What was the most interesting and rewarding work you were involved with in 2017? GCPS has been involved in many different types of projects in 2017 and one of the most memorable was visiting Mbale in Uganda for an evaluation of the “Protection and Education of Children” project (PEC), funded by the Big Lottery and focussing on street-involved children. The project was a partnership between the Africa Educational Trust, based in the UK, and Child Restoration Outreach (CRO), which is a non-profit organization/NGO in Uganda committed to rebuilding the lives of street children. Mbale is in Eastern Uganda, nestling in the shadow of Mount Elgon, one of the highest mountains in the country, near the Kenyan border.
Between 2013 -2017 the PEC project supported 300 vulnerable children in the Mbale district to have the chance of a new way of life and access to formal education. Children’s well-being was fostered through recreational activities, support for their basic needs, counselling and psychosocial support, as well as home visits – despite working and/or living on the street most of the children were found to have family members locally. The project aimed to offer holistic solutions: an inclusive approach to children’s education; involvement of a wide range of agencies; integration with other programmes offered by CRO (such as livelihood support and health initiatives); and children’s participation through peer mentoring. The project led to some practical improvements in eight primary schools, through training of teachers, provision of school libraries and empowerment of school managers to devise and implement school development plans and enterprise initiatives, which benefitted all pupils in the target schools, as well as the wider surrounding community.
Some abiding memories from the visit to Mbale:
– The dedication and commitment of CRO staff to their work and the welfare of very vulnerable children
– Children’s “before” and “after” pictures – showing the reality of their life on the street and their future aspirations
– The enthusiasm of teachers and school managers despite the challenges they face – lack of electricity, sporadic running water and very limited teaching resources
– Meeting a group of very impressive para social workers, who had a true volunteering spirit and were motivated by working together, being valued and having “success stories”.
– Young people who had benefited from CRO’s work saying they had been provided with “hope for the future” and were going on to university
So, what next for this project? This was never a project where the work could have been finished within four years. CRO’s quarterly day and night street surveys show that there are many children still on the streets of Mbale who need support. There are many challenges to overcome to make change sustainable. School attendance and retention rates are affected by a number of factors, including the cost of school fees, which have risen in recent years. Food is also a key issue – children cannot learn if they do not have enough food to eat. For and insight into the work of CRO (including how to donate), see their website www.croug.org.
Further information about The Africa Educational Trust (AET) can be found at www.africaeducationaltrust.org. AET was founded in 1958 to support education for African people, particularly those involved in the continent’s struggle for independence. In recent years AET’s programmes have concentrated on finding innovative ways to provide formal and non-formal education for disadvantaged children and young people.