At 7am, while other learners are preparing for their morning lessons, pupils in some schools in Luuka District are rushing to different water sources to fetch water for school activities.
This non-class activity in a way is disrupting their study schedule and concentration in classes.
It’s little wonder that Luuka is one of the districts that registered poor grades in last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE).
At Bugabula Primary School in Bulongo Sub-county, pupils have to fetch water for school use because they do not have a borehole at the school or in the vicinity.
The Bugabula head teacher, Mr Moses Kyakulaga, says they are forced to send the children to fetch water because they are financially constrained.
“We send the children to fetch water between 7am and 8am every day so that we can prepare food for the teachers, porridge for the pupils, water classrooms because they are full of dust, among others,’’ Mr Kyakulaga said.
“Sometimes the children miss morning classes especially when they find long queues at the water sources. We have a pupil population of 895 which is high, so we cannot employee someone to collect water for them because we have a very small budget,’’ he adds.
The situation is not any different at Nabitaama Primary School. According to Mr John Baptist Kaigo, the head teacher, pupils normally miss Monday morning lessons because they have to fetch water.
On other weekdays, the learners fetch water in the evening before they are sent back home.
“We decided as a school that pupils from Primary Four to Primary Six fetch water for school use for the following day from 3:30pm but on Monday, they fetch in the morning because the school doesn’t have classes over weekends. They end up missing lessons because they have to travel two kilometres from school to the borehole,” Mr Kaigo said.
He added: “Other children also escape from school especially in the evening and they end up missing co-curricular activities,’’
At Bukendi Primary School, Bulongo Sub-county, the story is different because they have a borehole at school but since it is the only one in the area, it was taken over by the residents and children find challenges collecting water from it because of the long queues. The district woman Member of Parliament, Ms Esther Mbayo, who is also the Minister for Presidency, said lack of water in schools is partly contributing to the poor academic grades of learners in the area.
“Although Luuka District registered an improvement in the recent Primary Leaving Examination, for the last 16 years since when it was carved out from Iganga District, poor grades have not only been due to pupils studying on empty stomachs but also due to lack of water in schools. Some pupils miss lessons while others fail to concentrate in class after being tired,’’ she said.
Ms Mbayo says she has done some lobbying from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which has extended safe and clean water to some schools such as Lambaala and Ikonya both in Nawampiti Sub-county.
When contacted, the district water engineer, Mr Yahaya Makinabu, said out of the 88 government-aided primary schools, only 29 have boreholes.
He said absence of water in some primary schools has put pupils’ lives at risk of contracting diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and dysentery because they do not wash their hands after visiting the toilet.
Statistics indicate that the Luuka District’s water coverage stands at 70.9 per cent, leaving out 29.1 per cent without access to water. Out of the 231,116 population, 175 villages out of the 216 villages do not have water.