Ministry of Education and district leaders faulted over long-standing fight for denominational schools

ACHOLI & LANGO -The State House Anti-Corruption Unit has faulted the District Education Officers and Chief Administrative Officers in Acholi and Lango sub-regions over the longstanding fight for primary, secondary and technical schools.

So far, more than 60 schools and technical institutes in Acholi and Lango sub-regions are embroiled in conflicts over denominational schools between the Catholic and Anglican Church, and the community.

Some of the affected foundation body schools include; Lakwor Primary School, Lyelokwa where both the community and the Anglican Church are claiming ownership of the school.

In Agago district, Arumu Odwong, Olyelo wii Dyel and Amyel Primary Schools are all being claimed by both the Catholic and the Anglican church.

Kitgum district has 5 schools in contention; in Pader, 12 Schools are embroiled in conflicts. Aringa Primary School in Pader, has parents from both Catholic and Anglican denominations discouraging their children from joining the school. School enrolment in Aringa Primary School is as low as 50 pupils.

In the Lango sub-region, Lira district and City have 14 schools, Alebtong and Otuke have 3 each, Dokolo 3 schools where the Anglican and Catholic Church alongside the community members all claim ownership.

When tasked to explain the origin of the conflicts, most of the education officers accuse the headteachers of the schools for changing details in the school censor forms.

Fred Owot, the Kitgum District Education Officer says, his findings show that most of the conflicts started when the school coding by the year 2000 indicated most of the schools were community aided schools.

Owot claims that after having gone to the Ministry of Education to get clear and authentic documents, he was only given information on an excel form which they used to settle conflicts in 2 schools.

Francis Olwoch, the Pader District Education Officer citing one of the schools, Aringa Primary where according to the statistical data, indicates that the school was founded by the Catholic Church in 1967 and was later changed by one, Peter Obwona, the former headteacher of the school alleging that the school was founded by the Anglican Church in 1983.

Olwoch blames the staff of the Ministry of Education for not documenting details of schools coded. He claims that several of their attempts to get documents from the Ministry of Education and Sports have been fruitless because of limited information.

Alfred Malinga, the Otuke District, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) says, the conflicts have affected the construction of Okol, Okum and Ogwette Seed Secondary Schools despite having received the money.

For the case of Okum Seed Secondary School, Ogwette says ownership of land by both the community members and the Anglican Church has halted the commencement of construction. Similarly, for the two other schools, the community have revolted against the decision by the Catholic Church to give additional land to construct the structures for the schools.

According to Malinga, they have noticed that there are some groups of people who are not from the Catholic denomination, who are convincing the community members not to accept the construction of the schools on grounds that the Catholic church already has benefited from the government’s support to the education sector in the district.

Ismael Mulindwa, the Director Basic and Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education and Sports says, they have held several meetings with the various stakeholders to solve the issues arising over ownership and foundation bodies have not yielded any fruits.

What the religious leaders say.

Bishop Winston Kitara, of the Diocese of Kitgum, citing cases of Akwang Secondary School where a family with the backing of the clan donated land for the establishment of the school has seen some government officials failing to declare that the Anglican church are its rightful owners.

Kitara notes that sometimes as church leaders, they are forced to take actions because of the lack of commitment by the public servants including Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs), District Education Officers (DEOs) and some staff of the Education Ministry.

Bishop Alfred Olwa of the Lango Diocese accuses the public servants for intentionally frustrating their efforts to peacefully solve the conflicts between the religious denominations.

According to Olwa, the Education Act of 2008 which requires all the schools to register foundation bodies was one of the biggest challenges because not everyone understood the concept.

Bishop Lino Santos Wanock, of Lira Diocese says, the conflict between the Catholic and Anglican churches is embarrassing and uncalled for. If the conflicts are to be solved, the religious denominations should respect the initial position of the foundation.

Currently, the Catholic and the Anglican Church in Lira are battling for ownership of some of the schools in the Lango sub-region.

Bishop Emeritus of Lira diocese, Giuseppe Franzeli says, the said conflict is a manifestation of confusion from the locals, public servants, government and the religious leaders. Franzeli says the whole conflict over schools and other institutions is being perceived as a power struggle between the religious leaders.

According to Franzeli, for the conflicts to be best resolved, the community members who own the lands should be involved alongside the other stakeholders to ensure the issues are resolved.

Lt Col Edith Nakalema, the Head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit blamed the District Education Officers (DEOs) and Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) for the long-standing confusion.

Nakalema was speaking during a consultative meeting with religious leaders from Gulu Archdiocese, Lira Diocese, the Diocese of Northern Uganda, Lango West and Lango Dioceses in Gulu City; on the directive of President Museveni and Education and Sports Minister, Janet Museveni following series of public outcries.

Nakalema further says, it is difficult to agree with public servants that details of schools and their foundation bodies have changed, and they don’t detect and act upon them.

Nakalema gave until 16th of November, 2021 to the Ministry of Education and Sports to produce the list of schools embroiled in conflicts to her office and also ordered her detectives to carryout prosecution led investigations against the public servants who have failed to prevail over the issues that have seen religious leaders conflicting.

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