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Children in Uganda Take Charge to Change Schools for the Better

Establishing Early Childhood Care and Development Centers is one way Plan puts its commitment to education into action.
Establishing Early Childhood Care and Development Centers is one way Plan puts its commitment to education into action.
June 27, 2014
A Plan International program is encouraging students to facilitate better learning on their own.

Luweero, Uganda is emerging as one of the top-10 rural school districts in Uganda, and the change is largely due to a Plan International program.

The drivers of the transformation have largely been children. The project, running in 25 local schools with funding from Finland, was recently scaled up in cooperation with Nokia. It has been rolled out in more than 100 schools.

“Decision-making opportunities for the students have been increased through empowering the children’s councils and increasing their say in other administrative bodies of the school, and at the same time, closer involvement in school management has been encouraged among parents,” said Deborah Kirabo, Plan Uganda’s project coordinator.

Only a few years ago, primary schools in the district struggled with challenges similar to many other African schools: students dropped out of school early, teacher absences were not unusual, schools lacked facilities, and supplies were minimal.

However, since the implementation of Plan’s program, the local education office has reported the school dropout rate has fallen from 27 percent to just 4 percent, and students’ test scores increased. The national newspaper Daily Monitor featured Luweero prominently in its special report last September, and the government hopes to incorporate best practices as part of the national curriculum next year.

Children have taken the reins through children’s councils, which have reported teacher absences to the district education office. They have also encouraged their communities to build classrooms and actively participate in the oversight and management of activities.

Typical issues the children advocate for include school meals, as well as the construction of boreholes and bathrooms in the schools.

Monitoring the use of funds allocated to the schools by public authorities has also been tightened.

“We encourage students and parents to question how much money has been spent on what and why,” Kirabo said. “We also want to make them more aware of which of the changes desired in schools fall under the government’s legal obligations. In the project promoting participatory school governance, we focus less on offering material support, and more on empowering children to advocate for their rights.”

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