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Putting Children First: Hon. Baba Diri’s dialogue with Children living with disabilities in Koboko District

“Instead of my teacher teaching me, I’m teaching him Braille, he hasn’t been trained to teach at my level. I am behind in my studies”, said a visibly upset, young girl in P4. She attended a meeting in Koboko District, which was organized by the Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children, to hear the challenges that children living with disabilities face on a daily basis.

Her father could no longer pay her school fees at a specialized school, so she was transferred to a government school, where she is currently struggling to cope with the limited facilities. Luckily, she is being mentored by Hon. Baba Diri, Women MP for Koboko District, who is also known as the ‘Champion for Children with Disabilities'. She has donated one of her own braille displays to the young girl.

From the 6th- to the 7th June this year, a delegation of Members of Parliament(MPs) led by Hon. Baba Diri Margaret, travelled to Koboko District to meet with the chief administrative officer, district leaders, councilors, teachers, parents and children. Among the delegation were Hon. Nalule Safia Juuko, the national woman representative of people with disabilities and, Hon. Nockrach William Wilson, the people with disabilities northern region representative.  The MPs have been working closely with U-report to ensure they listen to the issues that young people raise through the U-report SMS platform and in turn incorporate their feedback into the work that they do in parliament. This was therefore another opportunity to listen to usually marginalised and vulnerable group in society.

The MP’s main priority was to hear the stories of the children. Over 150 children attended with their parents and guardians, and every single one of them had an opportunity to share their story with the attendees and the MPs. The Children highlighted neglect, ignorance, stigma, discrimination, violence, lack of special education, and health facilities as some the main barriers they face on the road to achieving their potential.

According to the Koboko’s district education officer (DEO), there are over 2000 children currently registered in the universal primary education (UPE) schools. The DEO says, “In Koboko District, we lack the resources to create disability friendly facilities, and we have a very limited number of skilled and competent teachers in Special Education Needs i.e. sign language instructors.” Also adding to the challenges that children face in school, Koboko’s community development officer says, “Children are discriminated against in games and sports, a child with one eye can be refused from playing football with their peers.”

During her address to the attendees of the meeting, Hon. Baba Diri said, “In koboko, children with disabilities are often stigmatized and given bad names like Mududu, Umbere, and Goligoli.” She added, “Children do not choose where to be born but they continue to be victims of their circumstances.” She urged parents to be hard working and to teach all children the same.

All three MPs, who are all live with a disability themselves, highlighted their continued commitment to fighting hard to ensure that the needs of children, as well as adults with disabilities are on the list of priorities for the government of Uganda.

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