Formal Education Project:
This project started way back in 2004 after UCC social workers noticed an increasing number of schools going age children loitering in slum communities where they carried out UCC program activities. When UCC management shared this challenge with its donors, they took up the idea and promised to share it with their colleagues. It was all smiles when news arrived that the project had been approved through starting with few numbers. The project, therefore, started with 12 children who typically hailed from slum communities on the outskirts of Kampala City.
The program received first financial assistance from MEM in 2004 with the support of 12 children. The number of beneficiaries has been fluctuating based on several factors such as high mobility of slum families, lack of interest in studies, death of parents/guardians and completion of the education cycles up to University or other tertiary institutions. Other partners ETM and IDAY International joined MEM to support youngsters from Kampala Slums to access education opportunities at all levels of education. Many young people are proud of the knowledge and skills acquired through this arrangement which has enabled them to become employable. As unemployment rates continue to rise among the youth which is significantly due to lack of appropriate market-driven skills and funds to foot education training among others, UCC has always provided alternatives by sponsoring less privileged children and young people to acquire vocational skills as well as attaining University education.
For over ten years the organization has given opportunity to multitudes of children especially those hailing from poor urban communities to access quality education at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. Many children had completely lost hope and had started manifesting unruly and unbecoming behaviors which caused a big threat to their lives, families, and communities where they lived. A lot of transformation has really been realized among these children especially those who got the opportunity to follow our programmes with some coming back to the Centre to volunteer as a gesture of appreciation to the organization. With quality education attained at all levels, we are continuing to see many of them winning good employment opportunities at different companies which has really improved the quality of life in their homes.
UCC continue to invest more in these programmes because evidence is very clear that the achievements realized by these children have also been passed on to their families and communities where they stay. This has significantly enabled the communities to have profound development which is assuredly addressing many issues that had kept many families in extreme poverty. Thanks go to our donors who continue to mobilize funds to facilitate these programmes that have caused sustainable impact on development in these places.
By March 2021, UCC is providing education scholarships to 55 beneficiaries hailing from Kampala slums and adjacent peri-urban locations. 16 children are in the Primary section, 23 children are in secondary section while 16 attends both Universities and other Tertiary Institutions. We thank MEM, ETM, and IDAY for the sponsorship.
Selection of beneficiaries
UCC has different levels of selection criteria; firstly, the organization conducts basic literacy and numeracy classes at its Centre. Through social workers working in collaboration with local leaders, children are identified in the slum communities who have reached school going ages but still at home or loitering in the streets. They are mobilized and initiated into starting lessons at the Centre at intermittent times. We thank volunteers and social workers for engaging these children into learning new skills and information as they wait for opportunities that come along to join other resourceful programmes. Majority of the beneficiaries go through this process as it prepares them to be resilient, steadfast, and becoming academically alive to join formal education sponsorship.
The second selection criterion is particularly for beneficiaries who have been recommended by local leaders, social workers, youth groups, women groups, and other right-thinking individuals who emotionally feel that such a child or children deserves support. Such children are assessed by a group of social workers candidly following our assessment tool for formal education aspirants. The tool has different questions relating to the child as an individual, family and community to establish the level of vulnerability and interest in the desired area. This tool is helpful due to its scientific nature that allows the assessor to explore different variables of interest.
The children that successfully go through this phase are subjected to different sessions of counselling to enable them overcome psychological distresses and trauma that may be held by the aspirant. If such conditions are not well addressed, they cause trouble or confusion to the child. Several issues are suspected to have been picked during non-school going years.
Parents or guardians meeting
Every end of the education year, UCC organizes meetings with parents/guardians to discuss how the program has sailed through. In such meetings, many issues are discussed ranging from achievements, challenges, desired changes and recommendations to improve the program. Participants are given the opportunity to present their views and opinions in the constructive way that is foreseen to improve the running of the program. It is normally a half-day session occasioned by serving of drinks by the organization. The sessions always have good attendance and many unimaginable opinions are shared which continue to strengthen the program. We thank parents/guardians who always attend these meetings especially women who are always the majority. We also salute the men who come despite their number being small. Lastly, we thank UCC social workers who always spearhead these meetings.
Beneficiaries’ engagement in UCC activities.
Children benefitting from the program always have their parallel meetings with other social workers as a measure to continue preparing them academically and socially. Several issues are discussed during this period with some professionals coming in to give support where necessary. After these sessions, children engage in voluntary work where they participate in some activities such as supporting the cook in preparing food, compound cleaning, dish washing, and sweeping of classes. Thereafter, they do sports and games. These sessions strengthen the cohesion between UCC and children and even among the beneficiaries themselves.
In such gatherings, children engage in making drawings and writing letters for the sponsors. However, in 2020, it was difficult to have such sessions due to the prevalence of COVID-19 and observance of Standard operating procedures. We thank MEM and sponsors for the funds given to specific children such as Brenda, Buule, Agnes and Destiny. They received them enthusiastically and were very thankful to MEM for the donation in such critical times of COVID-19. We also thank the sponsor of Doreen Nekesa for the donation of the parcel to her. She was very grateful. In such circumstances, we encourage children to write letters to their sponsors as gesture of appreciation.
COVID-19 Emergency response for street and other vulnerable children
The Government of Uganda announced the lockdown on 18th March, 2021 after the broke out of COVID-19. All education institutions were directed to close the schools and send the children home on 20th March, 2021. It was not an easy scenario because everything happened abruptly and majority of the parents didn’t have money on them to pick children from boarding schools immediately. The lockdown first run for 2 weeks and later on extended to more days and months.
Most businesses were closed apart from the essential employees such as medical workers, security agencies, people in food supply chain, journalists among others. It was a very unfortunate situation because most of the people closed worked in informal sectors and their survival is hand to mouth. Any day without working means they will not eat. However, along the way, the government donated some food to the people in specific areas particularly those in urban centers. This food was not enough and many people didn’t get it despite the fact that they were registered. However, we thank the government for this support which vehemently rescued people in the slum communities.
UCC contacted MEM about this situation seeking support of assisting children benefitting from the program. In response, MEM mobilized funds which were transferred to purchase food and non-food items. Items donated included personal effects, food items (maize flour, beans, sugar) and non-food items such soap, toilet papers, jerricans, sandals, face masks and sanitizers. This was a big rescue because it enabled many children to benefit from the donations.
Due to COVID-19, the school calendar year was hugely affected. It was during the end of 2020 in November that candidates in primary, secondary and finalists in Universities and tertiary institutions were called to resume their studies for second term. Three of our children resumed school namely, Agnes and Colin for P.7, and Phoebe Kiwumulo for Senior four.