Child friendly spaces and early childhood learning outcomes in refugee settlements. a case of Adjumani refugee settlements
Uganda has a long history of hosting refugee and asylum seekers from the neighboring countries. The country is currently hosting 1.5 million refugees in different settlements with children comprising 64% of the refugee population (OPM 2019). The refugee children experience a number of protection issues like trauma, anxiety, adverse stress and struggle for survival. These negatively affects their ability to understand the world around them, with devastating effects on their physical, socioe motional, cognitive development, and overall learning outcomes (Save the Children 2008, INEE & Education cluster, 2011). Providing Safe Spaces where refugee children can be protected and nurtured are very vital for their learning (UNCEF 20 17). This is in line with the UN Resolution on the Right to Education in Emergencies (20 1 0) and Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) among others. Since its use in the 1999 Kosovo crisis, CFS programs has been adopted by many humanitarian organizations as one way providing refugee children with a protected environment in which they can play (UNICEF, 2009). This study therefore sought to establish the contribution of child friendly spaces on early childhood learning outcomes among refugee children in Adjumani Settlements.The researcher used a mixed method. The qualitative and quantitative research methods complemented each other and allowed for a more complete analysis of the research problem. Descriptive Survey design was used and the research methods used were interview, questionnaire, focused group discussions and observation. The study established that there are fun activities, such as games, sports, singing, drama and pupper making which gives refugee children a chance to express their feelings of fear and loss through creative play, stories and group interactions. The study also established that the activities at child friendly spaces promote the development of cognitive skills such as recollection and memory, counting and number concepts, colour recognition, critical thinking, language and literacy development among the children. Under socio-emotional development, the study established that child friendly spaces contribute to the development of self-esteem, resiliency, promotes peer relationships, emotional selfregulation, empathy, sharing, taking turns, and using nice words when playing with other children. While under physical development, the study found out that child friend spaces contributes to the development of sensory and fine motor skills of children in their early years of growth and development. The study then concludes that providing child friendly spaces interventions in refugee settlements contributes to the improvement of early childhood learning outcomes among refugee children. The study recommends standardization activities provided at the child friendly spaces, strengthening supervision of children at the CFSs and inclusion of parenting sessions at the child friendly spaces.