Agago, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The prolonged disagreement between Catholics and Protestants over the ownership of Olyelowidyel primary school in Agago district has forced out at least 870 learners. Established in 1952, the school had 900 learners prior to the lockdown.
However, only about 30 learners have resumed their studies since schools reopened. Reports indicate that the land hosting the school measuring 13 acres found in Olyelowidyel parish, Kotomor sub-county, was donated by Lucepo Odany.
Joel Arua, the LC3 chairperson of Kotomor sub-county who is also a parent at the school, says since its inception, the school was run by the community before the LRA war. However, the school stopped functioning when the LRA war forced people into Internally Displaced People’s-IPD camps.
Arua says the ownership dispute started in 2008 when people left the IDP camps and the school reopened. Reports indicate that two sons of the man who donated the land, one of them a catholic and another a protestant are behind the dispute.
Currently, there are three school management committees, one for the Catholics, Protestants, and another for the community. This has split the community along religious lines triggering fear among the learners and teachers.
In 2020, David Acili, the protestant brother dragged ten religious leaders from Patongo Catholic Parish to Kitgum magistrates court on the ground that the school and the land is a gift from his father and therefore belongs to the protestant church.
However, the Chief Administrative Officer Stephen Oloya says the court case was dismissed without declaring a winner or loser. Oloya says last week he wrote a letter to the solicitor general for legal advice on the matter because learners are afraid of going to school due to the dispute.
Because of the conflict, last month some unidentified people broke classroom windows which caused fear among the learners and teachers. Last year, unknown people also demolished the incomplete St. Paul Church for the protestants.
The district education officer Esther Aryemo, noted with disappointment that these two incidences caused fear among the teachers and learners. Aryemo noted that even the few pupils at the school are being taught only two lessons in a day, while other teachers are asking for a transfer.
Suzan Akany, the Agago Resident District Commissioner says that they held a meeting with parents of the school on Monday and agreed that the community takes responsibility for the school so that learning continues smoothly.