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Uganda’s marginalised Batwa communities struggle to access quality education and healthcare

The Batwa, a marginalised forest people in Uganda are struggling to access quality education and healthcare despite the government adopting laws and policies to improve their livelihoods, a new study by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has revealed.

The study, conducted in the districts of Bundibugyo, Kabale, Kanungu, Kisoro and Rubanda in south-western Uganda, as well as Kampala, found the challenges to quality education and healthcare access for the two group to be multifaceted.

School drop-out rates among the Batwa children stand at nearly 58 percent.  This, the report says is caused by  discrimination from other ethnic groups, sexual harassment of Batwa girls, poverty, inadequate access to scholastic and sanitary materials, and hunger.  

Some of these factors, like discrimination by other communities, also undermine the Batwa’s access to good healthcare, since they are often shunned by medical workers when they visit health facilities, while poverty means that they cannot afford to visit private alternatives.

The long distances to the few government centres also curtails their ease to access.

Ms Agnes Kabajuni, MRG’s Africa regional manager said that to improve access to quality education and healthcare for the Batwa, there is need to know the magnitude of the situation.

“Data on access to services for the Batwa community is very hard to come by. Not to leave them behind, clear disaggregated data on education and health care needs to be generated. Ascertaining the impacts Covid-19 makes the need more pressing than ever before. This study has attempted to contribute to this,” Kabajuni said.

The Batwa people are a historically marginalised minority community in Uganda who were evicted from their ancestral lands with within the current Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest and the now Mgahinga National park in the early 1990s in the name of conservation.

 

Displaying some of the Batwa artifacts at the Batwa cultural centre in Bwindi

 

This group faces poverty and social exclusion in their areas of displacement in the south-west of the country. The COVID-19 pandemic is making a bad state of affairs even worse. Most Batwa children have not had access the reading materials distributed by government during the first lockdown.

The study was carried out in partnership with Africa International Christian Ministries (AICM), Action for Batwa Empowerment Group (ABEG) and Action for Youth with Disabilities in Uganda (AYDU) with financial support from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

Mr Denis Mucunguzi, the Programmes Manager at AICM, said that as education and healthcare are fundamental human rights, there needs to be concerted effort by all stakeholders, starting with the government, to improve the quality of access to these basic services for the Batwa and persons living with disabilities.

Batwa entertain guests at their cultural centre in Bwindi

 

Batwa children in Bwindi swarm a drone pilot.

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Ms Pamela Amia is a Multimedia Journalist, Conservationist and traveler.

amiapamela@gmail.com

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