When pupils share class with sheep

The government-aided school in the oil-rich Hoima District has only two structures which are falling apart.

Friday July 25 2014

 Primary Five pupils waiting for their teacher as sheep occupy another

Primary Five pupils waiting for their teacher as sheep occupy another classroom. The classrooms are separated by poles. Photo by Francis Mugerwa 

By Francis Mugerwa

Hoima- It is a windy and sunny afternoon. Classes are ongoing at Kyehoro Primary School, one of the public schools in Hoima District. The government-aided school with an enrolment of 272 pupils, is located in Kabwooya Sub-county, about 92km from Hoima Town.

The school which is in Nkondo parish in the Albertine grabben, is in the same village where oil explorers have discovered the Ngassa-1 Oil Well.
Teaching and learning sessions in the P5 and P6 classes are under an iron-roofed shade that is built with poles.

The teachers reveal that the sorry structure was built by parents. The floor in the classes is bare and dusty. But inside the classes, are also goats and sheep.

While others are standing, other domestic animals are lying on the floor of the classes. The school’s Parents Teachers Association (PTA) chairman, Mr Isaac Oryema, who had turned up at the school for routine supervision, told this newspaper that, pupils sharing classes with domestic animals is not strange in the area.

“The animals are from the communities where these pupils come from,” he explains.
The community in the village is largely comprised of fishermen and subsistence farmers who live on the shores of Lake Albert and neighbour the Kabwooya-Kaiso-Tonya Game Reserve.

The livestock farmers use a free-range grazing system where animals roam freely in communal grazing grassland. The school is not fenced and part of the school land is used by the community for grazing. Consequently, the animals stray into the school premises and often enter classrooms.

The stray animals are a challenge to the health and environment at the school. They drop dung in the premises and classes. They destroy trees but parents and pupils seem comfortable with co-existing with animals at school.

The school head teacher, Mr Robert Kugonza, said the school lacks adequate funds to fence off the school or maintain the compound. “Yes, these structures are in a sorry state however, we have accordingly notified district authorities,” Mr Kugonza said.

He said parents are reluctant to contribute any funds to the government-aided school. Kyehoro Primary School implements the Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme.

The school was started by the community in 1996 and basing on requests from the community it was taken over by government in 2004.

The roaming goats and sheep eat grass in the school’s compound which the authorities fail to regularly slash apparently due to inadequate funds which the school receives.

An investigation by this newspaper reveals that domestic animals are not the only challenge at the school. It lacks any permanent structure. It has a shade that accommodates P6 and P5 classes. The P7 class which is in a mud and wattle house is also used by the head teacher as his office.

Children in P1, P2 and P3 classes study in a wooden- structure, painted green. It is, however, iron-roofed but the floor of mud.

Mr Kugonza says each quarter, the school receives an average of Shs1 million as UPE grant which is spent on instruction materials, co-curricular activities and administration expenses.

Ironically, despite the sorry state of the school, statistics availed by the Hoima District education office reveals that it is one of the relatively good performing schools in the district.

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