Children's Stories from Uganda
Stories of children's experiences in Northern Uganda and how African Revival has helped provide them with opportunities for their future
Here at African Revival we are used to having visitors. However, we were very surprised to see Joseph Opiyo walk into the office after having walked over 11 hours to get here. He arrived barefooted and had walked all that way in order to be able to continue his education at the start of the new school year. Joseph is in Primary 4 at St Mauritz Primary School in Gulu Town. He was born in Bobi, just south of Gulu Town, and spent his early years there with his parents and siblings, starting in the local village school.
On July 12th 2003, at the age of 8 years old, Opiyo was abducted by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army along with his father, sister and two brothers. Their father was axed to death by the rebels and the children were taken into the bush.
Opiyo experienced a lot of brutality and violence during his three years as a child soldier. He would walk for miles every day without food and saw many of his friends killed by rebel soldiers. In September 2006, the Ugandan government army made an attack on the rebels in Anaka which gave Opiyo the chance to escape. After his escape, he was taken to military barracks and later sent to a rehabilitation centre for one year. He then returned home but his mother was unable to look after him. She had suffered greatly due to these events and become extremely traumatised. Opiyo now lives with his elder sister but has not seen his other three abducted siblings since the day of his escape. Everyday he hopes to see them return.
Opiyo is 14 years old, about 4 years older than his other classmates. He feels quite isolated from his peers but he is trying hard to catch up with school work and reintegrate back into the community. He enjoys various extracurricular activities, especially football which makes him feel part of a team. African Revival has supported St Mauritz through the construction of a football pitch and the provision of sports equipment, musical instruments, scout and guide uniforms, as well as text books and classroom furniture.
It is vital for children like Opiyo to reintegrate into their schools and communities by joining clubs and participating in sports, music, dance and drama activities with their fellow pupils. Supporting these activities in schools gives traumatised children the opportunity to act their age and have fun with their peers without feeling the stigma of being a former child soldier or victim of war.
Opiyo now has hope for the future and wishes to become a teacher so that he can help children who have also faced difficult situations in their lives. Despite his experiences, Opiyo remains positive about his future.
Akech Betty is 10 years old and a pupil at Maro Awobi Primary School, one of our schools in Northern Uganda. Maro Awobi School was originally based in Maro Awobi village but was then temporarily set up at Pabo IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples Camps) where it has been for seven years.
Born in Maro Awobi itself, Akech Betty fled with her family to Pabo IDP camp at the age of 4 years old when rebels destroyed her family home and threatened their lives.
Betty's parents stayed with her until she was old enough to enrol at the school in the camp in 2006. Her parents then moved back to Maro Awobi, leaving Betty and her 5 siblings in the camp at Pabo so they could remain in education.
Despite her difficult situation, Betty is a very active pupil at Maro Awobi. She is a member of GEM (Girls' Education Movement) and a keen netball player. Her favourite subject is English and she was very happy to have received books from African Revival.
Betty explained how she misses her parents very much. She walks over 15 miles every weekend to visit them, where she helps out around the house and digs in the garden. Betty cannot wait for the day when she can move back with her parents and siblings in their family home.
Betty is just one of many pupils at Maro Awobi Primary who have been displaced to Pabo IDP camp and who look forward to the day where their community can be reunited. Over 80% of the region's population was displaced during a period of over 20 years at war, making it a huge issue for the Acholi people.
African Revival is currently in the process of moving Maro Awobi Primary back to its original site. Latrine construction is about to start and a community is about to reunite. Akech Betty can now look forward to living together with her whole family and starting a new life in Maro Awobi.
Our country director says "It is the determination, courage and commitment of children like Joseph and Betty that motivates the African Revival Uganda team to continue to work tirelessly to provide creative learning environments in which Ugandan children can thrive."