By Agnes Kyotalengerire
Bright as she was, Louis Kugonza would have been studying in one of the universities in the country had her life not been cut short.
She was in A’level, in one of the best boarding secondary schools in Buikwe; when she abruptly fell sick and died.
According to her classmates, Kugonza had a chronic headache and always kept special drugs in her suitcase, which she took whenever she felt the headache. Unfortunately, the school administration was not aware of her condition. On the fateful night, Kugonza’s headache intensified and she collapsed.
As she was being rushed to Kawolo Hospital, she died. According to one of the teachers, who prefers anonymity, a postmortem report indicated that Kugonza had a chronic head illness, which affected her brain.
Unfortunately, her parents had not disclosed her condition to the school administration. Perhaps Kugonza’s life could have been saved if her condition had been managed on time.
Stories of children dying at school as a result of undiagnosed chronic illnesses are becoming common. Unfortunately on several occasions, the school administration is not aware of the underlying health conditions of the children.
This is partly because parents never disclose their children’s ailments to the school administrators and worse still, some schools never take this serious.
It is at this point that medical examination comes in handy. Although most schools demand that parents have their children examined medically before they report to school, many parents find it an inconvenience, while others see it as an added expense.
In some instances parents pay doctors and nurses to forge medical reports, endangering the lives of these students.
Maria Ainebyoona, a mother of three teenage girls studying in a boarding school in Kampala, says she does not remember ever taking her children for medical checkups.
Ainebyoona confesses that for fear of paying consultation fee, she gets each of the children’s medical examination forms stamped at a cost of sh2,000 at a friend’s clinic near her home. “I am able to save about sh86,000 for their shopping,” she says.
Another parent, Peter Kibuuka, argues that taking his children for a medical check-up when they are not sick does not come easy.
“I do not see why I should spend money to examine my children when they are not sick,” he adds.
The education ministry’s spokesperson, Patrick Muyinda, says availing school administrations with necessary information about the health status of their children enables them to manage the situation better.
“While teaching, a teacher should focus on the holistic approach, which partly includes physical health in addition to the intellectual capacity of the children,” Muyinda explains.
Knowing the children’s chronic health conditions, helps us to provide appropriate treatment and also refer them to the right specialist when they fall sick,” says Kate Wadega, a business manager in charge of supervising the general activities of the schools in Mukono.
However, Wadega says on several occasions her school has discovered that parents do not provide genuine medical reports for their children.
“The times we have carried out abrupt medical check-ups, it has come to our attention that some children have illnesses and sometimes are pregnant,” she adds.
It is such undisclosed illnesses that usually cause misunderstandings between teachers and students.
“Some students claim they cannot participate in some activities like sports and general cleaning because they have allergies, asthma or heart disease,” she says adding, it may be difficult for a teacher to know the child’s health status unless they are told.