Challenges of Universal Primary Education (UPE) in armed conflict areas: a case study of Gulu District (1997 – 2005)
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Civil wars have been a widespread phenomenon in African countries and Uganda is one of those that have experienced insurgency especially in the northern region for the last 20 years. In this study challenges faced in UPE implementation in armed conflict situation are identified as violence, destruction of life and structures and general insecurity. Abductions, torture and psychological trauma were also identified. Their subsequent causes that have made UPE difficult to implement are assessed in their context, and results are analysed to determine the efforts and weaknesses of the government UPE policy strategy. Disruption of UPE activities and successive challenges are acknowledged while government interventional strategy and humanitarian initiative support to primary education in emergency are verified. The study aims at examining the underlying purpose of UPE as basic education policy and the level of its accessibility and feasibility to children in emergency. The research is a case study where in-depth investigation on an armed conflict situation is carried out to determine factors and their relationships in order to get exhaustive and balanced information on the study. Qualitative and quantitative methods were employed using structured and non-structured questionnaires, observations and interviews, and focus group discussions. The analysis indicates that government gave inadequate UPE policy guidance as far as armed conflict was concerned. Lack of technical competency in developing an emergency education component within UPE policy was noted. Humanitarian intervention of both international and local NGOs is acknowledged in form of physical relief and services and their constraints in operations noted. Community participation is exhibited in provision of labour, local materials and involvement in UPE activities. In response to the research problem of eradicating illiteracy and equipping children with basic knowledge, skills and values; alternative approaches are suggested to meet challenges on children’s right to education, in armed conflict areas. A reform of the curriculum content to include an emergency component that is localized to address the local education needs is recommended. A module flexible with armed conflict emergency that incorporates life skills, civil and peace education in its content is suggested for promotion of reconciliation and coexistence in society.