Although Uganda has made progress in reducing poverty, education quality, accessibility, and completion remain a challenge, particularly in rural areas. Just over half (52%) of school aged children complete primary school and only 35% of children who start primary school graduate through levels of education to complete primary school (World Development Indicators 2017).

In Ugandan schools, there are high rates of absenteeism, children dropping out of school and not transitioning through education cycles. Children are disengaged with learning and many teachers are under-qualified or lack the appropriate qualifications to teach. There is also a shortage of teachers in classrooms, furthering straining the education system and impacting the quality of teaching. Children with disabiltiies and girls face huge barriers in accessing education.

The problem 

Children living in poverty and or rural areas, children with disabilities and girls face great barriers to accessing education. Children with disabilities and girls, largely due to menstruation, experience stigmatisation and exclusion in education.

Children with disabilities

  • 328 of 1,402 children (23%) have child functioning difficulties. The most common difficulties are not visibly obvious, including difficulties with learning new things (31%), hearing (21%) and seeing (11%).
  • Children with functioning difficulties are more likely to drop out of school and less likely to attend school. 20% of children with functioning difficulties are not attending school. Disability stigma also leads to discrimination and low participation in school life for children with disabilities.
  • At institutional level, there is a lack of education resources about disability and teachers lack the skills to effectively support disabled children’s learning at school. Referral health facilities lack specialised units to address all ranges of functioning difficulties and they are unable to provide affordable assistive devices for kids.

(Based on a study carried out by our local partner, Kabukye Trust, in 2018, through which they mapped out disability among children and identified the barriers and risks they face).

Teaching quality

  • Teaching is not enabling children attending deprived rural schools to gain foundation skills they need to become successful mathematics learners.
  • Children are falling behind in their studies which negatively impacts and threatens their progression through education. Without proper early instruction, progress to higher-order mathematics skills is more difficult.
  • Mathematics teachers in these schools lack access to high-quality teaching resources and a well-facilitated community of practice to support them learn and test teaching approaches and fundamental ideas which help learners achieve mastery of mathematics in a fun and stimulating environment.

Menstrual stigma experiences by rural schoolgirls:

Girls are faced with period poverty and stigmatisation, preventing them from attending and enjoying school.

  • 90% of girls in Kamuli district lack appropriate menstrual supplies. Shops often do not sell sanitary products, and when they do, they are very expensive. As a result, women and girls use replacement methods such as cloth, toilet paper, and even grass to mimic sanitary pads.
  • Girls are left with shame and many absent themselves from school when they are menstruating. 60% of girls do not attend schools when they are menstruating.
  • Lack of reproductive health knowledge in both women and men contributes to myths and stigmas surrounding the topic of menstruation. To address them, conversation have to be started and the engagement of boys and men in menstrual hygiene management is key.

(Based on a study conducted during 2016 in Uganda’s Kamuli district, Hennegan J, et al. BMJ Open 2016).

Our local partner

Kabukye Trust was founded in 2011 by educators from Kamuli district in Uganda to address the declining teaching standards in rural schools.

It co-creates services and experiences with children who are affected by disability, sexual abuse, and barriers to education, to improve the lives of children and young people living in poor and vulnerable rural communities. The team has over 40 years’ experience in teacher training, disability, safeguarding and project management.

Project objectives

  • Create a well-designed ‘Happy Math’ space equipped with quality textbooks, classroom resources and planning support consistent with teaching mathematics to mastery.
  • Improve inclusion of children with disabilities and girls facing menstrual poverty and stigma in the benefits of improved maths teaching and co-curricular activities at our newly established ‘Happy Math’ space.
  • Improve teachers' confidence in the effective application of ideas and approaches for teaching maths to mastery and increase children’s enjoyment of learning mathematics (girls especially).
  • Strengthen skills of caregivers of disabled children for quality self/assisted care, sanitation and hygiene to facilitate effective participation in hub activities.
  • Improve skills of girls affected by menstrual poverty and stigma, their parents and teachers in managing menstrual hygiene at homes and schools.

Our activities

Improve inclusion of disabled children and girls facing menstrual stigma in the benefits of improved maths teaching, learning, assessment and co-curricular activities designed at a newly-established Happy Maths Hub.

  • Roof and furnish a math mastery hub at an existing centrally-located community centre.
  • Review and adapt mathematics textbooks with the District Education Office to meet national curriculum.
  • Produce math mastery materials and locally made manipulatives sets of learning kits and toys for teachers and learners.
  • Train and mentor teachers in math mastery approaches, child-friendly and disability-inclusive learning.
  • Develop an Inclusive Play strategy, plans and assessments for schools and teachers.
  • Organise games, sports and competitions that harness mathematical learning.

Strengthen skills of caregivers of disabled children for quality self/assisted care, sanitation and hygiene to facilitate effective participation in hub activities.

  • Group and 1-2-1 psychosocial support sessions with carers and families to assess the specific sanitation and hygiene needs of their children.
  • Develop resources and train carers on self/assisted care, hygiene and sanitation for children with disabilities.
  • Support carers and neighbours to establish support networks and provide peer to peer advice.
  • Provide families of children with physical limitations inclusive design toilets, using the smart and affordable toilet (Sato) solution.
  • Make adaptations of sanitation facilities at the HMH and five schools.
  • Facilitate village health teams to conduct regular sanitation home visits to teach families and children good hygiene and sanitation.

Improve skills of girls affected by menstrual poverty and stigma, their parents and teachers in managing menstrual hygiene at homes and schools creatively and prudently (within available resources).

  • Establish and support Abawaala Eisanhu (translation ’the girls are happy’) after-school clubs of girls and boys to address disability and menstrual stigma themes.
  • Organise maths mastery and inclusive play activities at the Happy Maths Hub and sports and games with the Abawaala Eisanhu club.
  • Increase community awareness of the adverse impact of disability stigma and the ‘unwritten rules of behaviour’ imposed on schoolgirls during menstruation.
  • Co-create with girls and children with disabilities awareness messages on menstruation and disability myths and norms that cause poor menstrual hygiene and disability exclusion.
  • Organise conversation groups and community dialogues disability and menstrual hygiene to tackle misconceptions, myths, social norms and stigma.

Our donor

This is a 18-months project funded by the British and Foreign School Society (BFSS) and the Government of the Faroe Islands, which started in March 2021. The total budget for the project is £90,643.

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