Katakwi: Akurao primary school, where pupils learn under trees

If 2y+4 = 14, find the value of x. This  is a mathematical challenge that class six students of Akurao primary school in Toroma sub-county, Katakwi district were required to solve.

A mathematical challenge that easily resonates with their current situation, but in their case, x is known.

All the school’s lower classes, from class one to four, are undertaken under the four main trees in the compound, and as the sun moves, so do they.

If education is the key to success and schools are the places where one is supposed to gain the initial knowledge from, then where is ‘y’, in this case, the basic infrastructure.

That’s how complicated life is for the hundreds of Akurao primary school pupils and their teachers who are not spared either since the administration block, staff room and head teacher’s office are all under a tree; the fourth one with enough shade, within the sprawling compound.

The last year’s deadly wind blew off classroom’s roofs.

It is their teachers who have been trying to heal their wounded esteem but the pupils who spoke to TND News know the truth it is their right to learn in a conducive environment.

During the visit to the school on Monday, a crowd of people were seen hurrying to fetch water from the school borehole as school children ‘smartly’ made their way to school.

Among them was 13 year old Salume Engarai, who declared to anyone who cared to listen: “I wants to be a nurse so that I can take care of sick people in Akurao.”

Her friend, Brenda Asege, hoped to be a police officer “so that she can be wearing uniform and people will respect her”.

Whatever joy you may have felt about the zeal for education on the part of these youngsters, however, would quickly turn to dismay at the first glimpse of their school.

It is sad to see Salume Engarai, Brenda Asege and other pupils making their way to receive lessons under different trees, which served as their classrooms.

Wooden planks supported by cement blocks served as their desks and chairs, surrounded by the ruins of what were once functional classrooms. 

Overall, it was a dismal picture of a grossly unfit learning environment in the 21st century.

No thanks to 28, December, 2018 violent storm that blow off the school classrooms leaving iron sheets and timber damaged beyond repair.

Christine Amongin, a primary four teacher told TND News that they experienced the strong winds after short rains on the fateful day.

“It occurred at around 8pm. We were lucky the pupils were in for holidays, no one was injured,” Amongin said in an interview in his office.

According to her, at least 400 pupils, both in lower and upper primary have been forced to take their lessons under the available trees.

“Look at the classes over there,” Charles Ebicu who is a class teacher P.5 said, pointing at one of the blown off classrooms.

“They were renovated by the school PTA. That is where we have P.5 P.6 and primary seven pupils,” he said.

He said it is hard to carry on with normal teaching in classrooms without roofs.

He also said lessons were being held in the roofless classrooms in the morning and that the learning sessions had to be conducted under trees in the afternoon, adding that sometimes, they are forced to stop teaching whenever winds start blowing.

Pupils taught under tree shade.

Gabriel Ongede, a P.3 pupil and Nicolas Opio, P.5, among other affected pupils who are learning under trees said they are exposed to risk since the area is windy and dusty.

According to them, they cannot concentrate fully because the sun is very hot and people are passing through the school, always.

“This is what we deal with almost every day when we come to school. How are we going to concentrate on our studies if we can hear loud music coming from houses and people are passing here all the time?,” said the pupils, in unison.

John Francis Omonuk, the school head teacher said on the 27th of December 2018, he reported the damage to the office of the district education officer.

“On the 28 of December the department was here to check the damage. They suggested the roof be put on again, but they never came back. Again last month, we went to the department of education offices in the district, and again they promised to assist. But we are not sure if they are going to deliver as they promised or not,” he added.

Mr. Omonuk said the school wanted the department to provide temporary classes, demolish and rebuild the school.

“We don’t think the school was built properly. As you can see, the bricks are falling one by one, some of these classes are leaking, and there are cracks between bricks,” he said.

Simon Peter Opolot, a parent who brought his children to the school, also bemoaned the lack of government’s assistance. “We are at a crossroad in this village.”

“If our community was not ravaged by the Karamojong cattle rustlers, we would have done something tangible in this school,” he recalled.

He said ironically, Akuao primary school is located less than seven kilometers from the headquarters of the Katakwi district local government, and therefore not far from the view of government.

Meanwhile, Katakwi district Education Officer, Angela Atim said the department knew of the Akurao school situation.

She said quotations have been received for renovation of classrooms and have been sent to the office of the education and sports minister, prime minister and minister for disaster preparedness offices for redress.

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