9-year-old pupil found dead after being detained at school over fees balance

The child died by suicide on November 25. Photo/Isa Aliga

What you need to know:

  • Not happy: "I want those people [school administrators] to explain how my son died. Is Shs100,000 fees balance worth the life of my son?”  Ms Sarah Natukunda, Onzima’s mother.

When a nine year old Primary Three pupil of Coloh Children Foundation School in Kyazanga Town Council, Lwengo District completed his end of term promotion examinations, which he passed with high grades, he was ecstatic, and looked forward to a comforting holiday ahead. 

That, however, did not happen! 

The school closed for holidays on November 24, and the nine-year-old was blocked from leaving the school premises after it turned out that his parents had not cleared all the school dues. 

Pupils pay Shs350,000 per term and the child's parents had not paid Shs100,000, according to relatives. 

After his schoolmates left for holidays, the child stayed behind with two other defaulters, a girl and a boy. 

But when the boy was released, the child was left alone in the dormitory, which made him feel dejected.

On November 25, his body was found hanging from a rope tied to one of the triple decker metallic beds in the dormitory.

The acting Southern Regional police spokesman, Mr Jamada Wandera, said preliminary investigations revealed that the child committed suicide “as a result of frustration caused by the school administration”. 

“(Name Withheld becuase he was a minor) is one of the three pupils who did not complete school fees and the school director instructed the head teacher to detain them until their parents clear the balance,” Mr Wandera said. 

He added that when the late child’s sister went to pick him up from the school on November 24, Mr Kagenda stopped her, insisting that the family had to first clear the fees.

“[The child] remained in the boy’s dormitory together with another boy while the other girl was sleeping in the girls’ dormitory alone. On November 25, when another boy was picked up by his parents, the child remained alone in the dormitory,” Wandera said. 

“At around midday [November 25], the girl was instructed by the cook, only identified as Robert, to take food to the child in the dormitory, but she found him dead,” he said.

While the school management was slow to break the news, it reported the matter to police. 

Ms Pamela Kahuma, a police officer attached to Mbirizi Police Station who led detectives to the scene, said:  “The body was examined and found with signs of suicide including the tongue out and faeces on his body.” 

Mr Wandera said three school administrators have been arrested to help police with investigations. They include the school director, Mr Chris Matovu; Mr Julius Ssekatawa, the head teacher; and Muzafaru Kagenda (bursar). 

“We are going to charge the trio with unlawful confinement leading to the death of a pupil. Their file is almost complete and they will be arraigned in court later this week,” he said. 

He cautioned school head teachers and directors of private schools to desist from acts of confining learners over school fees, saying schools are not gazetted confinement places.

Mr Sulaiman Ssekabitto, who lives close to the school, said they were denied access to the school premises after information circulated that a child had committed suicide.  

Ms Sarah Natukunda, child’s mother, said: “I want those people [school administrators] to explain how my son died. Is Shs100,000 fees balance worth the life of my son?”  

She added that she has been raising her children alone following the death of her husband.

Compiled by Gertrude Mutyaba, Isa Aliga & Joseph Kiggundu