Experts push for Child Rights Bills adoption

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Experts push for Child Rights Bills adoption
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Experts have called for the adoption of pending bills concerning child rights, such as the Marriage Bill and the Inclusive Education Policy.

These bills are essential in addressing both the progress and ongoing challenges in realizing children's rights across the continent.

In anticipation of the Day of the African Child (DAC), experts urged the government to invest in early childhood education, emphasizing its critical role in child development. The research underscores that this stage is vital for growth.

Uganda is set to host the 2024 continental commemoration of the DAC, an event honouring the 1976 Soweto student uprising in South Africa. The theme for this year, "Education for Children in Africa: The Time is Now," highlights the urgent need for improved educational access and quality across the continent.

The commemoration will take place tomorrow (Sunday) in Kiryandongo District.

The Day of the African Child was first established in 1991 by the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union) to honour the bravery of the children who protested against apartheid's inferior education system.

During a media briefing at the African region committee of Experts on Children Rights welcome dinner in Kampala, Timothy Opobo, Executive Director at AfriChild Centre, raised concerns about the lack of government funding for early childhood education in Uganda.

Opobo highlighted the significance of nursery and kindergarten education for children aged 3 to 5 years.

"One of the major obstacles we face as a country is the absence of government funding for early childhood education," Opobo stated. "Research shows that this stage is crucial for child development, yet it is overlooked in our national budget."

Opobo's comments followed the latest budget reading, which again failed to allocate funds for early childhood education. He argued that this omission undermines the foundation of the entire education system.

"We urge the government to invest in early childhood education," Opobo continued. "Recognizing the need for investment in this foundational stage is crucial. Without it, we risk compromising the quality and effectiveness of our entire educational framework."

Margaret Makokha, Woman Member of Parliament for Namayingo and chairperson of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children, echoed the call for enhanced support for early childhood education. She emphasized the government's responsibility to provide free and quality education to all Ugandans, noting significant gaps in the current system.

"The government must provide free education to Ugandans," Makokha stated. "While we appreciate efforts towards Universal Primary Education, we must now focus on the quality of education being offered. What kind of education are we providing, and how does it benefit our citizens?"

Makokha highlighted the critical need for adequate teaching staff in schools and expressed concern over the neglect of early childhood education, which has largely been left to the private sector. She stressed the importance of establishing a strong educational foundation during the early years of a child's life.

"The challenge is that we are not effectively addressing the early childhood program. We have left this crucial stage to the private sector. It's essential that we focus on early childhood learning to ensure our children are academically grounded from the start," she added.

Fred Ngabirano, Commissioner for Children Affairs at the Ministry of Gender, noted that it is an honour for Uganda to mark this occasion and committed to ensuring its success as a testament to Africa’s collective dedication to the rights and welfare of children.

He commended AfriChild for providing research insights and expertise that have enriched government efforts to promote children's rights in Uganda.

“Together, we shall continue to advocate for policies and initiatives that prioritize education, health, protection, and empowerment for all children on our continent,” he stated.

A study by Human Rights Watch and the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) indicates that the government’s failure to provide early childhood education causes lifelong negative consequences for children.

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