A number of children in Karamoja sub region, who are interested in education but are incapable of raising fees for secondary education, have resorted to repeating classes to stay in school.
According to findings from a December 2017 report by the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF), 95 percent of Karamoja children who join primary one never make it secondary school.
Although there are other conditions explaining the disparities, school fees remains a major challenge to many of the Karimojong children.
Bernard Loyolo, a pupil at Namorotot Primary School in Nakapiripirit district, is repeating primary seven for the third time. His first attempt at Namorotot, a school without classrooms, enabled him to score 15 aggregate.
But due to lack of fees, Loyolo decided to go back to the same school last year with hopes of joining secondary this year but finances have forced him to go back to Namorotot primary school, for the third time.
He says he can’t manage life outside school, reason why he prefers repeating primary seven.
At Nadunget Seed Secondary School in Moroto, Boniface Angura managed to join secondary education after spending three years in primary seven. Angura, now a senior three student, says that although his parents neglected their responsibility to pay his fees, he has refused to see them shatter his dreams of studying hard to become a medical practitioner.
He observes that most of his friends with similar conditions have been forced to flee their homes to relieve their anger.
Helen Lokeris, the Inspector of Schools in Moroto says the situation of children repeating after passing Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) is common and it cuts across the region. She notes that a majority of those affected are children from very poor backgrounds.
Lokeris observes that although partners like Irish Aid, Dry Land project, Brac and others sponsor children in the district, the demand is still high.
Naome Muhwezi, an official from Irish Aid that sponsors children in Karamoja, says there should be concerted effort by all stakeholders for education of children in Karamoja.
“We may not reach everyone but each one of us can do something to educate our children,” Muhwezi told stakeholders during a joint review of the Irish Aid and UNICEF programme on promoting access to quality and equitable education for Karamoja children in Napak district last week.
Only 2.7 percent of children in Amudat enrolled for secondary education in 2017. In Nakapiripirit the figure is 4.4 percent. Abim district with the highest transition rate into secondary in Karamoja registered 17.4 percent in 2017.
Currently, Irish Aid in partnership with Straight Talk Foundation give full scholarships to 28 bright but needy children in each district in Karamoja. Dry Land project which is operating in one sub county in each of the four districts of Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Napak and Moroto takes about 30 students in each district at different levels of education. Other partners like Brac have continuing students at different levels of education.
However, much as some of the affected children come from very poor backgrounds where even parents are vulnerable, some of them are suffering due to negligence of parents.
A source told this publication in Moroto that a student like Angura in Nadunget was let down by his father who is a police officer. But attempts to reach the parent by the time of filing this story were futile.