The Irish Government has provided €7.2 million – about Ush 27.5 billion - to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to support the Ministry of Education and Sports through the Gender Unit, to improve quality education for the most vulnerable children and adolescent girls across the Karamoja region.
The Irish Aid-supported programme will target almost 150,000 children in schools in Karamoja (76,606 boys and 57,834 girls from 283 primary schools and 6,716 boys and 4,891 girls in 23 secondary schools) - with a special focus on children at risk of dropping out of school and children with disabilities and special learning needs.
"This contribution from Ireland is critical in improving the skills and futureof young people in Karamoja," the Irish Ambassador, Dónal Cronin, said. "Education is key to the region's development and this support, to be implemented by our partner UNICEF, is part of our ongoing efforts to empower some of the mostvulnerablecommunities in Uganda."
Children in the Karamoja region experience multiple vulnerabilities. Approximately 82 per cent of all 6 to 17 year old children in Karamoja are living in poverty and are deprived of at least two or more basic services.
For example, the average rates for primary school completion and transition to secondary school are 14 per cent and 25 per cent in Karamoja compared to the national average of 67 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.
The persistent challenges of low enrolment, poor quality education, teacher absenteeism, and the absence of flexible alternative education opportunities to meet needs mean that dropout rates remain a problem in Karamoja. In some communities, education is not given much value and children, especially girls, are subjected to child marriages, female genital mutilation, child trafficking and child labour.
The Irish support will therefore focus on enhancing teacher effectiveness; strengthening school management; assessing and monitoring learning outcomes; addressing issues of violence in schools; strengthening girls' education; and promoting peacebuilding and conflict-sensitive education. The support will also address cultural and social practices that continue to undermine inclusive and quality learning.
The five year programme aims to reduce gender gaps in enrolment and completion; improve learning outcomes in basic education; increase the transition of students from primary schoolto secondary school; and increaseawareness within families and communities on the importance of investing in education for both girls and boys.
"This support from the people of Ireland will help thousands of children to stay in school and have a higher quality education, especially adolescent girls who have acriticalrole in transforming the living conditions oftheir families and communities in the future,"said Ms. Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Uganda.
"Given every additional year in school can increase that child's future income by up to 10 per cent, this programme will greatly improve the futures of thousands of children as well as the Karamoja region as a whole."
Ireland has supported improved education access and quality in the Karamoja sub-region for many years now, including most recently the rehabilitation of 21 primary schools across all seven districts. In addition to this support to UNICEF, Irish Aid also provided €150,000 to UNICEF to enhance gender equality in access to services and opportunities in the education sector in ten districts of Busoga region and seven districts of Karamoja.