Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums

by Kids Club Kampala
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Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums
Supporting vulnerable children in Uganda's slums

It’s back to school, but not for everyone.

Students in Uganda have gone over 300 days without stepping foot in a classroom. For those living in Kampala’s slum communities, remote learning is not an option.

Children in Kampala often stay with family as parents are unable to afford their basic needs or are working away from home.

Children in Kampala often stay with family as parents are unable to afford their basic needs or are working away from home.

Imagine…

You are living in Kisenyi, Kampala’s biggest slum. You are staying with your grandmother, three siblings and four cousins in just one room. You have no internet access, no tv and no radio. Your school has been closed for over 300 days. Remote learning is not an option.

This is the reality for children living in Kampala’s slum communities where education is even more inaccessible. The UN has estimated that in East Africa and the Pacific 80 million children have no access to remote learning. 

How has lockdown impacted education in Uganda? 

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In Uganda, moves to accommodate home learning have been through digital means; online lessons, school programmes on TV and radio. However, only 10% of households in Uganda have internet access and many live without a home tv or radio set. Only 20% of the 15 million children out of school in Uganda have received learning materials from the government. 

Without technology, it is down to parents and carers to educate their children. But, a long history of limited education access has left many adults in Kampala’s slum communities without appropriate formal education to teach their children from home.  

It is not just education being impacted by school closures, but also access to food. 2 in every 10 children are having less than 1 meal a day due to being unable to access meals provided by school feeding programmes. 

What does this mean for the future of students in Uganda?

Without access to educational support and nutritious food, children in Kampala’s slum communities will be left behind. 

The longer schools stay closed, the greater the number of student dropouts. The loss of household income during Uganda’s lockdown and the economic burden of repeating years and retaking exams will drive more students to pursue income opportunities rather than return to the classroom. 

It is not just students who have turned to more lucrative options. Teachers in Uganda have abandoned the profession, many turning to bricklaying and boda boda driving to support their families. 

For girls, the increase in teenage pregnancies is another obstacle forcing many out of education. Between March 2020 - June 2021 there was a 22.5% increase in pregnancy between 10 - 24 year olds

Uganda risks slipping behind on the Sustainable Development Goals, not just for education but for poverty, hunger and gender equality.   

What are Kids Club Kampala doing to keep education opportunities alive in Kampala’s slum communities?

Throughout Uganda’s most recent lockdown Kids Club Kampala have been providing educational support including home education packs to students and advice to parents and carers. Our volunteer teachers have also been making home visits to keep children on track.

11,590 children have been reached with Kids Club Kampala’s COVID-19 relief through our Serving Communities in Crisis emergency appeal. This includes both educational support and food packages.

We have resumed our Teens Project in line with lockdown easing to help educate girls and boys on sexual and reproductive health and to encourage them to stay in school, as well as providing teenage girls with essential period products. 

We are unsure how long schools will remain closed, but we will continue to be there for our communities. 

Kids Club Kampala volunteer teachers have been giving lessons and materials to children living in Kampala’s slums

Kids Club Kampala volunteer teachers have been giving lessons and materials to children living in Kampala’s slums

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The team at Kids Club Kampala want to keep our supporters up to date on the changing and challenging situation in Kampala. We have learnt a lot from the initial lockdown in Uganda and hope to continue supporting slum communities through this increasingly difficult period.

As society begins to open up more in the UK, unfortunately Uganda is grappling with another wave of COVID-19. In mid June, the President of Uganda imposed a partial lockdown with schools, places of worship and markets ordered to close and suspension of inter-district travel for 42 days.

As of Monday 14th of June, the total number of confirmed cases in Uganda stood at 60,250 with 423 deaths according to WHO. Uganda has had more than 30% rise in cases in the space of a week. The country’s health system is under serious strain with many struggling to find medical care. The harrowing reality is that both vaccines and oxygen are running low, leaving many vulnerable to the effects COVID-19.

The Kids Club Kampala team have began handing out food parcel’s in the slum communities.

The Kids Club Kampala team have began handing out food parcel’s in the slum communities.

COVID-19 lockdown procedures are having a devastating effect on the slum dwelling communities we support in Kampala.  Kids Club Kampala have been pursuing sensible solutions to contain the outbreak and provide essential supplies to those most in need. Wherever possible, we are using creative solutions to enable children's learning to continue amidst widespread restrictions, and to ensure they are safe whilst they are cut off from regular protection services. 

