Former students of Bukedi College Kachonga in collaboration with government have launched several programmes to revive the school that has seen enrolment drop by more than 2,800 students.
Established in 1958, Kachonga, one of the traditional schools in the country, has seen its student numbers drop from 3,000 in 1999 to a paltry 150 students currently.
Mr Paul Walekwa, the Chairperson of Bukedi College Old students Association (Bucosa), who described the situation as regrettable, says the sorry state has forced them to intervene.
“We started with rehabilitating some of the buildings which are in a sorry state, and we have also introduced scholarship for best and needy students in order to motivate them and attract more students,” Mr Walekwa says, adding that the association has so far renovated two dilapidated dormitories and has also introduced another programme to motivate the teachers.
Mr Walekwa says they have also engaged the ministry of Education and Sports to transfer teachers who have overstayed at the school as a way of improving performance.
“Many steps are being taken to make sure we bring back our once dearest school to life. We are putting a lot of emphasis on study materials to help students perform better,” he adds.
The 60-year-old school was set up by the District Council of Bukedi that today comprises Pallisa, Budaka, Butaleja, Tororo, Butebo and Busia districts. The idea was to create a centre of excellence easily accessible to the region, train future leaders, and also foster a spirit of unity without religious or ethnic bias.
The Under Secretary Education Service Commission, Mr Emmanuel Olaunah, says there is need to attract more students to the school.
Mr Olaunah, who praised the old boys for their efforts in restoring the lost glory of one of formerly excellent secondary schools in the region, says the government has started working on transferring teachers and also rehabilitating some of the school structures.
“Government is going to earmark some money to rehabilitate some of the structures, especially teachers’ houses. We need to make sure our school shines again,” he says.
He also says there is need to improve the discipline of the teachers.
The school’s deputy head teacher, Mr Martin Ochan, says the school is currently steeped in debts.
“The school cannot sustain itself at the moment as it has debts and it’s increasing every month,” Mr Ochan, says.
“Suppliers of food, National Water and Sewerage Cooperation, and UMEME are demanding a lot of money from the school, but we can’t pay,” he says, calling on the government to step in.
He says the school needs more 14 teachers and six non-teaching staff for performance to improve.
“We also have a big gap of teachers. The Ministry of Education and Sports transferred seven teachers some time back and has not replaced them,” Mr Ochan says.
Community failing school
Mr Fredrick Patrick Guloba, a teacher at the school, accuses community members of failing the school. He says with the efforts of the old students, the government, teachers and parents, the school will be revived.
Dr Jaffer Balyejjusa, a senior consultant surgeon, who is also a former student, says the school has a good history.
“We just need everybody on board and we bring back the school. We can’t allow our giant to die like that,” Dr Balyejjusa says.
Mr Nicholas Kolyangha, a former head teacher in 1962, blames parents’ negative attitudes towards the school.
“We need to find why the school has poor enrollment of students today,” he says.
Mr Kolyangha, who led a group of former teachers of the school from UK, says the school has produced a number of professionals.