Kampala, Uganda | URN | Migrant Children at St. Peter’s Primary School Nsambya are no ordinary refugees fleeing conflict in their countries. They are regarded as “Diplomats” of foreign countries living in Uganda.
The School Deputy Head Teacher, John Lwanga, says they accorded the children diplomatic status to fast-track their social integration and facilitate their healing from trauma. Lwanga says there are 560 migrant children in the school, many of whom arrived unaccompanied from the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Burundi.
At the time of their arrival, the children were traumatized, dejected, hopeless and unable to speak English. Lwanga says they were counseled, comforted and enrolled. Along the way, they were allowed to vie for leadership in their respective classrooms and prefect’s body and engage in co-curricular activities to expose their talents to domestic citizens.
“The school gazetted a “No School Uniform Day” celebrated every October to allow the diplomats showcase their cultures through dressing, food and dances. It is on this day that they are encouraged to teach their colleagues their languages,” he told this publication.
The foreign students enjoy a special foreign club platform chaired by a Speaker through, which they discuss their progress and challenges at the school. Twice a month, they are taken through psycho-social counseling to address any lingering traumatic effects.
“Some of them come here aged 14 and in Primary Five in their countries. But because they are unable to speak English – we assess them for competence and advise them to resume studies in P.2 and they end up performing very well,” Lwanga explained.
Different Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are supporting 120 of these Children to attend school while the school provides scholarships for 14 others. To improve their interactions with the school administration, the diplomats elected a Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs with the cardinal duty to foster peace and social cohesion.
Edward Ssenteza, a parent at the school, says the presence of the “diplomats” is helping children from host communities to learn Arabic and French. Ssenteza says outside the school, migrants have engaged in high value carpentry works in Kabalagala creating unique items and employment opportunities for Ugandans.
Dr. Antonio Querido, the Acting United Nations’ Resident Coordinator, says Uganda’s hospitable refugee policy should be leveraged for sustainable development. He says according refugees a conducive climate comes with huge potential in business and social services for host communities.
“We can use the warm relationship to build a stronger community. This way, xenophobia will have no chance,” he stated. Currently the Children are on holidays.