On Monday April 11, Judith Ntegyerize left home at about 7.30am and walked to school as she usually did. This day was unfortunately unlike any other. Minutes later, she was shot dead right in the school compound. Ntegyerize 16, a senior three student at Bubaare Secondary school in Kabale district is a victim of a school strike and a stray bullet.
Earlier on, school had decreed a new seating arrangement that would have the girls seated separately from the boys during early morning and night preps. The students got angry and argued that the school is mixed so separating them would be similar to creating two schools in one.
Mr Jimmy Twinomugisha, the headmaster, told the police that the students first refused to eat dinner the night before, after the resolution was announced. In the morning, the strike continued with the students attempting to destroy school property. It was then that the police were called in to quell it. During that commotion, guns were fired and a stray bullet hit Ntegyerize.
“The police that had been deployed at the school shot in the air to disperse students. Unfortunately, a stray bullet hit Ntegyerize,” South-western Regional police spokesperson Victor Nahabwe said. She was shot in the head and died on the spot. The body was then taken to Kabale Regional Referral hospital mortuary and finally transported home by the police car.
Nahabwe said that two policemen have been arrested over the shooting incident, while the school has been temporarily closed. But this is no consolation to the family of the deceased. According to Peter Kamanya, 39, father to the deceased, Ntegyerize had joined Bubaare Secondary School in 2009. The family lives in Ihanga Trading Centre and Ntegyerize usually walked about three kilometres from her home to the school every morning. And then on what seemed like a normal day, her life was abruptly cut short.
“It shouldn’t be Judith Ntegyerize dying in a school strike she was not part of. She had just entered the school gate when the rest of us were throwing stones and shouting then in a blink of an eye she was dead after being shot by the police officer who had been brought to quell the strike. She will go to heaven because she was innocent,” one of the students said, preferring not to be mentioned because of fear of being victimised. “My daughter has been well disciplined, I had lots of hope in her because she was taking sciences and doing very well in class. She has been among the best 10 academicians in her class every term. Her dream was to become a medical doctor,” Kamanya said.
Overcome by grief, Ntegyerize’s mother wept the whole time and could hardly talk. Schoolmates described Ntegyerize as a well-behaved student who has been helping them in group discussions. She was always reading her books and liked playing netball.
Kamanya now says that the government must compensate him for the loss of his daughter who died in a government institution after being killed by a government employee. “The government must compensate my family for the loss of our dear one. Although the compensation shall not replace my deceased daughter, it is necessary because I had hopes that after completing her studies she would also help in funding fees for her young brothers and sisters. I will be glad if the police officer who killed my innocent girl faces a severe punishment,” Kamanya said.
Relatives and friends who gathered at the deceased’s home wondered why the police didn’t use rubber bullets or tear gas to disperse the striking students. They also demanded that the school incur all the burial expenses. Burial took place at her home on April 14. “We have always heard that police use tear gas in Kampala as they disperse demonstrations of opposition leaders. Why did they opt to use live bullets while dispersing striking students? The government is to blame for the shooting of this student,” Karore Nyakyana the grand father the deceased said.
Ntegyerize was the first born in the family. She leaves behind her siblings, four boys and one girl. Loosely translated, Ntegyerize means, “waiting on the Lord”. One hopes that the family and close friends of Ntegyerize will do that and find consolation and comfort.