Eastern Uganda: Children Bring Machetes to School to Cut Sugarcane at Lunchtime

What You Need to Know:

Francis Kamyuka, Education Officer in eastern Uganda’s Luuka District claims that during a routine check of schools, numerous children were found to have machetes in their school bags. 

Teachers in the district claim the children use the machetes to cut sugarcane at lunchtime. A 2022 report claims at least 62% of families in Luuka district directly or indirectly derive their livelihoods from the cultivation of sugarcane, something academics claim has contributed to Luuka becoming one of the worst performing districts in education as children often skip school in order to work on sugarcane plantations as they are able to earn money for their families. 

Kamyuka reiterated the dangers of machetes in schools particularly when the temperaments of the children are not well known, “any slight mistake, we might see bloodshed.” 

Luuka has been particularly hard hit by the country’s transition to sugarcane, as one local stated, “Currently here in Luuka district almost every household grows sugarcane. In the past only a few households grew sugarcane, but when Kaliro Sugar Works started operating, we all took advantage. We used to grow a variety of crops with different nutrients (eg. bananas, sweet potatoes, beans and groundnuts) but today we do not have enough land to grow these varieties.” 

In recent years, Sugarcane processing companies have also refused to take sugarcane harvests from farmers in the district, which has contributed to the further impoverishment of the region. 

Child labour is also a problem across Uganda, with an estimated 2 million children employed in some form of work.

In Luuka, 74% of the population did not study beyond primary school while just 3.8% of the population received more than a high-school education. 

In an attempt to combat the ‘machete problem’ Kamyuka declared that schools in the district will supply school bags to the pupils that are big enough to fit books, but not big enough to fit machetes.

This quick fix however, does not address the root cause of the issue which is extreme poverty, contributed to by the predatory business practices of Sugarcane companies in the region. 

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Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.