Over 2,000 children with disabilities miss school in Amuru district

AMURU-At least 2,100 children living with disabilities in Amuru district have reportedly dropped out of school.

The Secretary for Social Services Amuru District Local Government, Apollo Okello Kaggwad told theCooperator in an interview.

Okello revealed that most of the children have dropped out due to stigma and lack of support from their families as government reopened schools after Covid-19 lockdown was suspended.

He however explained that some of the children dropped out as parents could not afford to send them to study outside the district as the district does not have the facilities to cater for them.

“The district doesn’t have schools for special needs education and they are only found in other districts like Gulu where many of these parents couldn’t afford to send them there,” he said.

He further explained that the district has allocated Shs 200 million for the rehabilitation of some schools to cater for children with special needs.

Pabo and Ottwee Primary Schools have been gazetted to receive children with visual impairments, according to the district plan for inclusive education.

Other schools yet to be rehabilitated for inclusive education include Olinga and Juba Road Primary schools.

Francis Okello Oloya, the Chairman of people with disabilities [PWDs] in Amuru district said many of the parents still do not appreciate supporting their children with special needs.

“In some families, we would still find the children locked in the house while the rest of the children had either gone to schools or garden,” Okello told Daily Monitor.

Joyce Lanyero, the Amuru District Education Officer acknowledged the gaps in inclusive education in the district, which she said, have adversely affected the children with special needs education.

The district has an enrolment of 42,000 learners in 85 primary schools. 30 of the schools are community-based. The district has a total of 638 teachers.

The continued discrimination and social exclusion have largely remained challenging in the protection of rights of children with disabilities not only in Amuru but also in its neighbouring districts.

Whereas the various legal frameworks in the country strive to promote the well-being of children, the recognition is seldom and is often deliberately hidden in the implementation.

Most families still take such children as curses which expose them to abuses like abandonment, rejection and denial of resources and social exclusion.

For instance, St. Jude Orphanage Home in Gulu City is overwhelmed with the number of children abandoned by their parents either because of domestic violence or disability issues.

The records from the centre show increasing numbers of children; from 105 in 2020 to 185 currently with more than half of them being children living with disabilities.

Ms Iris Oyella, a resident of Alokolum Cell in Bardege-Layibi Division in Gulu City is among the single mothers with disabilities battling to provide for their families.

“I didn’t see my husband after the pregnancy and he has never thought of his family for more than seven years now that I am struggling with the children,” Oyella told theCooperator.

The 2014 Population Census has established the number of people with disabilities in the country to be 4.5 million people or 12.5 percent of the country’s total population.

Meanwhile, during the fourth graduation of Gulu Disabled Persons Vocational Training Centre held last Friday, the educationists called for inclusive education for all the learners.

The Principal Education Officer for Gulu City, Richard Irwenyo noted that the lack of support for inclusive programming in most schools has affected special needs education.

He appealed to the parents to prioritise education for children living with disabilities and to give them equal opportunities through livelihood support and care for other special needs.

At least 66 graduated with the informal certificate under the Uganda Vocational Qualification Framework with funding worth Shs 320 million from the UK Government.

The Principal of the Centre, Farouk Musena revealed that the two years project supported a total of 123 PWDs through free skill training.

He also revealed that the Centre has provided startup capital for the graduates with a business loan ranging from Shs500,000 to One Million Shillings, depending on their business plan.

The six months courses among others include; certificate in hairdressing, certificate in tailoring, electronic repair, management occupation and motor mechanics, among others.

The different categories of learners who acquired skills include five with visual impairments, 11 with physical disabilities, 12 with epilepsy while the majority have mental disabilities.

Simon Peter Ojok,24, from Pabo Sub-county in Amuru district who graduated with a certificate in electronic repair and management occupation has commended the support he received.

Ojok explained that he could not join secondary school education as his parents lost interest in supporting him due to his physical disability, the condition he said many are grappling with.

“I have been denied several opportunities. I qualified to represent the country for basketball championship in Tanzania but my parents couldn’t allow me go,” Ojok told theCooperator.

The Gulu City deputy mayor, Christine Olok has however asked the graduates to use their skills to create jobs for themselves.

She also appealed to the youth to embrace technical education which she said will highly contribute to the socio-economic transformation and the development of the country.

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