Know Your Rights: Kyembogo Primary School
Rita Kangume, a 12-year-old student at Kyembogo Primary School, is not afraid to speak boldly and report child mistreatment to her parents and teachers. As a member of the Bantwana-supported Child Rights Club at her school, she now understands her rights and responsibilities and is confident to act when she sees children being mistreated.
Rita lives with her mother and five siblings in Kirinda village in Western Uganda. Her father passed away when she was very young. “We grew up in a bad situation and we used to suffer a lot due to poverty,” she recalls.
High HIV prevalence, border conflict, and poverty put significant stress on families throughout Western Uganda, which can lead to high rates of child abuse and neglect.
Since 2008, Bantwana and its nine local partners have provided critical service to children and families through an integrated program of child protection, economic, and psychosocial support.
One such effort was the development of Protecting Ourselves and Each Other, a booklet on child rights and responsibilities for children, teachers, caregivers, and other community members that promotes greater understanding of child rights violations and provides information on how to address abuse. The booklet includes activities that can be used by Child Rights Clubs in schools, as well as activities that engage the community in dialogue on child protection. When asked what inspired her to participate in writing the booklet, Rita said she did not want to see other children suffer from the same forms of abuse she used to witness in her neighborhood. “I specifically drew a picture about corporal punishment so that the parents violating children’s rights in my village could see it and realize that hurting children was wrong.”
Before joining the Child Rights Club, Rita says she was fearful. She felt she could not express herself to others. She believes that participating in the Child Rights Club has given her the confidence to report any form of abuse to her parents, teachers, or community leaders. “I felt good when I saw the picture in the book.” She continues, “I was delighted to see similar information in the booklet because it gave me a picture that other children out there have the will to address issues that concern children. I believe children who are seeing this book will be able to learn and report such kind of abuse without fear.”
Rita’s teachers and peers have noticed a remarkable change in her behavior as well. “She used to disrespect teachers and her parents,” says Barbra Namara, a member of the Child Rights Club at Kyembogo Primary School. “She used to get punishments and most of the kids used to disassociate themselves with her due to fear of being punished. But you can’t believe it that now Rita is a changed person and the best student in the school. She discusses freely in the Club and everybody loves her bright ideas.”
Mugisha Kato Francis, the head teacher at Kyembogo Primary School confirms that—like Rita—most children in the Club have improved their public speaking. They speak with greater confidence and report on children who are frequently absent from school. “The Club is greatly helping us in the school,” Mugisha says. “We plan to support the program and continue to fight against any form of abuse that violates children’s rights.”