As usual, the new year has started with much work, sweat and joy. I am just returning from a new-year-visit to Kids of Africa and will sum my thoughts around four observations:
February 2016 is an election month in Uganda. Most likely, president Yoweri Museveni, who has governed the country since 1986, will be re-elected. For reasons which are beyond me, the government has decreed that all schools must extend school-holidays by two weeks until after election day. Disobedience to this decree will be punished. This creates at least two challenges for pupils and their families: First, the pupils must still learn the national curriculum for the year-end exams. But they now have two weeks less to learn the same subjects. Second, somehow, they or their families must plan to put the unexpected holiday-time to good use.
At Kids of Africa, one of our teachers has drafted a detailed activities-plan for all of our pupils.
It involves every pupil to choose a work-assignment in their preferred area, such as the farm, our compound, the workshop or kitchen. Every pupil is guided and trained in their work by an adult. On average, every pupil learns half a day from practical work. They harvest, they cook, they sew, they repair and they learn from everything they do.
Later in the afternoon the children can choose from a variety of sports-activities. Top of their lists are, of course, soccer and tag-rugby. But also trampoline-jumping remains an all-time favorite and netball and other ball-games are also popular. In this way, all of our kids still learn in many ways without undermining the unexpected holiday.
New, national NGO policy
The Ugandan government, in collaboration with Unicef, has refocused its NGO-policy and is committed to implementation. Two particular focus-areas, which have made frequent headlines in the daily press are i) regulation or closure of non-regulated child-care NGO’s and ii) a stringent emphasis that “children belong into families, not institutions”. This new policy vindicates the family-centric approach which Kids of Africa has pursued since it started. However, even if implementation is likely to be a slow process, it will almost certainly mean additional requests for help for Kids of Africa. That is simply, because Kids of Africa is increasingly seen as a role-model for family-oriented, sustainable investment into education and development.
Inevitably, a lot of so-called “child-care NGO’s” in Uganda will be closed. A tragic reason for this is that a growing number of grave and deeply disquieting violations of childen’s rights were uncovered, even in so-called “child-care”-organizations. Ever since Uganda chose not to ratify the Den Hague treaty regulating international adoptions, Uganda has witnessed a steep increase in international adoptions, some of which took place against the will of the child and their natural family. By finally addressing this national tragedy, it is clear that numerous, even evangelical-, NGO’s will be closed. Ultimately, this will increase government-requests to Kids of Africa to keep up and extend its approach of creating a home and a stable family for needy children.
Our five new kids
In short: they are doing just fine! The youngest four are the pride and joy of the elder children who are taking turns in carrying and caring for them.
The oldest is physically well but still needs time to overcome the trauma it experienced before joining.
They have all overcome their initial state of malnutrition and they are healthy young babies. It relieves to see how a loving family is, of course, the best home and the right cure for any child in need.
Our “older ones”
They, too, are doing well, as you will see from the recent pictures attached. Together with our director, I had a good long chat with some of the oldest ones. We talked about their schools, friends and perspectives in life. I was surprised just how clearly all of them articulated their views, hopes and questions.
All of these young adolescents have acquired many skills and competences during their time at Kids of Africa.
Nobody will ever take that away from them. While they still have a long way to go, I believe that it was worth all the effort put into them. Because very clearly they have every aspiration to become strong foundation for their future, Ugandan family. Nothing would sound more remote to them than the thought of emigrating to a different continent. That’s why this work not only benefits Uganda, but also Europe and the world. Because it’s the only one world we have.