More than 80 children with disabilities in the Rwenzori region have dropped out of school due to stigma. A report written by the coalition of non-government organisations on human rights says that because of the continued stigma in schools, parents often hide their children and deny them their rights, thinking they are totally helpless.
A report written by the coalition of non-government organisations on human rights says that because of the continued stigma in schools, parents often hide their children and deny them their rights, thinking they are totally helpless.
The report is from a survey which was carried out in the six districts in the region. It further indicates that some of the schools implementing the special needs education programme lack basic facilities for disabled children like ramps for the children in wheelchairs, user-friendly classroom furniture and toilets.
According to the report, in schools where there are disabled children, teachers haven't paid a great deal of attention to the children and feel they are neglected. One of the schools mentioned in the report is Kyamutuza Primary School located in Hakibale Sub County, Kabarole district, where seven children with physical disabilities dropped out of school.
Gerald Mukonyezi, the head teacher says that four of the children were lame while three were mentally disturbed. Mukonyezi admits that the school didn't care for the children because they have not been trained on how to handle children with disabilities. He says the school tried what it could afford to help the children but in vain. He noted that some parents of the disabled children felt that the school wasn’t helping the children and decided to take them away.
Mukonyezi says that they wrote to the district education department to consider the school to offer special needs, but nothing has been done.
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Vincent Mugisa, a parent of one of the disabled children who has dropped out of school, says that he deliberately kept his child at home to protect him from being ridiculed. Mugisa says he often got reports that his son was being laughed at by fellow pupils and often considered him to be an embarrassment to the school. He says that the public needs to know that the disabled children can be useful citizens in the future.
Mugisa says the district local government should build special needs schools since most of the available schools do not consider the disabled children.
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In a telephone interview, David Mugume, an advocacy officer at the Uganda Society for Disabled Children (USDC), says that the society is working closely with local governments to train teachers to work with disabled children and to provide appropriate learning resources. They also want to establish Child Rights Clubs in schools which encourage disabled children to fully interact with their peers.
Mugume also says that districts should set up vocational training institutions for both disabled boys and girls to study skills like carpentry and tailoring, which will help the students build confidence in themselves and their ability.
According to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, there are as many as 184,000 children in Uganda who are considered to have some kind of disability that makes it difficult for them to learn.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) states that children with disabilities are the most marginalized and vulnerable group in Uganda. They are often abused, exploited and excluded by society, denying them their right to health, protection and education.