Child protection specialists are worried that the increased internet usage by children due to the ongoing lock down on schools might expose them to online child abuse.
Stella Ayo-Odongo is the coordinator African Partnership to End Violence against Children. She says the introduction of online learning for children has increased the risk of exposure to cyberbullying, risky online behavior and sexual exploitation among the children.
” While the world and key actors focus on instituting measures to control and deal with the pandemic, the world’s largest population, an estimated 56% of the population in the case of Uganda, bear the unintended impact of these control measures. Over 1.5 billion children are out of school causing unprecedented global learning crises, this resulted into the introduction of online learning for children that has increased the risk of exposure to online abuse (cyberbullying, risky online behavior and sexual exploitation). “says Odongo
She also notes that for some children, this resulted in their exclusion because they lack access to internet services or the schools were not able to facilitate online learning.
Odong made the remarks while giving a key note address during the virtual 2020 National Learning Event on Child Wellbeing which was held under the theme “Child wellbeing during and Post- COVID 19 context in Uganda”.
Speaking at the same event, Mary Goretti Nakabugo, the Country Coordinator Uwezo Uganda called for assessment on learners when they return to school to ensure no one is left behind. She also urged government to formalize remedial teaching in schools to support learners who could have been left behind due to the lockdown.
On his part, Patrick Onyango Mangeni the Chief Executive Officer Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative advised parents and school administrators to come up with programmes of counselling students in order to enable them catch-up with the post-COVID-19 mental effects.
“Closure of schools where children used to meet peers and teachers who used to aid them sort out their stress and depression has negatively impacted the children.” noted Mangeni
According to Dorah Musiimire the child protection specialist at Child Fund International Uganda office, children feel safer at school than at home and would like the schools to reopen.
“Children have no one to talk to since most parents are fed up of them being at home and have no money.” Remarked Musiimire during the event.
The two day online learning event which was held on 25th and 26th November 2020 was organized by the National Child Protection Working Group in collaboration with the department of Youth and Children Affairs Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development with support from Child Fund International among other development partners.
Participants were drawn from individuals and agencies: Government, Civil society, academia, religious and traditional institutions, UN agencies, children, development partners and research institutions among others.