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By Vision Reporter

Added 9th March 2010 03:00 AM

THE morning downpour of February 22 exposed the poor state in which most schools in Kawempe Division operate.

THE morning downpour of February 22 exposed the poor state in which most schools in Kawempe Division operate.

By Chris Kiwawulo & Brian Mayanja

THE morning downpour of February 22 exposed the poor state in which most schools in Kawempe Division operate.

St. James Primary School located in Bwaise, Kawempe division, had its classrooms and compound littered with human waste after the heavy rains. The authorities at this Government-aided school were left with no option but to ask pupils to clear the waste-laden water and mud using bare hands.

According to David Kisakye, the headmaster of the school, the school neighbours empty their pit-latrines into water channels that overflow up to the school compound whenever it rains. Kisakye says Kampala City Council (KCC) officials visited the school last year and promised sh1.5m to improve its environment but the money has not come up to today.

St. James Primary School is just one of the several schools that flood whenever it rains in Kawempe Division. Other schools include Child Care Primary School in Kibe Zone in Kalerwe, Outspan Primary School and Bilal Islamic Primary and Secondary Schools in Bwaise.

Residents worried
In the current situation, residents in Kawempe feel such schools should be closed or relocated to safer areas to protect the lives of both children and teachers. They argue that the scondition exposes the inhabitants to the killer cholera epidemic.

Robert Lubega, a drycleaner in Bwaise, sympathises with the children who go to flooding schools. He says they cannot perform well in such an environment. Lubega adds that he is planning to leave the place as soon as he gets money to rent elsewhere.

Ahmed Musisi built and fenced his house near St. James Primary School two years ago. After putting up his structure, water that used to flood his plot now gushes into the school. Musisi is not willing to move but instead advises the school to find another place or level the compound so that the water does not collect there.

Prossy Namusisi, a resident of Bwaise III says: “Rubbish, including human waste, collects in school compounds whenever it rains and it lets off a bad smell that circulates the entire area.”

Maria Kobusinge, a parent and local council leader for women in Bwaise, sympathises with parents who have children at the affected schools. “Whenever I meet my fellow women, I advise them to always visit schools where they intend to take their children. I tell them not to look at academics only but also the sanitation of the place.”

She says for the last two years, she has been discussing issues related to the hygiene of schools with the division officials in vain. “Last year, I attended the function where ActionAid promised to renovate St. James, but nothing has been done,” she stresses.

Kobusinge thinks the proposal to close St. James would affect poor children who go to it since it is the only Universal Primary Education (UPE) school in the area. She calls for government intervention to improve the school’s environment.

What authorities say
Richard Okello, the Kawempe Division health inspector of schools, says many schools in the division have poor hygiene. He called upon headteachers to campaign for a clean environment because the pupils risk contracting water-borne diseases.

He proposed that St. James Primary School be re-fenced to prevent water from flowing into the compound. Okello noted that he had written to the assistant town clerk for Kawempe Division proposing that the school latrines be emptied and the compound level raised using murram.

With 22 parishes, Kawempe Division has only five UPE schools. Bwaise with three parishes has only one UPE school — St. James Primary School. Majority of the schools in the division are privately-owned. The school, located in Bwaise III in Kawempe Division, has 208 pupils, mainly from poor families.

Abdul Kibedi, the division education officer, says the only way to save pupils from contracting cholera is by closing the school. “It is better to close as we look for remedies because if it continues raining, cholera might break out and spread to other areas,” he notes.

Kibedi revealed that the division’s assistant town clerk and engineers were planning to renovate the area when they get funds. “There are some funds but we need more. ActionAid promised sh26m to renovate the school but it is now almost a year and they have not yet fulfilled their pledge,” he observed.

Kibedi added that closing the school requires consulting Namirembe Diocese first since they are the founders. He says they would organise a meeting with the church officials over the matter. Plan Uganda constructed the church-founded school in the early 1990s as a donation to the Church of Uganda.

Dr. Joseph Senzoga, the Kampala district senior medical officer, also agreed that the school should be closed until the floods subside. Senzoga condemned the residents’ action of releasing human waste into flowing water whenever it rains and warned of a cholera outbreak.

But Kawempe Division chairman, Nasser Takuba, hopes the flooding problem will come to an end when the sh15b World Bank project to enlarge the Bwaise-Rubigi River and other water channels starts in June. The Bwaise-Rubigi River project is aimed at enlarging the water channel from its current five metres to between 50 and 90 metres.


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