The challenges faced by children in the enjoyment of their right to participate in education decision making: a case study of schools in Mukono District.
KIMOIMO ODWONGO, MARGARET HILDA
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The study set out to identify the challenges faced by children in the enjoyment of the right to participate in education decision making. The study explored the concept of the meaning of the ‘right of children to participate’ in education decision making. It also sought to find whether the concept holds good for all children equally in all places and all times. It also looked at whether it is only the strong legal system that can sustain the children’s enjoyment of the right to participate in decision making. The study used two approaches; there was the use of primary sources of data and the secondary sources of data. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used in the collection of data. Written and oral questionnaires were used in data collection and focus group discussions. The focus of the field research was limited to decisions made on four educational areas which were; selection of school, selection of subjects selection of career, and in the involvement of children in the making of school rules. The focus of the desk research was limited to delineating the meaning of the ‘right of the children to participate’ in decision making and the promotion and protection legal framework from selected human rights instruments. The study explored the three participation bases that support children’s right to participate in education decision making and which make up the enabling environment for participation. These were; knowledge and awareness base, the institutional set up and the acquisition and use of negotiation and decision making skills for the participation process. The study also indicated the three correlative phases that describe the sequence of the enjoyment of the right to participate from a functional point of view. They also respond to the three categories of rights to participation in decision making: the primary, social and the substantive rights. The main findings were that; • The concept the ‘right of the children to participate’ in decision making means the use of the participatory process to empower children under a robust framework that is backed by wider social, cultural, economic and political policies where the three categories of rights to participation work in sync and underpinned by consideration of the weighting values. • The concept of participation did not hold good for all children, all the time and in all places. • It is not only a strong legal system that can sustain the process of children participation in education decision making but a wider social, economic, political and cultural systems are also very important. • There are six major categories of challenges that are faced by children in the enjoyment of their right to participate in education decision making process. • The ‘final standard meaning of common achievement’ of children participation was determined by the UNCRC and the ACRWC and the weighting values that do vary in each society. In order to move comprehensively to address the challenges the following recommendations were made; The new and deeper meaning of children’s right should establish children as recognized rights holders who are entitled to receive protection and have participation rights. There is need to sensitize all stakeholders and children to change attitudes towards children participation in all matters including education. There is need for a review of the legal weaknesses inherent at international, regional, and domestic levels in order to plug the loopholes and to come up with policies and laws that can support children’s participation rights. The government should build an environment that promotes information technology as a new method to facilitate the children’s right to participate in decision making.