Jun 01, 2010

Batwa: Harassment and Discrimination Force Children To Leave Primary Schools

Sample ImageBatwa primary schoolchildren have been forced out of schools due to harassment, discrimination, and malnutrition.

Below is an article published by the Daily Monitor:

Batwa children in several primary schools in Kabale, Kisoro and Kanungu are being discriminated and harassed by children and administrators from other ethnic groups, a leader of the Batwa community has said.

Mr Elias Hajara, the chairman of Batwa Communities in Echuya Forest Reserve, says although different civil society organisations have tried to empower Batwa children by giving them scholastic materials, discrimination and harassment has made it difficult for them to study well.

“They are tormented because they dress poorly while at school,” he said. “Lack of food is also another challenge. The UPE programme is good but we have no food to pack for our children because we have no land on which to practice modern agriculture,” Mr Hajara said.

He said civil society organisations that have variously supported them should embark on sensitising non-Batwa communities to appreciate that they are also human beings who have rights like other ethnic groups.

The woman leader of the Batwa in the area, Ms Peace Munyaneza, said many children in the community are malnourished. She said the Batwa children who are in poor health can hardly compete with others academically.

“Many have failed to remain at school because of hunger. We call for interventions where heifers are introduced in the area to enable these children access milk,” she said.
Recently, Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust (BMCT) donated scholastic materials worth Shs20 million to about 676 Batwa children in Kabale, Kisoro and Kanungu.

The BMCT Programme Manager Charity Bwiza, said the motive is to promote education among Batwa children and make them forget the bush life. “We want to integrate them in communities where they will compete for development,” Ms Bwiza said.

She said they are planning to source funding to support the education of Batwa children in higher institutions of learning. The Batwa were evicted from the forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks in the early 1990’s and have since then lived on the edges of the two parks from where they move to the surrounding non-Batwa communities to work for food.

Ms Bwiza said besides promoting education for the Batwa children, her organisation has bought about 400 acres of land for the resettlement of Batwa elders and their families.

She said they have constructed about 15 permanent houses for the families in the area to enable them settle and live normally.