PIC: Isyabi heading to class Photo by Priscillar Nyamahunge.(Credit: priscillar Nyamahunge)
MASINDI - The bell in the middle of the compound sounded thrice at 2:40pm signalling a change of lesson at Karujubu Primary School in Masindi municipality, Masindi district.
Teacher Jane Frances Isyabi, 57, slowly hobbled out of the staffroom. She walked with a gait: head slanted forwards with a little bend, carefully measuring every step she took. She supported herself with a crutch.
Isyabi, who teaches mathematics was involved in a traffic accident in 2010, which left her right side of the body — right ribcage and limbs and pelvis — almost paralysed. But she has never known any other job. So, whenever she can muster some energy, she determinedly trudges to the school, which is located about three kilometres from her home.
The Primary Seven classroom is only a unit away from the staffroom. However, because of the discomfort noticeable every time the ageing teacher puts a leg forward , she takes in an excess of four minutes to reach the class.
“She is so determined. If she can lift her head from the pillow then you know she will be at school,” the headteacher, Esther Ahurra, says.
She is also passionate about the pupils. Whenever she is not able to go to school, she will ask other people about how her pupils are.
Other teachers at the school have nicknamed her “The Consultant.”
Teacher Jane (as she is widely referred to at this school) is adept at mathematics. Several teachers at this school consult her whenever they encounter numeracy problems.
“She will show you that the problem was easy to solve. She will also show you another approach to solving it and how best to go around it when dealing with pupils,” Jacqueline Tibetekemwa, a fellow teacher of mathematics, says.
“It is a pity she had a motorcycle accident. For eight years, she has not received proper treatment to correct her legs and arms,” she goes on.
In class, she is a gem. She knows all the pupils by name. As soon as she enters class, the more than 30 pupils inside the classroom all rise to welcome and greet her.
Then one girl cleans the chalkboard. The girl, thereafter, indicates the day’s date on the extreme upper left corner of the board.
For this particular lesson, Teacher Jane teaches the pupils how to draw a square. She invites three pupils to role-play. She insists the pupils draw straight lines. After the pupils have drawn their squares, she slowly illustrates the ideal square she preferred the pupils to emulate.
“When pupils learn (mathematics) by comparing their work to that of their teacher, it creates images in their mind, which are maintained and unlikely to be forgotten,” Isyabi says.
“When I teach mathematics, I want my pupils to understand how I arrived at the solution and not simply to memorise formulas. That is the mistake many teachers make (leading-on pupils to cram formulas), and end up labelling such a beautiful subject as boring,” she adds.
“When I am unable to stand, I go to class with another teacher. So, I talk as she illustrates what I am saying on the chalkboard,” Isyabi says.
She may be 57, but she is not tired yet. Her only discomposure is the pain in her limbs which cannot go away.
On this day, she stays at school until 6:00pm helping P7 pupils.
“I have been to several hospitals. At first, the doctors said I had high blood pressure and that I could have suffered a stroke,” she says.
However, a scan of her head and vertebral column at Mulago Hospital early this year indicated the teacher had a malfunction in her spine.
Some bones that make up her vertebrae, especially at the base of the head, the middle and near the tail-end of the spine are damaged and require surgery.
Dr Michael Edgar Muhumuza, a senior consultant neurosurgeon at Mulago, recommended spine surgery in India. But this would require an excess of sh90m, which the teacher cannot afford.
A pupil practicing on the chalkboard as Isyabi explains during a maths lesson.(Credit: Priscillar Nyamahunge)
So, she keeps at her home with her daughter, Mable Basemera and trudges to school when she can leave bed. Her husband died shortly after her accident.
Sam Peter Ayebare, the Inspector of Schools, Masindi municipality, says there was a suggestion to retire Teacher Jane on medical grounds, but the teacher declined.
“She said as long as she could speak, she would be in class,” Ayebare says, adding that: “I have never seen an exceptional and exemplary woman like her.”
Her pupils sing her praises too.
Abel Wembabazi, who will join university later this year to study a bachelor’s degree in dental surgery, says Teacher Jane taught him to never think less of himself.
“She came to our school (Karujubu Primary School) when I was in P7. I doubted I could do well. She would tell that I was intelligent and only needed confidence.”
It is a conviction the young man carries today. No one tells him that he is not good enough.
Wembabazi was the best pupil in the Primary Leaving Examinations in Masindi district. He was sponsored by Total Uganda at St Mary’s College Kisubi where he aced his A’ level exams and has been admitted to Makerere University.
Sharon Kyategeka, a P6 pupil, says Isyabi treats them as though they were her own children.
“She does not shout at us. I wish she was healthy and did not have to walk with support,” Kyategeka says.
Who is Isyabi?
Isyabi was born in Budongo sub-county in Nyantonzi-Katungo in Masindi district .
She started teaching in 1985 after completing a Grade III training at the then Kinyamasika Primary Teachers’ College in Fort Portal (Now Kinyamasika National Seminary)
Later, she was registered as a licensed teacher. In 1996, she repeated her Grade III exams at Kamurasi PTC in Masindi .
Isyabi has taught at Kihande Moslem, Nyamigisa Girls and Kyema primary schools, all in Masindi district. In 2000 she got a Diploma in primary education at Kabalega National Teachers’ College, Masindi
What others say
Dr George Bateganya, a former medical superintendent for Masindi district who helped refer the teacher to Mulago, wished there were better modes of transport in the vicinity she operates in.
“The roads are terrible. She cannot afford a taxi. So, she has to ride on a bodaboda in her condition,” the medical officer says.
Esther Ahurra, the headteacher
She is so determined. If she can lift her head from the pillow then you know she will be at school.
1. Stay focused at all times
2. Be instrumental in your work
3. Always stand up for your community
4. Never lose hope
For those who would wish to extend financial assistance to Isyabi please reach her on the contacts below.
Phone contact: c/o Sarah Mbabazi 0785826160
Name: ISYABI JANE FRANCES
Account number: 3201870531, Centenary Bank Masindi Branch