Primary Teachers' Training Manual (UNICEF, 190 p.)|
|Section One: The Life Skills Education Initiative|
Life skills education in schools and colleges will be supported by several activities/strategies in Uganda. These include:
4.1 CHILDRENS RIGHTS
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 in most 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.
4.2 THE SARA COMMUNICATION INITIATIVE (SCI)
Generally in Uganda, the girl child is more disadvantaged than a boy. In a study on Village Perceptions of Childrens Rights (Kakama, 1993), it was revealed by the discussion groups that on various fronts the girl child is discriminated against. Girls are a second consideration for education, especially in instances where there is insufficient money. Girl children do not have the right of inheritance, and they are generally subjected to harder work than their brothers. These discriminatory practices against the girl child are not formally condoned. They are largely culturally determined. The overall effect, however, is that these practices and attitudes deny the girl child the enjoyment of her full rights. (Republic of Uganda, 1995)
The SCI is an initiative developed by UNICEF and its allies in the East and Southern African Region (ESAR). This initiative, which has learnt from the Meena Initiative in South-East Asia, is directed at the adolescent girl and her society with the following objectives:
(i) To address the extreme discrimination that exists against girls
(ii) To highlight the needs of girls (and boys)
(iii) To present a dynamic role model for girls and boys which communicates specific messages on:
· education, health and development with gender equity.
· other issues relevant to the survival, protection and development of children in sub-Saharan Africa.
The problem areas identified include economic issues (eg exploitation in employment, lack of vocational skills and homelessness), educational (eg being pushed out of school due to lack of school fees or girls being married off, lack of access to education, lack of family life education and career options), sexual (eg sexual abuse, pregnancies, STD/AIDS infection), and cultural (eg son preference, female genital mutilation, inheritance, early marriage, gender roles and workload)
It was also identified from the outset that in order to deal effectively with all these problems and challenges the girl child needed life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, self assessment and concept, assertiveness, negotiation, coping with emotions and stress, conflict management and resolution, empathy and interpersonal relationships.
Some of the characters from the Sara Communication Initiative.
Thus, the Sara Communication Initiative aims at developing the life skills of girls in order to meet the challenges of life. This is to be done through a series of animated films produced regionally about different aspects of the life of the girl child, together with radio plays, comic books, story books and any other activities that might grow out of this.
In order to achieve this, stories were written across the region (from Eritrea to Namibia) and four were chosen for research in all the countries. They were read to boys, girls, community members, out of school youth etc in rural and urban areas, from different cultures and environments in order to test the acceptability of the characters, the stories, the names and even the appearance of the characters. As a result, three stories were chosen and rewritten for films and a second phase of research to choose a further four stories is underway.
The stories try to look at:
· factors that ensure that a girl does not have enough chance to improve her status in life.
· how girls and boys, their families and their communities can transform their lives from what it is to what it should be.
This Life Skills Training Manual makes use of the Sara Communication Initiative in three ways.
(i) The work done in all the countries of Eastern and Southern Africa to identify issues pertaining to the girl child has been used to ensure that the gender aspect of childhood and adolescence has been foregrounded where previously it was not apparent at all. As stated in the report quoted above, the discriminatory practices are culturally embedded more than deliberate discrimination and thus need to be highlighted. Thus all the activities bear in mind the specific problems facing girl as well as boy children, the reasons for them and the life skills required to face them.
(ii) The main characters from the Sara Initiative are introduced at the beginning of Section 4 (suggested activities for the tutor) These include Sara herself and her classmates and friends Juma and Amina. In subsequent activities, the tutor may continue to use these characters and invent other classmates and friends that reflect specific aspects of Ugandan life.
There are also her teacher, Ms Matata, and her family; the supportive father who is working in town to raise enough money for them to start a new life; the mother and younger brother and sister with whom she lives in the compound of the uncle; the uncle who is the elder brother of the father and is resistant to any change in the status and behaviour of girls in society; and the grandmother who is the depository of traditional values in society. Sara lives in a peri-urban setting and thus the problems and struggles of her and her friends can be adapted to a wide variety of urban and rural activities. Finally, Sara is presented as a role model of a girl who is assertive but respectful, who knows where she wants to go and uses her life skills to achieve her goals despite all the obstacles she faces. From research into the first stories produced she was recognised and strongly appreciated by both girls and boys, especially girls, and by the community as a whole who recognised that she had the right mix of assertiveness and respect. Where they felt she was too assertive, the stories were changed but parents greatly appreciated Saras ability to negotiate her way creatively through the obstacles placed in her path. Above all they appreciated that Sara is an actor, not a passive victim. Thus everyone, boys (who said she was the ideal wife of tomorrow) girls (who wanted to be like Sara) and parents (who felt that she was the kind of daughter they would like) identified with her.
The Sara materials give vivid feelings, raise emotions and problems affecting girl children are made clear. (Student teachers, Bushenyi)
In terms of teachers colleges, Ms Matata is also a good role model for the student teachers and can be used to promote discussion on the way teachers interact with their classes.
(iii) As Sara Initiative materials such as videos, comic books and radio tapes are produced, they can be used by schools and colleges for provoking thought and discussion on specific youth and girl child issues in relation to life skills. The first materials have already been produced and can be obtained from the UNICEF Kampala office at Kisozi House, off Kaggwe Road.