21 June 2019

Uganda: Poor Facilities Frustrate Tororo, Mbale Pupils

As is the routine, John Wakikona, a Primary Five pupil from Pajwenda Primary School, woke up as early as 5am to start his day last Monday.

On his arrival at school, Wakikona was shocked after school management announced that the only government-aided school in Pajwenda Town Council in Tororo District had been closed over lack of a pit-latrine and dilapidated structures.

Currently, about 1,000 pupils are affected by the decision.

Mr Charles Martine Odoi, the chairperson of the school management committee, said the decision was reached after the district leaders failed to intervene despite several reminders.

"We arrived at the decision because the school cannot continue operating without a pit-latrine and in cracked structures, which pose a huge risk to the pupils," he said.

Mr Odoi said they would rather close the school for a while as they wait for district intervention than leave the pupils to study under ill structures, which might collapse.

He said the buildings were constructed in the early1990s but since then, there has been no renovation or new structures set up at the school.

Mr Odoi made the remarks during celebrations to mark the Day of African Child that was hosted at the said school on Tuesday.

"The government should listen to our request and allocate funds to rehabilitate the school considering its current population," Mr Odoi said.

The school head teacher, Mr Erizafano Okoth, said the state of the school has greatly affected the school's academic performance and enrolment.

"Initially, the school had an enrollment of more than 1,500 pupils but the enrolment has continued to drop," he said.

"We have written and taken photographs of the cracked building and collapsed pit-latrines but we have not received any feedback from the concerned authorities," he said.

"The district inspectors of schools have come here for inspection and they promise to address the problem but I think after leaving the school compound, they forget that they had visited the school."

The sub-county chairperson, Mr John Owori Otonya, said they support the decision taken by the school management committee.

"The district is aware of the problem and we do not know why its taking long to address the problem as it has done to other schools," he said.

The deputy chief administrative officer, Mr Joel Musisi, however, said the district has never received any communication regarding the status of the institution.

"It's unfortunate that none of local leaders alerted us about the problem," Mr Musisi said.

He said a team has been sent to assess the situation and the district will act basing on the report.

Sironko pupils study in makeshifts

Meanwhile, in Sironko District pupils study in makeshift classrooms.

Joseph Mafabi, 8, walks five kilometres every morning to school in Sironko District with his books in his tiny hands.

Mafabi, a Primary Three pupil of Bumadibira Primary School in Bunywafa Sub-county, says he likes studying and wants to be a successful person like his area Member of Parliament, Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi, in future.

Mr Nandala is also a chairperson of Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU) and secretary general for the Opposition party Forum for Democratic Change.

Mafabi says whenever it rains, instead of going to school, he joins his parents in the garden because no lessons take place at his school since they study in makeshift structures.

Bumadibira Primary School is one of the government-aided schools in the district. It was established 20 years ago but the pupils have been studying in temporal structures made of poles and roofed with iron sheets for almost two decades now.

The school has an enrolment of more than 600 pupils and nine teachers.

Kenneth Walimbwa, 11, another pupil, says: "The classrooms are always dusty and it attracts jiggers. It is one of the biggest problem we face here.We appeal to the government to come and rescue us," he says.

Ms Sylvia Namutosi Norah, a teacher, said whenever it threatens to rain, they are forced to call off the classes. Ms Namutosi says the government constructed two permanent blocks for some classes including Primary One, Six and Seven and abandoned the school yet many of remaining classes still take place in the leaking structures.

"Some times when it rains, you find the classes full of stagnant water, something, which attracts mosquitoes," she says.

Ms Alice Mugoya, a teacher, says they cannot complete the syllabus under that kind of environment.

Ms Alice Alupo, the deputy head teacher of the school, says this has affected the performance.

"The children are always distracted whenever they are in class by passersby. This, among others issues, have contributed to the poor performance of the pupils," he said.

"The authorities always come, sympathise with us, take photos and it ends at that. We have never seen any result and yet children continue to suffer," she said.

Mr Rogers Wandulu, an opinion leader and resident, blamed the district leaders for failure to lobby and allocate money for the construction of classes for decades.

"This school has been in this situation for so many years and no one seems bothered. We also deserve better education and we appeal to the district and government to construct class rooms with urgency," he said.

Authorities respond

Mr Sarapio Wetaka, the chairperson of Bunywafa Sub-county, said they know about the challenges of the school but the budget they have cannot enable them build structures.

Mr Robert Nambadi, the district education officer, said the school has no land and it's why they have delayed to build structures for the school.

"The school has no land and we can't expect us to put a government investment on land which is not secure. We appeal to neighbours of the school to give us some land so that we can build structures there," he said.

He, however, said they are planning to put to allocate funds towards the construction of new permanent structures in in the coming financial year.

But area MP, Mr Nandala, when contacted said he was busy in the meeting and promised to call back but he had not by the press time.

The LCV chairperson, Sironko District, Mr Herbert Mulekwa, when contacted said the school has some permanent structures and that they planning for more.

"We will soon put up more permanent structures because it's already in our budget," he said.

While the government has constructed classroom structures upcountry, the state of some schools is devastating.

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