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Our History

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The crisis of streets children in Uganda was first sighted and attended to by Africa Foundation children programme – a project that was established with the driving design of eliminating these children from the streets through the provision of shelter, food, medical care and later education facilities and resettlement.

This work was started back in 1971 with about thirty-five children. Initially, these children that Kefa started with were sons and daughters of poor families that could not afford paying school fees and requirements for these children, let alone providing them with the basic necessities of life. Some of the parents of the children that Kefa started with were beggars and others physically and /or mentally disturbed. Others were single female parents who in most cases were windows who could not afford paying schools fees for their children and feeding them at the same time.

At this time the problem of streets children in Uganda was not as alarming as it has been from 1973 to-date. When we started our project in 1971, we were directing our attention at those children of beggars, destitute and fugitives who used to keep on the verandas in Kampala, begging and using these children as begging baits.

When Kefa realized that these children were being denied their basic rights of a decent shelter, food and education, Kefa felt touched and started this project with the purpose of picking, rehabilitating, resettling and educating them until they reach a normal stage and become useful self sustaining citizens of Uganda and the world at large.

The political turmoil of the 1970’s left many dead with several homes abandoned or destabilised. Uganda’s political and economic fabric was shattered. Many children were left unprotected and several resorted to the street for their survival.

The economic mismanagement was not the only outstanding feature of Idi Amin’s dictatorial administration, murdering of people was also rampant. Disrespect for human life was common practice during Dictator Idi Amin’s time, thus many fled Uganda for their dear lives. Dr Kefa Sempangi was among those on Amin’s next target of killings, when a friend of his beckoned him, he ran for exile leaving the helpless children without anybody to care for them.

Amin’s rule of terror saw many Ugandans killed. It is on record that within two years of his coming to power, Amin had killed between 90,000 and 100,000 people, leaving many helpless orphans who were to respond to the hostile social-economic environment by taking to the streets. These boys who were very young between the ages of 6-10 were to end up in Kampala’s major streets trying to find way for survival. People did not like them since they were always associated with all acts of lawlessness. They were code-named ‘‘Bayaye’’ literally meaning ‘‘thieves’’.

It was after the 1979 liberation war that Kefa returned to Uganda from USA where he had lived in exile for 6 years. Upon coming to Uganda the situation was different. The unfortunate children that he had left behind in 1973 when he went into exile were now among the young people both boys and girls who were on the streets, market areas and other busy slums places within and near the city centre of Kampala, where they were coming to try and earn a living.

When the parents and guardians of those kids that Kefa had helped before going into exile heard that Kefa had come back to the country, they tried to see him and recount the ordeal of their children. The most daring among these parents and guardians was an old beggar identified as Nakafero, whose daughters and two grand sons to whom Kefa had paid school fees for before running for his life in exile.

THE WOMAN BEGGAR

In June 1979, the work with children was resumed at what is now called the pride Theatre, on Namirember Road. It all started with Nakafero. This woman came to see Kefa at Apollo Hotel, which is now Kampala Sheraton Hotel. Nakafero came and fought through the barricade that was then manned by the Tanzanian soldiers. There was some scuffling at the gate, which drew Kefa’s attention that there was trouble.

A rugged woman who was trying to get through the gate by force caused the stir. Kefa had to intervene for Nakafero to be allowed to enter. Nakafero was overcome with joy and excitement to have seen Kefa back in the country. She had brought Kefa a present that was wrapped in dirty linen. These were five eggs, Nakafero took one of the egg which was stained with blood and dust and placing this egg in his hand, she then said to him ‘Kefa you have been away for so long, but we people you left behind are like this egg, we are bloody, dirty, unloved, discarded and regarded as useless, but like this egg, in us is a gift of God’s life.’

With this challenge, Kefa’s complacency was rebuked; with this woman beggar they opened a children’s home on Namirembe Road. The home was opened with 35 children including Nakafero’s own children, Topista, Namusisi and Norah, before the end of 1979 we had over 800 children.

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES 1971 – PRESENT

When Kefa returned from exile where he had lived for six years; he seriously embarked on the programme of dealing with street children and since then about 50,600 children have benefited from Africa Foundation’s work. From our established children’s centres some have gone to formal schools, up to Universities and on to become Social Workers, Doctors, Agriculturists, and Botanists. Others have qualified as Accountants and they are doing very well in Banks and other establishments.

Adolescents who had outgrown the formal school going age by the time we picked them from the streets took on practical and Vocational training in various fields including carpentry, brick laying and masonry. Today they are also self-employed.

Currently Africa Foundation supports 1500 children in formal schools (or educational institutes) across the country. These children are from poverty stricken families who have approached Africa Foundation for educational support. We believe these children should stay within their own community and therefore have paid their fees to attend their local school.

Africa Foundation also has about 150 children at our Clearing House at Katwe. This is an approximate figure as it is difficult to establish how many children are housed in a clearing home. Some children sporadically leaving the clearning house and returning to the streets, therefore the numbers keep changing, at times going above 150.