Introduction

A Safe Learning Environment (SLE) is one of the fundamental and universal human rights. It is in line with Sustainable Development Goal 4 and 5 which seek to achieve quality education and gender equality respectively. It emphasizes the promotion of education and development.

A safe learning environment requires physical, emotional, and intellectual security for students. Such a healthy, safe, and supportive learning environment enables students, adults, and even the school as a system to learn in powerful ways. 

Challenge I

Gender based violence (GBV) is a serious violation of human rights. GBV refers to any act of violence which results or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering to women and men including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. Women are specifically vulnerable given the lack of power they possess in the society.

 

In Uganda, GBV is pervasive despite the existence of policies and legal framework. While GBV rates increased by 18.4% and defilement by 25.8% (Police Report 2013), prosecution of offenders remained low. The 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey reported that 22% of women aged 15-49 years had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime compared to only 8% of men in the same age bracket.

 

In educational settings, GBV has an enormous negative impact on learners. It undermines the learners’ self-esteem, leads to reduced performance and takes away the willingness to learn. The widespread nature of GBV in school settings is becoming an area of concern since it infringes on the rights of the victims.

 

Challenge: How might we eliminate gender-based violence, in all its dimensions, and address this in school settings?


Challenge II

Inclusive education is a process intended to respond to students’ diversity by increasing their participation and reducing exclusion within and from education.

 

The United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) initiated the concept of inclusive education in relation to promoting Millennium Development Goal of Universal Primary Education (United Nations, 2000) and later Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Government of Uganda introduced inclusive education in 1997 through Universal Primary Education, but only 9% of school-aged girls and boys with disabilities attend primary school compared with a National average of 92% of their non-disabled counterparts. It is even worse for the National Teachers Colleges and the Vocational Training Institutions.

 

Education of persons with both intellectual and physical disabilities, who are the most vulnerable, is vital for economic development. Teaching of learners with learning difficulties has been mainstreamed into the curriculum for Teacher Training Colleges, but this is not enough since there are many other physical, social and psychological barriers faced by students with disabilities.

 

Challenge: How might we ensure inclusive higher education for special needs learners?


Challenge III

Technical and Vocational skills are key resources for economic development. The Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Education and Sports, with other partners formulated a 10-year Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) Strategic Plan in 2009 and launched the Non-Formal Training Programme (NFTP) in 2010, increasing the number of Ugandans accessing non-formal skills training by one quarter.

 

In spite of that, gender bias in BTVET still exists from educational planning, parents, society and employers. Women for instance, account for only one fourth of public BTVET enrolments, and are concentrated in traditional female occupations. The labeling by society regarding the vocational course (s) a boy or girl should or shouldn’t do continues to result in missed opportunities for those interested in enrolling for courses considered “ideal” for the opposite sex. The gap exists between roles, rights, power and decision-making and causes many young girls to lose confidence and self-esteem in themselves. Without self-confidence, they quickly lose faith in the ability to study. This confidence can be restored when young women realize that they do have capacity, that they can "do".

 

Challenge: How might we address gender stereotypes on vocational courses?


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