Thursday May 29 2014

Abandoned HIV girl goes back to school

By Martin Odong, Patience Ahimbisibwe & Brenda Banura


On April 8, the Daily Monitor children’s magazine Rainbow reported a 12-year-old girl who dropped out of school after her father learnt about her HIV status and stopped paying her school fees.

The good news is; Harriet* is now back to where children of her age belong, school.
This has been made possible by the kindness of the Daily Monitor readers and journalists at this newspaper.

Touched by the sad tale, Monitor journalists quickly raised Shs1.5 million to cater for her immediate needs. Mr Richard Ruyonga, a reader and a supervisor at Equator Touring Services, also visited her family with food stuffs and medication worth Shs300,000. He has offered to help them regularly.

Other readers expressed interest in supporting her education while others donated clothes and scholastic materials. These were delivered when the Monitor team went to visit her in Gulu District recently. After a long bumpy ride, the team arrived on April 18. They visited Harriet’s family and inspected her former school.

Good school
It turned out her school was good; the structure, the school administration and performance in national examinations. Pinned near the head teachers’ desk are Primary Leaving Examination results from 1954 showing progressive improvement over the years. For instance, out of the 64 candidates who sat last year, 60 were in Division One and Two, three in Division Three and one in Division Four.

The school is located near two health centres, and a walkable distance from home. Affordable too is the school fees. Daily Monitor reporters have established that there are other children with Harriet’s condition in the same school.

The head teacher said they hold HIV/Aids talks every Friday in groups of 20 under the guidance of a teacher who sensitises all pupils about the disease. “The biggest challenge is that parents don’t tell me. But for those who have been open and have children who are already on ARVs, we make arrangements and I keep them in my office and every time they want to take [their medicine], they come and pick them. I ensure they follow the prescription. We also allow those children to go to hospital for their routine check-up,” said the head teacher.

When Harriet saw the Monitor branded car on the Friday evening, she was excited.
In torn clothes and without sandals, she ran to hug each one of us smiling shyly. Her hardships have not taken a toll on the innocence on her face. She looks healthy despite her slim frame. It is her mother, unfortunately, who has tuberculosis that looks weak and frail.

The visitors delivered clothes, scholastic materials, rice, millet and maize flour, sugar, soap and salt, a relief from salty water mixture they have had to drink on bad days, a regular in their life.

Harriet could not thank the visitors enough and Monitor readers for their kindness.
With Harriet back at school and three months’ rent cleared, their immediate problem is food since her mother is too frail to take on casual jobs like she used to. They need a sustainable way to help the family out of their adversity.

For now, Harriet is excitedly to return to her long journey towards becoming a doctor, her dream career.

*Her name has not been revealed to protect her identity and so has the name of her school and its head teacher.