In slums children are locked down in cramped conditions, with parents not furloughed or working from home, but totally cut off from the means to earn. Not only are children denied food and education, but they cannot access the child friendly spaces and social structures that are desperately needed to keep them safe. Unfortunately, there has been a steep escalation of violence and safeguarding issues with the Kids Club Kampala team identifying 42 safeguarding concerns in just the last 2 weeks. 

We are ensuring our volunteers and recipients of support are protected as we continue to safeguard vulnerable children during the lockdown.

We are ensuring our volunteers and recipients of support are protected as we continue to safeguard vulnerable children during the lockdown.

Our projects are initially focusing on immediate needs and providing food to vulnerable children and families. We are also ensuring children continue their education by providing home school packages as well as teacher home school visits. Our safeguarding volunteers are doing house to house visits and supporting families and communities when they can with counselling support and often mediation. Our sewing, knitting and carpentry training continues with very small groups all socially distanced. Our Ewafe transitional home is full to capacity as some of the children have returned as schools are now closed.

We have learnt a lot from our response to the first lockdown in Uganda and are doing all we can within the government guidelines to support vulnerable communities get through this difficult time.  The road to recovery is a long one, and the impact of COVID-19 on the communities we work with will last a long time.

We are ensuring that communities can maintain a protective environment for their children throughout this pandemic. Our work can continue as many of our volunteers and staff live and work in the communities. 

We are incredibly grateful for the generous support we have received over this time, which has made it possible for us to stay connected to the children and communities who are most on the edge. 

We’re in it for the long term- we need to build resilience and not reliance.  

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

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Life under lockdown is hard for us all. Life under lockdown whilst living in a slum in one of the poorest countries in the world: almost impossible. When COVID-19 hit, we had to drastically adapt our work, prioritising supporting the immediate needs of Kampala’s most vulnerable families with food to ensure that they did not starve. Altogether, we have given our 1.2 million food parcels to over 32,000 families in Kampala’s slums.

Although we are now beginning to see life in Uganda return to some level of normality, there are several complex needs that now require addressing. Children have lost vital time in education, and women and children are at greater risk of violence and abuse. Many families are still struggling to find work, and need to continue using our food banks.

This is where Kids Club Kampala’s Road to Recovery plan comes into action. The plan is made up of four key phases outlined below, accompanied by a case story which reflects how the Road to Recovery is and will continue to change lives:

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Phase 1: Feeding - providing immediate food support for families
Doreen*’s Story
“My name is Doreen, and I didn’t have anything to eat for Eid, until Kids Club Kampala provided me with food to eat. Kids Club Kampala have been very helpful to us all, they are not selective in who they help, and we have seen them doing everything they can for us during this lockdown season. They provide food items such as sugar, beans, cassava, potatoes, and so much more. I am really grateful and I pray for the expansion of this organisation so that it can continue to extend help to everyone in need”

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Phase 2: Protecting - increasing safeguarding to keep children safe
Hannah*’s Story
Hannah was 15 when she was referred to our Ewafe project as a missing child in May 2020. Hannah opened up to us about why she ran away from home. “I stole my grandmother’s money because my friend told me to. When my grandmother realised and demanded her money be returned, I decided to run away from home. I ended up in a place that I didn’t know, and I was sleeping outside in the bush. One morning, the community members handed me over to the police. I’m so grateful to Kids Club Kampala for picking me up from the police and taking me in. I’m very happy because I receive everything that I need; we sleep well and eat good food and also have time to play”
We got in touch with Hannah’s grandmother, who later came to the Ewafe house to visit Hannah. They were both very happy to be reconciled, and her grandmother said: “I’m so grateful to the Ewafe project for taking good care of my granddaughter and keeping her safe in these hard times of COVID-19”.
Hannah was reintegrated with her family in Gombe parish, Wakiso district, on 7th July 2020.

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Phase 3: Educating - increasing access to education
John*’s story
John is one of our sponsored children who has come through school and now has a job as a mechanic, demonstrating the long-lasting change we strive to achieve.
Having spent a year without going to school due to lack of fees and support, John had lost hope and never thought he would go back to school. Kids Club Kampala and his sponsor got John back to school, paying his fees and providing school materials. After completing his O Levels at Kampala High School, John opted to undertake a motor mechanics internship at a local garage.
John is now 22 years old and working at the garage in Katanga where he undertook his internship. The owner of the garage was so impressed with John that he decided to take him on full time. John now earns a sufficient income to comfortably support himself and his mother by contributing to household expenses. He plans to attain further skills by learning from his colleagues, and is particularly interested in car bodywork and would like to specialise in this area.

