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Violence against children continues to be a devastatingly pertinent issue. Children continue to suffer despite international recognition of child rights through binding agreements such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Children around the world share experiences of abuse, neglect and exploitation in a wide variety of contexts such as in work places, on the streets or in institutionalised care. Unfortunately, some of the worst abuses tend to occur in spaces where children should feel safe and nurtured, such as family and school settings. ChildHope UK and its partners are committed to addressing this important issue.

Violence against children in Uganda
As in many other countries, children in Uganda continue to experience high levels of abuse and violence. In a survey by Save the Children of five districts in the country 60% of in-school children reported being routinely beaten and humiliated and 76% had experienced some form of sexual violence in school settings (2005). Especially in impoverished or post-conflict communities with low levels of awareness of child rights, children in schools are openly beaten, caned, shouted at and insulted.

These harmful practices establish a culture of fear, and 66% of children drop out during their primary and secondary school years. Many adults, both parents and teachers, believe these forms of corporal punishment to be the most effective methods of disciplining children and achieving standards of performance and behaviour. However studies clearly convey detrimental impacts on children's health, well-being and school attendance, and these practices impede the ability to foster positive child growth and learning.

ANPPCAN: Adressing violence against children in schools
ChildHope's partner the African Network for Prevention and Protection Against Children Abuse and Neglect-Uganda (ANPPCAN) has identified the urgent nature of this problem, and is working hard to improve the lives of affected children. Our current project with ANPPCAN seeks to address these issues through empowering children and civil society to fully comprehend the impact of these practices, and effectively demand and implement measures for improved protection of girls and boys from violence in both public and private schools.

ANPPCAN are working with children in 50 schools across several districts to improve the quality of teaching, raise awareness of the damaging impact of these practices, increase the accountability of schools to pupils, parents and district authorities, and lobby for the government to enhance and uphold laws intended to protect children from violence. Ultimately, the initiative is breaking the cycle of silence around violence against children through preventive, rehabilitative and protective measures.

Achieving real change for children
Since the project began in July 2010, some significant achievements have been made in a number of areas:
  • School sensitisation talks, trainings on children's rights and child protection and information dissemination have all contributed to higher levels of awareness for teachers and school administrators, frontline journalists, community members, and of course children themselves.
  • Life skills trainings, child rights clubs, and workshops on violence against children have equipped children with the skills to put into practice values of persistence, confidence, patience, creativity and honesty; and provided guidance and practical skills on integrating child protection in school regulation and information on alternatives to corporal punishment for school administrators and teachers.
  • ANPPCAN has worked in collaboration with local and international organisations to draft an amendment of the country's Children's Act recommending inclusion of a provision banning the use of corporal punishment in schools. This has since been submitted to the Uganda Law Reform Commission for legal review.
Overall, the project is well on its way to improving conditions for school children in Uganda.

The issue of violence against children is severe and not always given the proper attention it merits. However with organisations like ANPPCAN leading the way, hope lies in the capacity for change and the dedicated work of international and local organisations, as well as inspiring children and committed members of the communities.

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