By Nigel Nassar
Remember Proscovia Ayo? She is that HIV-positive headteacher from Tororo district, whose deadlock story we published in New Vision’s Mwalimu on March 2, 2011.
In the story titled “Head Teacher Rejected for being HIV Positive?”, we followed Ayo’s life story right from the time she set out to study and achieve her dreams as a teacher, all the way to when the dreams started crumbling down at the hands of her being HIV-positive.
The story painted a picture of the teacher’s struggles in life, an outstanding scenario being the one where she, because of her HIV/ AIDS activism, was discriminated against and chased from office by stick-wielding villagers who took the law in their hands to end her means of subsistence. Looking into the unfortunate occurrence, the story portrayed a weakness by the education ministry in handling the woman’s dilemma.
At the time of the story’s publication in March last year, it had been eight years since this act of lawlessness had taken place.For eight years Ayo sought intervention writing letters to all and sundry at the education ministry, to the district’s chief administrative officer, to the education service commission, to the LC5 chairperson of Tororo,
But no help had come her way. The situation had been worsened by her name subsequently getting dropped from the payroll, a thing that stressed her and got her bedridden for eight months with no hopes of ever getting up again.
Along the way, her four children had been discontinued from school due to her inability to pay fees for them.
In a nutshell, it was a story of a woman of ill health trying single-handedly to have anyone in the education ministry hear her out in vain. It was a story of this woman hoping against all hope that her children get to see the chalkboard again someday, still in vain.
The education ministry, according to the ministry publicist Aggrey Kibenge, had tasked Tororo district officials to solve Ayo’s problem. But for some reason, no one had acted positively, and the woman had continued to suffer all because some villagers fired her from work eight years ago and the ministry had looked on for that long.
When contacted for comment, Tororo District Education Officer Yona Gamusi Doya had dismissed the woman’s claims of him not helping, and had actually bounced the case to district chief administrative officer Felix Esoku, claiming Esoku had solved it.
Esoku had alleged that Ayo was re-instated and was being paid, yet Ayo insisted she was only volunteering. With this state of events all highlighted in the article “Head Teacher Rejected for being HIV Positive”, Ayo’s story became something of a national concern.
The New Vision was subsequently inundated by letters from readers, some demanding the sacking of the district officials indicated in the story as frustrating the woman, others expressing sheer shock at how a teacher could be fired by locals and how the education ministry was taking forever to reinstate her.
Many more letters spat fire at the education ministry and everyone who was involved in this case. At the local FM radio station Rock Mambo 106.8FM, a talk show was dedicated to Ayo’s dilemma, as portrayed by New Vision story.
Listeners called in, some even proposing mass violence against the said officials on air. With pressure mounting from every direction, the education ministry and the district officials eventually gave Ayo’s case priority in a thorough reviewing that ended in the last quarter of 2011.
On November 7, 2011, Ayo was reinstated as a headteacher not in the school whose locals plagued her over her HIV status. Rather, Ayo is now the proud head teacher of Pajangango Primary School in Magola Subcounty, West Budama, Tororo district. “I cannot believe that after a whole eight years, justice has finally prevailed.
Thanks to the New Vision for giving urgency to my problem and making it a social concern,” says the 51-year-old headteacher, who also teaches English in P.5, P.6 and P.7. “It feels so good to be back in class doing what I love. But most of all, I love serving my nation.
Somehow, it reassures me that I am still valuable to the nation much as I am HIVpositive.” “Now my mind is already off my HIV status. I feel I am already healed because my worries are gone. After all, my children are resuming school soon and I am going to be paid in arrears for the time I was off the payroll,” adds Ayo, a born-again Christian whose faith did not falter all through her eight years of struggling to be reinstated.
“I will praise Him. I relied upon Him all the way. Now look what He has done for me! Those eight years of struggle were only a test of my faith. I am glad i did not dissapoint Him" she says.
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Ayo: the rejected HIV-positive teacher gets back her job