Clergy, locals fight over ownership of schools 

Wednesday October 13 2021
reg04pix

From left to right: Col Edith Nakalema, Archbishop John Baptist Odama, and Bishop Alfred Olwa of Lango Diocese, during a mediation meeting at Gulu Archdiocese headquarters. PHOTO / TOBBIAS JOLLY OWINY

By Tobbias Jolly Owiny

A protracted wrangle between the Catholic and Anglican Churches over the ownership of school foundation bodies in northern region has hampered the quality of education, officials have said.

According to the Ministry of Education, ownership of at least 70 schools in both Lango and Acholi sub-regions have been under contestation for the past 20 years.

Daily Monitor established that ownership has occasionally been changed, sparking such conflicts. 

Mr Cleophus Mugenyi, the director of Basic and Secondary Education, said government has in the past dispatched several teams to the districts to solve the matters in vain.

“We commit to resolve all these issues latest before schools reopen to avoid inconveniences. We also failed to properly do our part as a ministry, there were gaps to do with information sharing,” he said.    

In Oyam and Lamwo districts, the cases of conflict are 30 and 28, respectively.

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Last week, a team from the State House Anti-Corruption Unit headed by Col Edith Nakalema, was in Gulu City to meet religious leaders and accounting officers over the wrangle.

The team had been sent by President Museveni to discuss ways of solving the impasse.

The meeting was attended by Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, Bishop Santus Linus Wanok (Lira Diocese), Bishop Johnson Gakumba (Northern Uganda Diocese), Bishop Wilson Kitara (Kitgum Diocese).

Others were Bishop Alfred Olwa (Lango Diocese) and Bishop Julius Caesar Nina (West Lango Diocese), chief administrative officers (CAOs) and district education officers (DEOs) across the two sub-regions.

Throughout the meeting, the clergy accused technical officers and civil servants for making wrong pronouncements on ownerships.

Bishop Alfred Olwa of Lango Diocese accused civil servants of being a stumbling block as churches try to seek ways of ensuring harmony. 

“You cannot have a DEO or a CAO in the district who dictates to us the foundation body (Church) matters or information that are biased and not researched. This leaves a lot of gaps that the government needs to urgently address,” Bishop Olwa said.

His statement was backed by Lira Diocese Bishop Linus Santus Wanok, who insisted that the confusion was fuelled by technical officials.

“There is currently a lot of confusion. The civil servants are always on transfer and sometimes they mess up the system and processes and leave the community and the Church in a mess. 

Bishop Julius Caesar Nina of West Lango Diocese said 30 schools in the diocese were affected.
West Lango Diocese covers Oyam, Apac, Kole, and Kwania districts.

“While visiting some of our schools during the lockdown recently, I discovered that in Oyam District, a third of our land had been leased under Freehold ownership in the name of Oyam District Local Government,” Bishop Nina said.

Primary schools that include Lagwe, Pukony and Potika are being claimed by the Catholics, Anglicans and the community.

Education officers say
Mr Barnabas Langoya, the district education officer, said their challenge started in 2013 during the formation of school management committees across the district.

In the Agago, of 111 public primary schools, the ownership of three schools Arumodwong, Amyel, Olyelowidyel are being contested, Mr Stephen Gunya, CAO of Agago District said.

Mr Fred Owot, the Kitgum District education officer, said the ownership of Lyelokwa, Lakwo, Lapana, Lagot and Lakongera primary schools is currently being contested. 
The neighbouring Pader District has recorded 12 disputed schools since 2015.

These include Aringa, Ogwil, Rackoko, Bolo, Pader-aluka, Porogali, Latigi, Oguta, Agora, and Painyang primary schools.  

“The most severe case was at Aringa Primary School where the tension forced the school to suspend learning for fear of risks imposed on children,” Mr Chelimo said.

He added that some head teachers were responsible for the mess. 
 “Original documents showed that the school was founded by Catholic Church in 1967 but further records indicate that Mr Peter Obwona, the head teacher, in 1997 changed the foundation ownership of the school to Church of Uganda and the founding year instead to 1983.”
 
Investigations

Meanwhile, the State House Anti-corruption Unit has commenced investigations into the suspicious role of civil servants into the wrangles.

Col Nakalema said head teachers, district education officers and chief administrative officers were the primary cause of the disputes.

“To the DEOs, CAOs and headteachers, we have launched a prosecution-led investigation about you and your interest in these schools. You can’t serve in a public office and get the religious leaders to lament about you (to be the cause of the problems),” she said.

Col Nakalema said the culprits would face prosecution.

“Civil servants have not done what they are supposed to do, that is why there are so many complaints and conflicts in the region here in regards to schools, those implicated, we shall take you to court and charge you with negligence of duty or mismanagement of public resources,” she said.
 
Col Nakalema asked the Education ministry to produce a report about all the schools currently embroiled in the conflicts in five weeks.

She said: “We have a lot of laxity among the Ministry of Education officials, and the technical staff where they have been doing school census but keep altering information about these schools deliberately.”

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