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Phase 4: Skilling - rebuilding livelihoods by providing vocational training
Elizabeth*’s story
“Before joining the tailoring project I was working in a school, but when schools were closed due to COVID-19, I was one of the people laid off. I was stranded and started wondering what was next for my life. A friend of mine who is a beneficiary of Kids Club Kampala’s tailoring project told me about the project, and luckily, they were still registering for the next intake and I was recruited. I am so grateful for the opportunity to acquire a skill in tailoring, and I am sure that my life will never be the same. I have already started getting customers for my products, and this has given me confidence. I might not look for a job again, but instead start my own tailoring business”.

Our Road to Recovery plan aims to transform lives and help Kampala’s most vulnerable communities rebuild after the repercussions of COVID-19.

*names changed

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In March 2020, Kids Club Kampala had to make some pretty big changes to accommodate for the curve-ball that was COVID-19.

Alongside the schools in Uganda, our Encouraging Education project, women’s projects, and carpentry projects all had to be put on hold and we started running our food banks which has so far served over 1.5 million food parcels to over 32,000 families.

However, February 2021 is bringing big changes in Uganda, with schools reopening for all students as of the 25th January after, for many children, a 10-month gap from education.

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For us, this means that we can finally restart our Encouraging Education project. Encouraging Education allows children, who would otherwise have no access to education, to have the opportunity to learn through taking part in free education classes. We won’t be able to run the project at its pre-COVID capacity, and will prioritise according to age (3-6 years), and those who have not taken part in the program previously. A needs assessment will also help us to make sure we are providing education for those who need it most. For children who cannot attend the project, we are still delivering home education packs put together by our teachers.

For the first time since March for the majority of our sponsored school children, they will be back in the classroom. All students will be going back to school over the next week, which our students are delighted about.

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We are also able to get our women’s projects back underway this month, and our first tailoring course of 2021 has already resumed. We have 36 women enrolled in the first course which will run for 4 months, followed by two more courses throughout 2021. Empowering women and achieving gender equality is vital to breaking the cycle of poverty, and our women’s initiatives aim to provide a ‘hand-up’ to women living in poverty in the slums of Kampala.
Image: our first tailoring cohort of 2021
Our carpentry project has also resumed, and will run for 6 months. This project helps give disadvantaged men and teenage boys in Kampala’s slums the opportunity to learn and practice a new trade, with the aim of seeing a reduction in unemployment, violent crime and drug and alcohol abuse.
Our food banks are also still running across the slums, and our team have built an incredible network of support for the most vulnerable in the communities across the slums, delivering food twice a week to those who need it.

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Children at our education project in Katanga.

Children at our education project in Katanga.

“What is your favourite word in English?” I asked.

She took a moment to think and then smiled at me shyly and said “girl”.

I was sat in the small Kids Club Kampala office in Katanga slum with Rebecca*. Rebecca is 10 years old and has been attending Kids Club Kampala activities since she was 7. She is one of over 100 children who attend various Kids Club Kampala activities in Katanga daily.

She first heard about Kids Club Kampala through a friend. She started coming and then she told her sister about it as well. Both Rebecca and her older sister, Beth, said the education project at Kids Club Kampala has helped them to learn maths, science and English, possibly even more powerful though is Ruth’s comment that “Kids Club Kampala taught me to learn”. While both girls officially attend school, at the moment they do not have school fees and so they are really benefiting from the support and teaching provided by Kids Club Kampala.

These girls live at home with a brother and their parents. Their parents are both working hard trying to earn a living so that they can pay for their children's education, but in Kampala that is difficult. Life can be a struggle for their family, but the food and education provided by Kids Club Kampala has really helped them along the way.

The Staff at Kids Club Kampala Katanga say that they have really noticed a change in Ruth over the last 3 years. They said “When she first started with us, she was not respectful, she would use bad words, but now she speaks well and looks out for the younger children”.

This is just one story of how we are making an impact and changing the lives of the children and young people growing up in Katanga slum. Each child we meet here has their own story to tell.

*Names have been changed.

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Kids Club Kampala

Location: Birmingham, West Midlands - United Kingdom
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Twitter: @kidsclubkampala
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Kids Club Kampala
Birmingham, West Midlands United Kingdom
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