Situated next to Port Victoria Sub District hospital mortuary is a classroom under a tree. The pupils who are thirsty for knowledge, are forced to endure the regular sound of wailing mourners coming to collect bodies from the facility for burial.
“Welcome to class five Blue of St. Cecilia Namenya Girls Primary school in Bunyala County; the only girls school in the sub county,” begins the headteacher, Caroline Achode.
The pupils are forced to learn under the tree due to lack of classes. The school, which was started in 1975, has a population of 770 pupils comprising of 550 pupils in primary and 250 in nursery.
“We have a problem of infrastructure, for instance the Early Childhood Development pupils are learning in the staffroom and class seven pupils learn in the library,” she says. “When I was posted to this school in 2010, the school had only 370 pupils,” said Achode, who has an Education degree in Kiswahili and Religious Studies from Busoga University in Uganda.
The school has 10 Teachers Service Commission teachers, five ECD teachers and 10 support staff. The last five years has seen improvement in the school with some of its alumni joining national schools such as Kenya High School and others benefiting from Equity’s Wings to Fly programme.
“In 2010, we had a mean score of 260.43 with an enrollment of 33 candidates. In 2011 we managed a mean of 277 with 41 candidates. In 2012, the school scored a mean of 285.02 and in 2013, the 39 candidates had a mean of 295. In 2014, our school registered an improvement when 41 candidates who sat for KCPE scored a mean of 307.87. We aim to hit 340 marks this year,” Achode said.
Despite the challenges they face, Achode revealed the strengths that have enabled them achieve good results. “We aim to mould an all rounded student and to this end, we endeavour to participate in extracurricular activities such as drama and sports. Besides, we won a trophy for best time management and discipline in Bunyala Sub County,” she said.
Apart from extracurricular activities, the school’s high level of discipline and inculcation of moral values has ensured that no girl has dropped out of school due to pregnancy or early marriage in the last five years.
The school also received funds from Budalangi constituency development fund for installation of power three years ago.
The board chairman Peter Ludasya said the installation of power at the school has ensured that students can have preps early in the morning and also in the evening before going home.The fund also paid for the plastering of four classrooms during the same period.
Since the ECD class uses the staffroom, teachers have been forced to sit on the verandahs next to their classroom. When it rains, they are forced to seek refuge in the classrooms with the students. Apart from the vagaries of weather such as rain and sunshine, the pupils undergo a harrowing experience every time mourning and bereaved relatives and friends come to collect bodies of their beloved from the Port Victoria Sub County mortuary which is a mere 30 metres away.
“At times learning is disrupted since most of the relatives who come to the morgue engage in lamentations and wailing which can last for up to half an hour,” Achode complains.
To deal with the situation, parents in collaboration with the school administration held a fund-raiser last year that realised a total of Sh120,000 which was used to put up an extra classroom. However, Achode says the money was inadequate and another Sh300,000 is needed to facilitate the completion of the classroom.
“We should think of constructing storeyed classroom to save space which is inadequate in this region,” says Ludasya, referring to the rocky terrain in the area which makes construction an uphill task due to excavation of rocks.
Both the head teacher and board chairman concur that the school needs a government funded boarding facility urgently.
“Although there is a boarding section, this is a limited facility which is managed by nuns at the neighbouring St. Cecilia Catholic mission whose charges are beyond the reach of most of the parents in the region” Achode noted.