On Wednesday night I watched a news item on TV. It was about a group of children of schoolgoing age who were shown wading in dirty water, their faces smeared with mud, carrying buckets with which they were scooping gold from mud pits.
I didn’t hear which village or district this activity was taking place, but my suspicion was that it must be Buhweju, since gold mining thrives there.
A teenage girl whose face was covered with mud, said: “With this amount of money that I’m earning from gold, to hell with school.” I realise that many children have ended up with this mentality and now thanks to school closure due to Covid-19, it is even worse.
Thousands of girls in different corners of the country have been impregnated, while others have been married off by parents to get quick cash, pay debts or get money to buy food! Many of them have no hope of ever returning to school.
Young boys have been lured into money making ventures and returning to school is now the last thing on their minds! Child labour is now very common, and many children as young as 10, have been seen on streets, vending fruits and vegetables.
Some are now accompanying adults to stone quarries, and have been seen crushing stones to eke out a living. Some parents have lost their sources of income and even if schools were reopened, they would not be able to send some or all of their children them back to school.
Where does this leave this generation? Where is the future of these girls and boys? As parents and guardians, it is our primary responsibility to sensitise our children about the importance of education .They need to be constantly reminded that at least they need basic education if higher education becomes difficult to attain. It’s unfortunate that some of the parents are not aware of the benefits of education, and have therefore, used Covid-19 as an excuse to discourage their children, by instilling in them a new and wrong mindset.
Communities should sensitise both the children and parents about the importance of education. They can help change the mindsets of many children who have become disoriented or lost hope and direction.
Although many girls have become mothers, they can return to school, and in fact the government should look at them as a special group who need support. The government must find a way to ensure that all the children return to school when the lockdown is lifted.
Karamira Hamu, email@example.com