21 April 2017

Uganda: Albino Children Abandon School Due to Stigma

Photo: IRIN
An Albino boy carries a baby in northern Uganda (file photo).

Gulu — Two primary school pupils with albinism were forced to abandon education for one year due to unending stigma by fellow pupils. Daniel Rubangakene, 13, and his sister Rebecca Masala, 14, could not stand the endless taunts by fellow pupils and decided to drop out of school. The duo were studying from one of the schools in Paicho Sub-county in Gulu District.

Both Rubangakene and Masala were born with a condition which reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and the eye. Rubangakene, a Primary Three pupil, says they suffered emotional and psychological pain because of their skin colour. "We could not take it anymore and decided to quit," he said.

Masala on the other hand says her skin complexion has been a subject of debate among pupils with many questioning why she is white.

"I wanted to get rid of the psychological pain I was being subjected to," she said.

Ray of hope

However, there is a sigh of relief after a local non-governmental organisation, Galaxy Poets of northern Uganda in partnership with People Help People, a German-based organisation, relocated the siblings to another school in Gulu Municipality. Mr James Onono Ojok, the chairperson for the organisation, noted that people with albinism are stigmatised because society hardly understands their situation.

"Government should support children with such a condition especially in the areas of education and safety," Mr Ojok said.

The mother of the siblings, Ms Hellen Akech, expressed relief, saying she is confident her children will now concentrate on their studies. She says her children were quite often referred to as pigs, among other insults, and were always looked at as aliens. The head teacher Gulu Prisons Primary School where the children have been relocated, Mr Christopher Charles Opira, told Daily Monitor that the school has adequate skilled teachers trained on how to handle pupils with special needs.

Ms Irene Lajwee, one of the special needs teachers, says she will ensure Masala and Rubangakene get genuine friends who will not taunt them on account of their colour.

There are about 8,725 albinos in Uganda out of the more than 34 million population, according to African Albino Foundation Uganda.

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