ARUA. There was drama and boos at several nursery and primary schools in Arua municipality as the council and the education ministry standards’ directorate issued out closure notices to operators of unlicensed schools in front of teary children.
A total of nine schools were affected in the first part of the exercise carried out on Monday and Tuesday and more schools were being lined up for closure by the week’s end.
Among the schools ordered to shutdown was the Bridge International Academy, Arua branch said to be funded by the Bill and Melda Gates Foundation.
The officials said the school enrolling over 500 pupils was not only unlicensed but established in a rickety structure, filthy environment and taught curriculum not authorised by the ministry.
But it was there that the officials received most boos and heckles from both the pupils and the staff who accused them of infringing on their rights to freedom and education.
Simon Abima, an officer from the education standards directorate warned them to stop playing games saying refusal to adhere to the closure notice will attract serious police action.
He waved directive letters from the permanent secretary of the education ministry and the Office of the President ordering the shutdown of the schools to try to silence the hostile response.
Abima said they conduct inspections to ensure that schools have qualified and registered teachers, have buildings and classrooms in good condition and teach approved curriculum.
He asserted that the Bridge academy did not respect the guide on thematic curriculum, transition curriculum and the upper primary curriculum as their teachings were based on foreign principles.
As the officials left the premises, the schools director, Mr Faruk Andati remained bullish, insisting that they will continue with normal operation in disregard to the letters of notice to close that he said were parcelled out by people acting with outdated mindset.
“We have put physical things into software on tablet computers but these people don’t have computer knowledge,” he charged.
Andati claimed that last year his academy registered 94% pass rate in Primary Leaving Examinations where four candidates passed in first grade and 39 in second grade out of 46 candidates.
“How could our pupils pass the tests by the Uganda National Examinations Board if we were teaching wrong syllabus?” he asked as the pupils chanted “we want freedom, education is our right.”
Also ordered to cease operations was Kings College secondary school, Ikhlas Islamic centre, Hope Kebir, Bayan, Tawakal, Al-Hilal and Ibun Abas nursery and primary schools.
But it was at Golden Child nursery and primary school run by a retrenched reverent pastor Erifasi Dradria that real drama unfolded.
By 2:40pm when the enforcement staff arrived at the ramshackle school sandwiched in crammed residential houses in a slum in Kebir cell, Oli Division, Dradria was not at the school.
When he saw the parked police vehicle on arrival, he hurriedly darted into a nearby hideout only to be hauled out by the area local council one official to face the grilling.
The eight-year-old school had no space for the children to play as the compound is also where the neighbouring residents dug pit latrines.
The buildings were not only collapsing but the man of God who charges sh65,000 and sh85,000 per term as school fees for nursery and primary sections respectively was “repairing” the crumbling brick walls with papyrus mats.
It was discovered that the school has been operating all this time without a licence but Dradria said he was not comfortable signing to acknowledge receipt of the closure notice.
“Give me time because I am planning to get a licence,” the stone-faced proprietor said. “By hook and crook?” Jehoackim Ozimati, the Principal municipal education officer quipped in riposte.
Ozimati told the sad pupils that there health would be at risk if they are allowed to continue studying at this school and advised them to enrol at any government aided primary school near to them.
Arua municipality has 16 government aided primary schools spread out in both Oli and Arua Hill Divisions.
They are augmented by over 30 private nursery and primary schools some of which are been closed down for lack of operating licence and failure to meet basic standard.