Nodding disease takes toll on Kitgum school

Concentration during lessons has dropped due to disease effects on learners’ mental abilities, most of which keep getting seizures and nodding.

Saturday February 25 2012

By Stephen Komakech


Academic performance among pupils in many primary schools in Kitgum District could drop further as nodding disease continues to rage on mainly along Aswa River belt.

In Okidi Primary School, the condition has taken its toll as the majority of the learners are infected with the syndrome making learning difficult for them.

The Acting Head Teacher, Ms Paska Atto, said up to 224 pupils dropped out of the school after being weighed down by the mysterious disease since its inception in in 2009. She said the school also registered seven deaths from the syndrome, a situation that is forcing many parents to react by transferring their children to urban schools where the syndrome has not been reported.

“At the moment, we have 215 pupils out of the 365 enrolled in the school. They are struggling to learn with the disease, thwarting their learning processes by continuous nodding and constant seizures even during lesions,” she said, adding that the pupils are evidently disinterested in learning.

Ms Atto said it’s a normal scenario to see every after one hour, a pupil convulsing, keeping the other children in distressful mood thinking that they could be next.

Ms Christine Auma, a mother of five, said four of her children who were by last year studying in Okidi Primary School are now unable to go to school due to the intensity of the disease on them, adding that one of them who used to be vocal and intelligent suddenly turned dumb last month as a result of the disease.

Ms Auma ties her children to pillars as she goes for farming or commercial work away from home for fear that they may wander into the bush and get burnt by the rampant dry season bush fires.

Nodding decease presents itself inform of nodding of the head especially on seeing food, mental and physical retardation, involuntary defecation, urination and endless flow of saliva.

No headway
Despite several attempts to investigate the cause and mode of the disease’s transmission by the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation and Centers for Disease Control, no head way has since been made.

The current official cumulative figure in Kitgum District alone stands at about 1,500 with case fatality rate of 3.7 per cent. At least 3,000 children are affected by the disease in Acholi sub-region and 200 have since died of nodding in the three districts of Pader, Kitgum and Lamwo.

The Health ministry has already established three centres each of the affected districts to help screen and treat the disease with epilepsy drugs as research continues into the mysterious ailment.