We support orphans and vulnerable children by paying school fees, providing uniform and running a Saturday centre with food, activities and counselling. Without this help, many of the children would not be able to go to school.
Of the 23,000 people in Kashare, an estimated 1,000 are orphans or vulnerable children. In many cases this is caused by HIV/AIDS.
The project provides welfare and education for 60 primary school children each year and five secondary school students. We also have a programme for caregivers which helps them to improve their economic status and to look after the children better.
In the first four years 108 children were registered and 24 have passed their primary school leaving exam. Some 30 children left the programme for other reasons, often to move away from the area.
The school fees, uniforms and help with school work are vitally important to give the children a chance to finish primary school and perhaps go on to secondary or vocational school.
As well as classes on Saturdays, the children are given two hot meals, which many do not always get at home. Guidance and counselling give the children resilience and hope for the future. Games and other activities help their interaction and social skills and let them be children. Some have very difficult backgrounds and have to work hard in the home.
We believe our help has provided some stability for these children who often get passed from one household to another. By working closely with the headteachers of two schools (Rweibaare and Rwobugoigo), we hope to identify the youngsters who are most at risk and encourage them and their caregivers to join the programme.
Before the programme began many of these vulnerable children did not have clean clothes and were socially withdrawn. The visit of trustees in 2018 showed an encouraging change with the RONCO children and caregivers described as “lively and friendly”.
We have been able to respond quickly and provide medical treatment for RONCO pupils suffering from malaria and we have seen improvements in the children’s nutrition and health. Headteachers and caregivers say that both their school work and confidence are improving, and five pupils are attending secondary school.
There are 12 more schools in the district with just as many vulnerable children, so we want to extend our work beyond the 60 children currently in the programme. Support for children with disabilities is also needed.
We would like to be able to support RONCO pupils leaving primary school who do not have the grades, inclination or financial ability to go to secondary school. This will create more chances for these children, most of whom have no training or other skills with which to find employment.