Until he was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2002, Samuel Obita’s dream was to become a medical doctor to help the disadvantaged. But this changed after that unfortunate episode in his life.
Obita, now 30, was abducted when he was 14, while returning to his home village in Ayila, Lamogi Sub County in Amuru District.
He was from Kochgoma Secondary School in Nwoya District, where he was a Senior One student. “I was riding my bicycle at the time of abduction and that is how I ended up in captivity.”
From July 2002 to February 2003, Obita’s experience in captivity changed him. He started to look at things differently as he observed the level of illiteracy among rebels that resulted in them killing and abducting innocent civilians.
“After I escaped, I made sure that education would be key in what I wanted to do,” he says. “I did not know how to and where to begin.”
On the day Obita escaped, the UPDF had intercepted the rebels. In the crossfire, a bullet caught his left leg but he crawled to a UPDF camp where he was given help.
After undergoing rehabilitation for two and half months in Gulu, Obita got sponsorship from World Vision to continue with school.
In 2006, he completed O-Level and A-Level in 2008. In 2011, he completed the Grade Three teaching certificate course in Loro, Apac District.
Currently, he pursuing a course on early childhood education at East Africa Institute for Management Science in Gulu.
In 2006, during his Senior Four vacation, he got an idea of helping the disadvantaged through education.
“I came up with the idea of starting a community school. I shared the idea with two colleagues. The school we started was from Primary One to Three with more than 150 pupils,” Obita recalls.
This was a starting point. Ayila Primary School now has an enrollment of more than 400 pupils from Primary One to Seven.
Initially, Obita notes, many parents did not value education and this made it hard to finance the initiative. But his colleagues helped in running the school.
“Each child was supposed to pay Shs3,000 but few parents would make the payment. Having been from homes that did not value education, the parents cared less,” notes Obita, who is also the head teacher. But over time, the locals embraced the idea.
“Through a mutual understanding, locals gave nine acres of land, where the school is situated and documentation of ownership has been done.”
Obita says he is proud of introducing education in his village; he feels that his people are on the same page with the rest of the country.
“There is no doubt that my village will be producing lawyers, doctors, engineers and presidents. I know, with time, the ‘education culture’ will grow stronger.”
He adds that when a meeting is called, the community is “number one” in addressing issues at school, which was not the case previously.
“There is ownership and local leaders have also been supportive,” he says.
Obita has attended several training programmes on lobbying and advocacy from Gulu Women’s Economic Development and Globalisation (GWED-G).
In 2011, he was able to get support from Abana ministries, which helped constructed permanent classroom blocks worth Shs500m.
One of the goals that he wants to accomplish is for the government to take over the school. Running a private school in a rural setting has got many challenges.
“But this has since not worked yet. They say that there are still some financial challenges. We hope, in the future, the government will code it for financial support.”
Ben Okwangamoi, the Amuru District Education Officer, reveals that Ayila Primary School met all the necessary criteria for it to be coded by the government last year. But the government has not given the greenlight.
“Ayila school has a permanent structure, with qualified teachers and a required number of pupils. A follow-up should be done so that it is considered in this financial year,” he says.
The financial constraint is a major challenge since the teachers and other staff are only paid during school times and not during the holidays
“Abana ministries sponsors more than 100 pupils, which enables the school pay 13 teachers and four non-teaching staff,” he says adding that inadequate instructional materials has impeded the academic activities.
It has also affected the school performance since many teachers have opted for greener pastures. “We were able to get only four second grades out of 13 pupils, who were our first candidates who sat [PLE] last year.”
Jackson Omona, one of the parents, remarks that the school was an eye-opener in the area.
“We cared less as far as education in concerned, school-going children were instead taken to the farm while others left at home to take care of their siblings.”