ARUA. Fosca Yanduru, 11, a P.3 pupil of Edaku community primary school (PS) wants to become a teacher. Her dream was compelled by the poor learning conditions in the school.
Yanduru intends to qualify as a teacher and return to teach at Edaku PS so as to bridge its teaching gap in the future.
Located about 45km from Arua town in Illi hill village, Owai parish in Omugo Sub County, Arua district, Edaku PS is currently being run by seven untrained teachers including the head teacher of the school. This is after three of its trained teachers and one other untrained teacher left due to lack of motivation.
All the teachers are volunteers with majority being products of the school. They have devoted time to teach for free because of the suffering of their brothers and sisters.
“I want to learn and become a primary school teacher and return to teach in my school here because it has very few teachers,” Yanduru said in an interview with West Nile Web on Thursday.
“May be school fees will be my problem in the future but with God’s help, I will become a teacher and come back to teach in this school,” Yanduru added.
Yanduru says the suffering she has gone through at the school makes her feel like being part of the solution, a reason she wants to study hard.
Old as it may be, Edaku primary school has terrible learning conditions but like any other pupil, Yanduru cannot shift to another school due to the long distance.
The nearest schools surrounding Edaku PS are about 4km away and this has made it hard for most of the children in the area to join them.
At about 11:30 am (East African Time) on the fateful day, Dickson Dradebo, 12, the P.3 classroom prefect was seen on top of a dilapidated wall of their classroom holding a burnt brick on which a rope was tied and connected to a tarpaulin which he uses to protect the class from the scotching sun heat.
In five minutes, the brick was seen hanging on the wall thus holding the tarpaulin firm on the roofless P.3 classroom.
The pupils from P.2 to P.5 sit on bricks with others on the bare and dusty floor in the roofless wall during class hours and are only protected from the drenching sun by tarpaulins on the top of the walls.
The P.1 pupils are taught under a mango tree while those in P.7 sit in a church payout and the P.6 pupils occupy Ajulepi Church of Uganda as their classroom.
Whenever it rains, Moses Azabo, a P.1 pupil says they run into the church for shelter. The church saves the entire school during rainy season hence affecting lessons since different classes merge together.
“I want people to buy for us desks for sitting, build for us a classroom and latrine,” Azabo whose ambition is to become a Doctor said when asked on their needs in the school.
But to Dradebo, the most pressing needs of the school are water facilities, blackboards, classroom blocks and sanitary facilities.
“Since we have no borehole at the school, we are normally forced to go to our homes to drink water when thirsty especially during lunch break. For those whose homes are far, they go to their colleagues’ homes for drinking water,” Dradebo painfully narrated.
Meanwhile Peace Muzoyo, 11 said they share the only toilet facility in the school with boys.
“We normally feel ashamed to enter the toilet because we fear that boys will see us easing ourselves and lough. If our own toilet and shelter was to be there, we could be happy,” Muzoyo appealed.
Mr Ronnie Acale, a teacher who has taught at the school for the last two years says they only have three chalkboards which are used to teach pupils from P.1 to P.7.
“We use the portable chalkboards in a rotational manner. Once we have used one for a lesson in P.3, we pick it away to go and teach in another class as the P.3 pupils wait for another turn,” Achale said.
He said at times, they run out of chalk and other teaching materials but in most cases, pupils are taken out to work for people so as to raise money to run the school.
Edaku community primary school marked 55 years of existence this year but parents and pupils say the school’s journey has been blighted by troubles since its inception in 1963.
The Church of Uganda founded school only came closer to having a semi-permanent four classroom block in early 2000 when parents raised the wall to window level. The works have stagnated since then.
The lamentable situation of Edaku primary school goes beyond lack of classrooms yet enrolment of children is high.
With such difficulties, Mr Jude Candia, the school head teacher says enrollment levels have tended to fluctuate between the dry season and rain season.
He says at the beginning of the year, their enrolment stood at 700 pupils but that has gone down to 387 pupils and towards the beginning of end of years examinations, the number further withered to 115 due to none payment of school fees.
According to Candia, pupils from P.1 to P.3 pay shs5, 000 each as school fees per term while those from P.4 to P.7 pay shs6, 000 but most of the pupils end up not sitting the exams for failing to clear the amount.
No first grades
Because the conditions at Edaku primary school are very dire, no pupil has passed in first grade from the school in the last five and a-half decades of its existence.
Out of nine pupils who sat for Primary Leaving Examinations last year, seven passed in second grade and the remaining two in third grade.
The head teacher says efforts to convince the government to take over the school have been fruitless for years besides it is a rare event for officials from Arua district education department to pass by the school to assess its challenges.
But in an earlier interview, Mr Marino Acia, the Arua district education officer maintains that their focus remains fixed on government aided schools and not the private ones.
“What normally happens is that we at the centre here concentrate on government aided schools because we are incapacitated by inadequate funds to support community schools,” Acia says.
He however indicated that Edaku primary was one of the 30 community schools recommended for government aiding way back in 2016 although the education ministry has not given any feedback on the matter.
Mr Acia says he will follow up the matter with the ministry, saying it offers the best possible route for Edaku primary school and its surrounding community out of their predicament.