Mukono school on the spot over student torture

Friday February 07 2020
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Effect. Moses Opendi shows torture marks in his back and legs. COURTESY PHOTOS

A parent whose son was last year allegedly tortured at Our Lady of Africa SS, Namilyango, in Mukono District has accused the school of negligence, arrogance and intimidating the student to abandon the matter.
Mr Pokomol Oketcho, the father of Moses Opendi, a Senior One student, alleges that his son was tortured by a school warden.
He said they did not know about the boy’s predicament until the end of second term when they went to pick him up from school for holidays. Mr Oketcho said after the torture, the school administration hid the warden and claimed that he had escaped and was on the run.

Government banned corporal punishment in schools in 1997.
“The brutal act and the psychological torture the boy went through traumatised him to the extent that he could not reveal it to the mother when he was being picked up from school for holidays on August 14, 2019 until he reached home,” Mr Oketcho said.

How it happened
He revealed that the torture happened on July 19, 2019 when his son was attending morning prep. Mr Oketcho said the son revealed that the warden for the boys’ hostel entered the classroom and called him to front of the class, placed him between desks and started caning him for alleged bedwetting and failing to spread out his beddings to dry.
According to Mr Oketcho, the warden caned Opendi until the boy lost count of the number of strokes unleashed on him. He said the warden then started asking Opendi to guess why he was being caned but when the boy attempted a reply, he was subjected to further beating.

Mr Oketcho said after the warden had carried out the torture, he ordered the boy to run towards the dormitory as he followed him until the former showed him his beddings.
The father said then the warden discovered he had beaten a wrong person and apologised to the boy and told him go to bathe and run back to the classroom.
Mr Oketcho added that other students took Opendi to Mr Robert Kizito, the deputy head teacher, to report the matter.
He said Mr Kizito did not help the boy and that another person, who found him outside the deputy head teacher’s office, took him to the school sickbay at around 8am.

“The warden followed the boy to the sickbay, picked him up and took him to his house where the boy stayed in isolation for two days. All this was being done with full knowledge of Mr Kizito, the deputy,” Mr Oketcho said.
He wondered how the school administration allowed the warden to torture a student with impunity and later hide him away.
“Why did he keep my child in his house after the torture for two days? Why should a warden share a room with a student? How can the school allow a student who has been tortured to sleep in the warden’s room instead of the sickbay? While they were two in his room, what did this warden do to my son while he was asleep?” Mr Oketcho questioned.

He added that a case was reported to Mukono Police Station and registered under SD REF: 46/14/08/19.
He said upon advice from the police surgeon, he took Opendi to a private skin specialist who confirmed that his son had been tortured.
According to the medical report by the skin specialist at Ultra Care Medical Services in Najjera, Kira Municipality, which Daily Monitor has seen, Opendi suffered post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and post-trauma occasioned by assault using canes and pigmentation incontinence.
However, Mr Oketcho said to date no action has been taken on the offenders apart from police merely recording statements from him and his son.


Police respond
Police confirmed the incident and said investigations are ongoing. Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, the Kampala Metropolitan Police (KPM) deputy spokesperson, urged the complainant to go to Mukono Police Station to provide more information to aid investigations. He further said police have engaged the Flying Squad to track and arrest the suspects.
“We opt to introduce the Flying Squad in the operation to have them arrested and taken to court since they were summoned and failed to come and give details of what transpired,” he said.

Seeking answers
Mr Oketcho wondered why the school administration kept quiet after his son was tortured by the warden and yet they have the contacts to call him.
“Sometime back, the school sent us messages that the Ministry of Education wanted details of parents of the boy. I personally delivered a copy of my National ID plus my telephone contacts, which information the school has been using to send reminders on fees balance and other issues. Why didn’t the school inform us about this incident? Why did the teachers and school authority threaten this child not to call us, the parents?” he charged.

The deputy head teacher refused to respond to our inquiry on how the boy was tortured. He told Daily Monitor to call the school lawyer. He said he had nothing to do with accusations.
“Those accusations of torture, call the lawyer. He is the one who knows better. I have nothing to do with those cases,” Mr Kizito said and hang up.
He also declined to share details of the lawyer. Mr Vincent Matovu, the school director, could not be reached for a comment as his cellular phone number was switched off.

Recent cases
March 26, 2019. A teacher in Mbale District in eastern Uganda fled following the death of a student she allegedly caned for failing to do her assignment. Denis Wadeba, 18, a Senior Three student of Nyondo Secondary School in Nyondo Sub-county, died at St Theresa Nyondo Health Centre III where he had been rushed by fellow students for medical attention.
2018. A video of a man torturing a child at Marto Nursery School in Kamwokya, Kampala, went viral. The boy had lost his way and ended up at Mulago School For the Deaf. After police officers brought him to school, his teacher beat him up before the parent inflicted more pain on him.

A report released by the commissioner for the Directorate of Education Standards (DES) in November last year revealed the existence of corporal punishment in most schools in the country. The practice was most rampant in schools in eastern and northern Uganda. “We found several sticks in the office of the head teacher at Millenium Universal College in Tororo and this means that student cannot go to consult him in his office for fear of being beaten. Some schools are severally beating their students and causing injuries on their bodies,” Mr Kule Benson, the commissioner of Secondary Inspection, said while releasing the report.

In 2016, the Education Local Expertise Centre Uganda (ELECU), was retained by the Global Health Uganda to implement a one-year project to lead efforts of promoting processes of fostering prevention of violence against children in schools. The report highlighted the current status of violence against children, good practices for prevention and how available government policies can further be strengthened to offer results.
The report indicated that even with the ban on corporal punishment by the ministry of Education, caning remains a common practice perpetrated by parents, peers, teachers and other school staff, relatives and other adults along the way from school to home.