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Monday, June 5, 2017

#Obote, Okot p'Bitek former Gulu school now in shambles - #Uganda #Education #RIP

Mr. Picho Paul Kennedy with some students
[Uganda: Education Focus]
If you see the conditions in a once elite high school that produced some of Uganda's top leaders including the late President Milton Obote, and world renowned author Okot p'Bitek, you will shed tears.Since the Uganda government embraced World Bank imposed structural adjustment programs and "liberalization" schools like Gulu High School, once the pride of this region, have been abandoned by the government and they have fallen on hard times. Gulu High is a glaring example of the collapse.
Instead of libraries well-stocked with books and laboratories with scientific equipment, the school roof of one of the dilapidated buildings seem to be caving in as the school strains under a $111,256 debt, which in Uganda is  400 million shillings; the country's estimated income per head is about $700. Some buildings, such as The World Bank financed girls' dormitory, look attractive from outside but the school lacks funds to renovate or maintain. The school lacks enough books, computers and other educational resources.
The school celebrated its centennial three years ago. Last year it was the worst-performing high school in the country.
Other famous graduates of the school are the late Prime Minister Otema Allimadi, and Olara Otunnu a former Under Secretary General of the United Nations and most recently president of Uganda People's Congress, the opposition party, Dr. Alex Odonga, Prof. Ogenga Latigo, and many others.
These students were drawn from varied background regardless of whether one was poor or not. They studied in well-organized settings with adequate and quality classrooms, laboratories, teachers' houses and students’ accommodation. But it is now difficult for students to excel given the many challenges faced by Gulu High School. Some of its prominent graduates may want to lend a helping hand.
Such is the fate of many schools in Uganda under the Yoweri Museveni regime. In Uganda the better schools are the private schools. Those serve the children of the wealthy. Even there they focus on sitting exams not acquiring skills that can land employment. Uganda's youth unemployment is estimated to be over 80%.
With its mountain of debt the student population continues to drop. It is now 400 from over 1,000 just four years ago.
Before the World Bank's Structural Adjustment intensified in 1990 schools like Gulu High were supported adequately by the government including with feeding students to paying bills, teachers' salaries and rehabilitation of infrastructure.
Now, says Mr. Picho Paul Kennedy, who heads the school,  Gulu High cannot generate enough money to sustain its operations which has in turn led to cases of poor performances and reduction of student’s population. Most of the staff in schools like Gulu High are being paid by Parents-Teachers Associations (PTAs). "Government needs to invest more in education because the future of the country in terms of human resource lies in the quality of its education system," Picho says.
Gulu High like all other schools and institutions in the northern part of Uganda was also a casualty of more than 20 years of war that just ended in 2006 between the government and the LRA. Millions of people were forcefully confined in camps and their lives disrupted.
Still, dedicated people such as Owiny Kenneth Samuel, who is a teacher to the blind, continue to do their best with no resources. The school's annex for the blind was launched in 1986.
“Government should come up and regulate school fees structures across so that even the poor can afford quality education because in private schools the tuition is so high that some parents can’t afford,” says one current Gulu High student.
Some of the luckier students manage to obtain support from foreign Non-Governmental Organizations  (NGOs); they abandon schools like Gulu High anf head to private ones.
Ojara Martin Mapenduzi, a former student of the school, is today the chairman of the local council government in Gulu. He says the biggest problem Gulu High faces is management which has in turn affected student’s enrolment. Chairman Mapenduzi suggests that the central government should ensure that all schools be monitored closely for quality.
He recommends a total review of the nation's education sector. He suggests regulation in all schools, especially in private schools; these schools are  mostly business-minded with little regards to ensuring quality.
Ceaser Akena, the Gulu district education officer, says his office helped bring in a new head teacher to help resolve the debt burden, improve performance, and increase the student population.
About seven years ago there was some support from a controversial U.S.-founded NGO called Invisible Children but even they too have disappeared. There is also no longer any support from The World Bank.
BLACKSTAR NEWS

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