Govt closes school with two pupils, learners relocate to Kenya

Some residents of Alupe village walk through the deserted compound of Alupe Primary School following its closure due to low enrolment. PHOTO/DAVID AWORI

What you need to know:

  • The chairperson of the School Management Committee, Mr John Okumu, said he is “disappointed” by the school’s closure.

Several parents in Alupe village in Busia municipality and its neighborhood have enrolled their children in other schools across the border in Kenya after Alupe Primary School, the only government-aided institution in the area, was closed due to low enrolment.

The school, located in Buteba sub-county, was closed by Busia District authorities led by the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Mr Felix Majeeme and Ms Harriet Mwesigwa, the Senior District Education Officer (DEO).

The school headmistress, Ms Philippine Adengero, said the decision to close the school was made after both district authorities, while on a routine supervision of schools, only found two pupils.

“The CAO and DEO were here and only found two pupils, five teachers and as a result, they ordered for the immediate closure of the school,” Ms Adengero said.

She said the school closure was due to low enrolment after Wagagai Gold Mining Company, a Chinese-owned firm, compensated majority of the families who were the catchment area to the school and they relocated.

“The Chinese company acquired the surface rights to mine and process gold in this area, and as a result, majority of the parents left with their children after they were compensated,” Ms Adengero added.

Mr Dennis Okowu, a resident of Alupe village, says: “Before Wagagai Gold Mining Company made footprints in the area, Alupe Primary School had close to 800 pupils and was the best-performing government-aided school in Buteba sub-county.”

“One time,” he recalls, “Alupe used to record over 10 First Grades at Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), and would compete favorably with schools such as Buyengo, Dabani Girls’ Primary, Busikho and the rest.”

According to Mr Okowu, the pupils’ enrolment started declining after Wagagai Gold Mining Company came because their equipment emitted unbearable decibel levels that made learning difficult. “Many parents decided to shift their children elsewhere in Uganda and Kenya after being compensated.”

Mr James Were Malaba, one of the parents, said since the beginning of the current term, many of his colleagues had taken away their children from Alupe Primary School and enrolled them in schools in Busia-Kenya.

He added: “When you are in this village, following the collapse of Alupe Primary School, the only nearby schools are in Kenya and that is why many parents are taking their children there.”

Mr Malaba urges the Ministry of Education and management of Wagagai Gold Mining Company to identify a new site where another school can be built for the people of Alupe.

Mr Gabriel Makanga, the Busia DEO, however, says a process to have another school built is ongoing, adding that the government valuers have visited the school and made some assessments.

“The management of Wagagai Gold Mining Company is waiting for the School Management Committee to identify land on which they can construct another school for the community,” Mr Makanga explained.

The chairperson of the School Management Committee, Mr John Okumu, said he is “disappointed” by the school’s closure.

Ms Peruth Shegesa, another parent, who has had all her children attain primary education at Alupe Primary School, said she is “haunted” by the empty classroom structures.