| UGANDA | JUNE 3, 2024 |

Addressing Uganda’s Dropout Crisis with Human Rights Education

Youth for Human Rights Uganda picks up steam by empowering the next generation.
Hormsidallen Primary School students attending a human rights seminar.

Uganda experienced a two-year education lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 15 million schoolchildren had to put their studies on hold. It is projected that nearly one-third of them will become permanent dropouts, many having turned to child labor during the pandemic to support their families.

Hormsidallen Primary School students attending a human rights seminar.

Those children fortunate enough to have returned to school are well aware that education in Uganda is, in practice, if not in doctrine, not a right but a privilege. Faced by ongoing pressures to produce income for their families’ immediate needs, many parents discourage their children from attending school. What makes their schooling even more difficult is that although primary schools are supposed to be free, nearly all of them actually require fees.

Article 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) enshrines education as an inalienable human right. Fredrick Kayiira, a southwest Ugandan native, who himself had to drop out of school six times before finally going on to attain a postgraduate degree, has identified the Right to Education as the key to knowledge of all human rights. Without education, human rights can fall to the wayside and become prone to abuse, as there is no better way to violate them than by preventing awareness of their existence.

Kayiira is an education activist and the founder of Initiative for Mtoto Wa Shule (IMS), a youth-led nonprofit focusing on the Right to Education. IMS provides innovative solutions to address Uganda’s school dropout crisis. He also created a Youth for Human Rights Chapter as part of his organization to raise awareness of the UDHR.

Primarily targeting at-risk children in Uganda’s rural communities, his organization conducts seminars and workshops with a focus to:

Hormsidallen Primary School students attending a human rights seminar.
  1. Teach students about their fundamental Right to Education and all 30 human rights.
  2. Improve the capacity of teachers to accelerate human rights educational activities.
  3. Create a movement of human rights advocates by equipping youth with tools.

Kayiira sees the obstacles to accomplish this as a measure of the critical need his organization addresses. His vision is to create a community where no child drops out of school and every youth is educated to their fullest potential, by creating a movement of young human rights educators in Uganda who are empowered to champion the Right to Education.

Students and teachers enthusiastically welcome Kayiira’s human rights workshops. He also forms human rights education clubs in the schools he visits to provide ongoing mentorship and promulgation of human rights education to teachers, parents and other stakeholders.

Hormsidallen Primary School students attending a human rights seminar.

Kayiira’s intent is to continue to streamline and grow his organization’s activities in southwest Uganda, and from there, export human rights education to all Ugandan school districts. Even as the pandemic exposed Uganda’s academic fragilities and recent political turmoil increased human rights violations, he is confident his work has begun to turn the tide. By addressing the root of Ugandans’ vulnerability to abuses, Kayiira’s hope is to transform Uganda into a country with full civil liberties and political rights, becoming a champion and leader of human rights in Africa.