Subra Namugga was a normal child without any disabilities until two weeks ago when her whole world came crashing down around her.
The Primary Four pupil at Nabuyonga Primary School in Mbale District lost her right eye after a stick, which a teacher was using to cane another pupil, broke and hit the eye.
According to teachers at the school, their colleague was caning an unruly pupil in the compound under a mango tree as other pupils looked on when the incident happened.
Subra was taken to Benedictine Eye Clinic in Tororo where the damaged eye was removed by Dr Robert Mayeku.
When the Daily Monitor visited Namugga’s home in Nsambya Cell, Doko Ward in Mbale Municipality, she was depressed, withdrawn, and uncommunicative.
Immediately she saw the writer walking into the compound with a camera, she rushed into the house and left her mother, Ms Barbra Namugga, outside.
The single mother said although it was unfortunate that her daughter was going to spend the rest of her life with only one eye, it was an accident that could have happened to anybody.
“I don’t want to speak to anybody, what happened has happened and it was an accident, I don’t know why people keep looking for us here,” the distraught Namugga said.
Ms Namugga’s neighbours alleged that she had been given some money for her daughter’s treatment and compensation by the school authorities and instructed not to speak to the media. The Daily Monitor could verify this claim.
The Nsambya Cell LCI chairperson, Mr Biral Yusuf, could not be reached for a comment as his phone was switched off because he was reportedly attending a meeting.
When the Daily Monitor visited Nabuyonga Primary School, Primary Four pupils identified the child who was being caned when the stick broke and hit Subra’s eye as Sarah Kataike.
Her best friend and desk mate Anna Nabusoba said they have not seen Subra ever since she was taken to Tororo hospital because she reportedly prefers to stay indoors at home.
Mr Robert Watasa, a teacher, said: “The cane he was using broke off and went straight into Namugga’s eye and as teachers we did not expect the eye to die because it was just an accident. We rushed the girl to the hospital and we were referred to Benedictine Eye hospital in Tororo.”
He said this was an accident that could have happened to anybody, adding: “But we were surprised that your paper reported contrary to what took place, we were disappointed.”
The head teacher, Mr John Wangwe, said the matter was being handled by the police and Mbale Municipal Council authorities. He declined to give a comment.
Mr James Kutosi, the municipal council spokesperson, said the issue was being handled by police, adding that it would soon be resolved.
“The teacher was not caning the pupil who lost the eye, this was an accident. The teachers, pupils and head teacher have made statements at police and it is up to police to find out whether there was intent to damage the girl’s eye or not. As for the arrest, we are also following it up and once he is arrested, we shall furnish you with information,” Mr Kutosi said.
Dr Mayeku said the stick caused extensive damage to Subra’s eye which necessitated its removal from the socket.
“We removed the eye, we padded the girl’s socket to stop bleeding for days and discharged her after she responded to treatment well. Total healing of the eye tissues is expected to last six weeks on average,” Dr Mayeku said.
He said psychological healing is expected to take much longer, adding that Subra needs counselling and guidance to accept her situation.
“To help this girl stay out of psychological trauma, after the socket has healed, we intend to provide her with an artificial eye to be fitted, which cost about Shs60,000,” Dr Mayeku said.
Eastern regional police spokesperson Diana Nandawula said they had recorded statements from the head teacher, his deputy Irene Kharono and pupils.
“We have actually not arrested the man, he is on the run but we are closing in. We want to get a statement from him about the incident even when the statements are saying it was an accident because he was caning another pupil,” Ms Nandawula said.
She said Subra’s parents also seem to have lost interest in the case since they have reportedly failed to appear at police to record statements.
“We are also stuck with the case but we are going to look for the teacher, he records a statement and we find out whether there was any criminality. But all I know is that the teacher was caning a different pupil and then the stick broke and hit this girl’s eye,” Ms Nandawula said.