Uganda - Punena - 2007

Refugees International Japan visits refugee communities around the world on a regular basis so that we can see at first hand the kind of impact your donations have. We are used to hearing bad news from countries affected by war. However, the people we meet, who are doing their best for their families and their communities, always impress our teams. Their resilience is amazing. The programs we fund help them to rebuild their lives and prepare for the return home.

VISIT REPORT: Christian Children’s Fund  – Punena School Construction, Uganda

A new school under construction in Bungatira sub-county, about eight kilometers from Gulu town 
 
INTRODUCTION
In March/April 2007 there was a tenuous ceasefire in Uganda and Lord’s Resistance Army rebels were in peace talks with the government. Around 400,000 people, some of whose families have been displaced since the 1960s, were slowly returning home from overcrowded camps. The process of return was slow due to poor infrastructure in their home villages – lack of water-points and
inadequate schools.
                                                                                               
We took advantage of the improved security situation to visit Uganda to inspect some of the projects we are funding there. The enthusiasm and commitment we encountered were truly inspiring.
The Punena community project started in 1994 as a non-profit organization affiliated to Christian Children’s Fund – Uganda (CCF-U). It was extended to the community because so many people were affected by war. At first there were 720 households, but now 1200 households participate in the activities.
Through their Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program CCF-U built a child center where children can play while their parents dig gardens. They provide mosquito nets at a subsidized price, work on HIV/AIDS sensitization, provide heifers for families, help pay for school fees, and provide exam materials. The project is supporting two schools.

OVERALL PROGRESS
With funds raised from the RIJ auction in 2006 we approached CCF-U to construct a school for children returning to communities affected by displacement. It was originally planned that the new school would be built in Coope camp, but, with people returning home, the camp community was dwindling and land rights became an issue. The search for a new site delayed the start of the project.
On 5 April 2007 we visited the school site where we were met by the sub parish women’s group, the school management committee, the father-in-law of the landlord, a local councilor and an engineer from the district office. The engineer has to check the work before any payments are authorized.
They have registered the new school with the education authorities and have been promised teachers. The base of two classrooms was underway and the workmen were pouring concrete into the foundations.

School conditions in the area
After leaving the school construction site, we asked to visit other schools in the area. Bungatira School is hosting children from four schools, some up to 8 kilometers away. To handle the extra children Save the Children had built two temporary structures and CCF-U built another one in 2005. In 2006 1,145 children were registered, and, so far, 1,250 pupils had registered in 2007. It does not seem as if the congestion is easing and the new school should help this situation. The official government figure is 55 children to a classroom, so the registration numbers are important, but there is a lot of inconsistency in teacher allocation. At many schools there are no teachers’ houses and the IDP children share latrines with the hosting school. The UN World Food Program is running a school feeding program.

Our team talked to representatives of aid organizations in the area about their activities.

Christian Children’s Fund – Uganda
Apart from its work in the community CCF-U runs the ‘Sponsor-a-Child’ program. In Uganda over 30,000 children are sponsored through this scheme.  CCF-U is concentrating its work in the areas of return and re-integration to emergency
relief areas. Community work includes: development of the educational infrastructure through childhood care, vocational skills training, health via water/sanitation, an integrated approach to HIV/AIDS through health and nutrition, combating malaria and improving reproductive health. The emphasis is on capacity building for the community.They operate a total of 38 projects through three programs.
                                                           
Save the Children Uganda
Representatives from Gulu told us that, with peace, the region is more open and they can move around more easily. However, they face new challenges as they are working with families in their homes not in the camp environment. In camps they promoted group solidarity. But as people return home there is the danger of retribution because they may be suspected of taking part in the conflict. Many
families are maintaining two homes while they complete the move from the camp to home. This leaves the children uncared for and
vulnerable.

Save the Children Uganda also works with juvenile justice to ensure the rights of children are protected when they are in conflict with the law. This is a big problem because demobilized child soldiers and children who have suffered
severe trauma behave irrationally and many get into trouble.