By APN REPORTER
A total of 244 life jackets and a Motorboat were on Saturday donated to pupils of Bwama Primary school to assist pupils in crossing Africa’s second deepest lake.
This was realized in a campaign dubbed “ Uganda for Bunyonyi Kids.”
This campaign that was launched in July was championed by Doreen Bellindah, the Executive Director of Africa Tourist Club.
Bellindah said that she was inspired by the various media reports about the vulnerability of these children who had difficulties in accessing education.
“ We were so touched after seeing the BBC documentary about these kids. Later other local media houses kept on bringing to light the plight of these children,” she said.
Since the campaign launch, volunteers kept on supporting the move that aims at raising 500 life jackets in one year.
The first batch of 24 life jackets were delivered at the school during the launch of the campaign and since then the school has been struggling with getting the rest of the jackets to assist all learners.
Among the key contributors to the campaign was the Global Livingston Institute that contributed 100 life jackets and a 40 seater motor boat, Harriss International that gave out 50 life jackets and others were raised by individuals.
Johnson Byambala, the Bwama Primary School Head Teacher said that academic struggle at that school has been a challenge following the absence of life jackets and a reliable transportation system.
“For the 5 years I have been in this school, pupils have been struggling with education. They at times miss school whenever the lake is rough since they fear to cross the scary waters,” He said.
Byambala added that with the use of canoes, pupils have also been coming late for school and they could also delay to go back home in times of bad weather.
“There are cases when the official school canoes leave some pupils before their arrival at the various stages. These are compelled to opt for other boats which at times delay their reporting. When it rains while at school, they wait until it has stopped so as to return home and if it all fails, they cross in the rain,” said Byambala.
The school has an enrollment of 206 pupils and according to authorities this is mainly limited by the fear among parents to take their children to this risky environment.
“I have never seen a school with less numbers in lower classes like this one. Most parents feel that their children are not safe studying from this school,” said Byambala.
Pupils narrowly escape death
On 27th September, 2017, four girls of the school escaped death when a boat they were travelling in capsized on their way to school.
The only source of their survival was the fact that they were clad in the life jackets they had earlier on received in the campaign.
Desire Orikiriza, a P.6 pupil at the school was on board with her friends when the nasty incident occurred.
They had opted for a canoe to school after missing the official school boat.
“When we arrived at the dock, we learnt that the official boat had left. We were then forced to look for a friend’s canoe to help us get to school,” said Orikiriza.
The biggest challenge they never anticipated was that they had over loaded the small canoe. Along the way, bad luck befell them after a boat they were in failed to negotiate the rough wave.
“We realized that our canoe was sinking and in a bid to fight for our lives we drowned. The only thing that saved us was the life jackets we had. One of us never knew how to swim but we kept on helping each other as we floated on top of water,” she narrated.
They were only saved when a motor boat from the neighboring Lake Bunyonyi secondary school picked them from the risky situation.
Other safety interventions
Apart from the life jackets contribution, intensive swimming lessons coordinated by Entusi resort in collaboration with other local rescuers are on going to equip the children with safety measures in case of an accident.
Reagan Nowamani, the Entusi resort director said that they were forced to train these kids how to swim so as to ensure their safe transportation on the lake.
“We regularly employ local and international swimmers to train these children in swimming lessons. We believe that by the end of these lessons, more children will be able to acquire basic safety techniques,” said Nowamani.
The school Parents and Teachers Association has also passed a Ugshs. 2000= fee for every pupil per term to support the maintenance of the Motor boat and availing it with the required fuel.
In addition, the African Development Bank donated 2 million Shillings towards the same cause.