On March 11, 11-year-old Dan Gasore died shortly after being rushed to Kisoro hospital. On March 9. Gasore had returned home from school, visibly distressed, according toThe Observernewspaper.
Gasore’s father recounts the boy came home in tears, narrating that his teacher had hit him on the head and back. The boy’s condition continued to deteriorate until his tragic death in the hospital.
What happened to Gasore? On March 9, Gasore’s teacher, Pasco Hakizimana, hit him on his back and head for failing to understand what he/Hakizimana sought to impart. Hakizimana is currently on the run.
Spare a moment of silence for the parents of Gasore who are face-to-face with every parent’s worst nightmare. His grieving parents sought to do right to their child by sending him to school. Yet the cruellest fate awaited their son in the form of his teacher.
On February 26, one student died and three others escaped with injuries in a fire at Kyamate Secondary School in Ntungamo district. In a harrowing revelation, theDaily Monitornarrowed the genesis of the fire down to bullying.
The victim’s brother had earlier reported some students for bullying. The school administration consequently suspended the bullies. Seeking revenge, the bullies sneaked into the school and apprehended the whistleblower’s brother, 14-year-old Bonus Atukwatse.
They beat him up and then tied him to his bed. The bullies then poured petrol all over the dormitory and set it ablaze. In the Central region, when tragedy strikes, people will identify with the bereaved in a repetitive chorus of‘Kitalo nnyo’, a Luganda phrase to express deep shock.
That child should be as nefarious as to set another child on fire should send the nation reverberating withkitalo nnyo. When we are done mouthing ourkitalo nnyo, our hands on our heads as we look on in shock at the charred remains of the dormitory, what then?
In October 2022, 14-year-old Paul Luyimbazi, a pupil of St. Jude Thaddeus primary school in Bukomansimbi district, committed suicide by hanging himself in the school library. The Police suspect Luyimbazi committed suicide in response to a teacher who had threatened him with a punishment of 80 strokes ofkiboko. Eightykiboko!Luyimbazi was allegedly in a relationship with a 13-year-old female schoolmate in contravention of the school rules on relationships.
80 strokes over teenage romance! One shudders to imagine the number ofkibokominor infractions attract, infractions that pepper the daily interactions of school children.
Three horror stories. Three schools. Three dead children. A parent’s worst nightmare. The stories to our detriment are neither only three nor are they falling in number. If you choose to look for stories of violence in schools, you choose nightmares that will haunt your daylight.
It is wild and unfathomable that children face danger, even death at school. School – a place where they should be, a place where they should be safe. Schools can be dangerous places, warns a December 2022 Devex article titled, “Children face an ‘epidemic of violence’ in schools.”
According to the United Nations, over 240 million children worldwide face violence in and around schools every year. The article notes that while most international and national initiatives on education focus on boosting enrolment and learning outcomes, all these commendable initiatives will come to naught if children do not feel safe at school.
In April 2021, The Lancet documented the results of a study in which 90 per cent of Ugandan primary school children experienced physical violence at the hand of teachers, especially male teachers.
Raising Voices, a child rights civil society organization, told Devex that the use of violence to control children is seen as normal and acceptable behaviour, noting that, “Violence in school is structural; the system endorses it and it is seen as a way of controlling students. So, we need to address the ecosystem surrounding the school and … rather than treating violence as an event, we need to treat it as a process happening within a context.”
Raising Voices is onto something. These three tragedies of young lives brutally cut short in what should have been preventable circumstances should force us to reflect upon how we got here. Within these stories of violent devastation is the opportunity to reimagine the safety of children in and around schools.
Three children died needlessly; the recompense that remains is to acknowledge our contribution towards the structure enabling violence against children in and around schools. The government has its high-sounding policies in neatly laminated reports on how to end violence against children.
Fortunately, the lives of our children are too precious to be left to the laminated donor-funded government reports. In a strange twist, currently, our mass hysteria has zeroed onto the vile homosexuals, when we should be making schools no-go areas for sexual predators of all orientations.
This is going to need all of us. All of us for the children of Uganda.