Positioning children and institutions of childcare in contemporary Uganda
Currently more than half the population of Uganda is under 18 years — a demographic dispensation caused by civil war, poverty, high fertility rates, and the AIDS epidemic. Drawing upon ethnographic research in south-eastern Uganda, the study analyses the difficulties of integrating increasing numbers of adolescent orphans and other vulnerable children into Ugandan society. Aid workers and researchers generally agree that the extended family should be the first choice for assuming care of orphans and other vulnerable children, while they regard institutional care as a last resort. This article questions this common view. The author argues that understanding the consequences of childcare demands consideration for childcare settings, the interpersonal relationships between care-giver(s) and care-recipient(s), and the cultural notions of childcare. By focusing on children's position in society, while examining issues such as patterns of parental relations, leviratic practices, and the importance of land ownership and education for children's long-term well-being, the author contributes to understanding the complexity and changing patterns of childcare relations. Such patterns, she argues, call into question whether or not family caretaking should persistently be given preference over support in institutional settings like boarding schools.