School bars nodding child from attending class

Geoffrey Ayella attends a meeting organised by Caritas, a local NGO, and Pader District residents in Angagura Sub-county last week. PHOTO BY JULIUS OCUNGI

What you need to know:

Mental case. Ayella says he was chased from school on grounds that he is mentally retarded.


Geoffrey Ayella, a 15-year-old who is recovering from nodding disease, has been chased from Akeli-kongo Primary School, in Angagura Sub-county by the school administration.

Ayella who has been at home battling the nodding syndrome for the last two years, went back to school early this year, but he was turned away on claims that he would not compete favourably with his counterparts who had been at the school.

“I dropped out of school in 2011, as a result of nodding syndrome that came with constant seizures, when I was in primary seven and when I recovered, I opted to get back to school to achieve my long time dream of becoming a doctor,” Ayella said.

He says he was chased from school on claims that he was mentally retarded due to the disease.

The District Education Officer Pader, Mr Charles Obol Okidi, said his office had received the complaint and the headmaster Mr Alex Ernest Labongo had been summoned to explain.

“Our position has been clear over the past years in disciplining anyone in the district who sabotages the government’s efforts of educating children especially those with special needs,” Mr Okidi said.

Mr Okidi said the district will take appropriate action upon completing the investigations.
“School heads who abuse the right of children to education will face the law,” he charged.

Mr Labongo, however, denied the allegations.
He said Ayella failed to continue with studies because his parents lacked money for passport-size photos that were required for filling form, to sit the Primary Leaving Examinations.

But Pader District chairperson Alfred Akena, said: “We expect all the children at learning institutions to be treated equally irrespective of their conditions unless a pupil has a mental problem that cannot be managed at the school.”

Mr Akena said they will discipline the school headmaster for sabotaging the district efforts to encourage children to study.

Ministry designing Curriculum
In 2012, the coordinator for nodding syndrome, Dr Bernad Opar, reported that the ministry of Education was designing a curriculum to cater for children recovering from the syndrome. Pader District registered over 2,356 cases of nodding syndrome and epilepsy among children since its outbreak in 2010.

A total of 1,629 children were confirmed to be suffering from the nodding syndrome in the four sub-counties of Angagura, Laguti, Atanga and Awere.

Related story