Young people are more likely to drop out of school, or never even start, when they are especially vulnerable. For example, children from ethnic minorities; those living in extreme poverty; those living with disabilities; those who are refugees; and those who have faced abuse or neglect in the past are all more likely to drop out of formal education than their less vulnerable counterparts. These kinds of children can end up feeling abandoned when they are forced to leave the safety net of formal education, and statistics show that these marginalised young people are more likely to end up unemployed; living in poverty; married and/or pregnant as teenagers; or engaging in risky, criminal or addictive behaviours. Children who are not in school need extra support and guidance to develop the life skills and self-confidence they need to ensure their futures are as bright as possible. This is where non-formal education comes in.
Non-formal education programmes (NFE) can take many forms, such as evening classes for underqualified adults, or sessions where lost or homeless children can learn through games, story-telling or song. The Human Rights Council has recently reported that all such programmes should be free and easy for even the most disadvantaged to find, as well as being non-discriminatory, relevant to the specific needs of the individuals who seek them out, and able to evolve as these needs change.
Such programmes are vital in Uganda. Uganda’s population is young, but many of its young people are not adequately prepared for the future; around 78% of the population is under the age of 30, and most of these are underemployed, especially in Kampala. The urban areas where Kids Club Kampala work have seen a rapid population growth in recent years, which has led to extreme poverty for those living there. This also means that the supply of quality school places is not meeting the huge demand; according to the Human Development Index, 75.2% of Ugandan children enrolled in the first year of primary school don’t complete this basic stage in their education. This could be due to the poor conditions of many schools – on average, only 54.7% of 1st grade students have adequate space to sit and work.
Kids Club Kampala is already working tirelessly to help vulnerable young people who have been forgotten by the formal education sector with its Encouraging Education programme. The staff and trustees can feel encouraged by the fact that non-formal education is being taken seriously as an alternative to formal schooling by international institutions like the Human Rights Council. Hopefully, this means that such programmes start to become recognised, validated and even accredited by influential members of the community, which would benefit graduates of NFE programmes hugely in their search for gainful employment.
However, there is still a way to go for providers of such programmes. Some extremely marginalised people, who are unwilling or unable to seek out education of any sort themselves, are slipping through the net. In such cases, education must be taken to the streets to seek such people out. This is being done across the world with mobile schools. Such schools can be wheeled around, engaging people who are living or working on the street with fun and creative lessons. They provide an education in basic life skills such as numeracy and literacy, but also health, entrepreneurship and language fluency, and can be tailored to meet the needs of those students that are found. KCK could use a mobile school to great effect in Kampala due to the higher number of extremely vulnerable youths who are not yet attending stationary NFE programmes like the Encouraging Education sessions. Funding for such a project is currently being investigated, which would be an exciting and valuable addition to the great work KCK already does in education.
If you are interested in supporting KCK in expanding its NFE programmes, then please consider donating or volunteering, and make sure you sign up to hear all the latest news. Together, we can empower the most vulnerable young people in urban Uganda to build a successful and safe futures for themselves through a high quality education, even if formal schooling is not an option for them.
This blog post is written by Anne Devereux, undergraduate at the University of Oxford, and Kids Club Kampala research volunteer.