Ann Florence Nakabuye handles only visually impaired pupils from Primary One to Primary Seven in English, Mathematics and Science. She was born blind and as such after her birth doctors held onto her and her mother in hospital for two months to examine her extensively.
“My mother told me that doctors monitored me thinking I would get better within a few days in vain, until they decided to discharge us, but advised my mother to keep taking me to hospital for further monitoring,” she says.
At the age of five, Nakabuye says she learnt that she was blind when her siblings at home used to ridicule her and also put her in trouble especially making her walk in very difficult places.
But before five, she thought the people she was living with were also experiencing the same condition until her mother told her she was different from others and that her condition is permanent.
“When doctors told my parents that I will never see, my father denounced us and sent my mother away from home, saying their clan does not bring forth blind children,” she narrates.
But the revelation from her mother, shocked her so much. “I started crying all the time yet I used to do everything for myself since the day I started crawling to five years. After learning about my condition, I was no longer happy like I used to be,” she recalls.
Having been chased by her husband, Nakabuye’s mother moved with her to Nakulabye, a Kampala city suburb to stay with her grandmother Florence Namugabo.
While in Nakulabye, a one Samuel Sserugo who was also blind and had blind children advised Nakabuye’s grandmother to enroll her in a nursery school called Mandela Primary School in 1985.
While at school, Nakabuye says she got courage to study. “I was inspired by a number of blind pupils who had different talents including singing inspirational songs, dancing, reciting poems, among others,” she says.
She scored Aggregate 13 in Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) at St. Francis School for the Blind –Soroti and later joined secondary school at the same school where she scored Aggregate 35 in Uganda Certificate of Education exams.
Between 1998 and 2000 Nakabuye was at Bishop Willy’s Core Primary Teacher’s College (PTC) in Iganga where she graduated as a Grade II teacher.
In 2001, Nakabuye joined Misanvu Demonstration School in Bukomansimbi District. While teaching at Misanvu Demonstration School, she enrolled at Kyambogo University in 2006 to pursue a Diploma in Special Needs Education and later a bachelor’s degree in the same discipline.
Nakabuye narrates how her life started out miserably while at Misanvu Demonstration School as none of her fellow staff members was her friend.
“My fellow teachers wondered how I would manage to teach the visually impaired children when I am blind too and no one welcomed or associated with me at all,” she adds. But she decided to stick to her work and prove them wrong.
She narrates that for six months, no one wanted to interact with her, they disrespected her but she also decided to ignore them and did everything herself.
“After realising that they were not ready to work with a blind person, I tried as much as possible to teach myself the geography of the school and in a couple of weeks would walk around freely without running into walls, trees or flower beds,” she says. “The teachers were also surprised to see me bathing and doing house chores without any help thanks to the training my mother had given while growing up.”
“I asked one of the people who posted me to this school to buy me only white clothes to prove to them that I could wash for myself, cook, clean my compound and teach,” she added.
She recalls how she had to bear people gossiping about her unaware that she was blind and not deaf and was listening in to their conservations.
Despite overcoming these challenges, Nakabuye says reading exams set by Uganda National Examinations Board is still a thorn in her flesh because she needs someone to read to her the question papers in order for her to translate them into the language blind pupils understand.
Currently, the school has a total of 27 pupils with disabilities, but Nakabuye says there are only three teachers who handle them yet according to the law, each teacher is supposed to teach only three pupils. “We find ourselves handling 10 pupils each and this takes us a lot of time because these pupils are slow learners and need a lot of time,” she adds.
Nakabuye says the instructional materials they use to teach pupils are very expensive yet they do not have funders to offer help.
“The pencil slates and stylus cost Shs45, 000, a pen costs Shs3m, each piece of paper costs them Shs3,500; which are all very expensive yet most of the pupils we receive are from poor families,” she adds.
Beyond misery, they have a burden of parents who do not want to pay school fees for their children. “Every pupil pays Shs250,000 per term, but most of the parents end up not paying a single coin, abandon the children at school and wait until the term closes for them to go back home,” she says adding that some parents give their children to boda boda cyclists and they expect us to foot the transport costs.
Nakabuye, advises parents not to abandon their children because they are physically impaired.
Nakabuye says she is lucky none of her learners has ever failed Primary Leaving Examinations. “My Primary Seven pupils normally pass. I am grateful that they make it despite the hurdles we go through,” she says.
She attributes her success story to religious leaders including Cardinal Emeritus Nsubuga, Bishop Serverus Jjumba, and Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa, among others.
“They have been there for me. Whenever I attend functions they are presiding over, they usually give me a platform to speak to the public about how they should take care of children with disabilities,” she says.
She is also proud of herself because she is a member of many church choirs in different parishes including Bukomansimbi, Nakulabye.
She joined Radio Maria as the Programmes officer for People with Disabilities, and she formerly worked as the district assistant for the blind in Masaka.
Currently, she is a member of the National Council for Disabilities representing central region.
She also serves at the Bible Society representing Persons with Disabilities where they are trying to see that the church can publish bibles written in the language of the blind.
Nakabuye is proud that she managed to go to school and acquired education despite the very many challenges she underwent.