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Misery covers Bududa school kids after landslide‎ in Uganda

Published on Sunday 7th March 2010

ELEVEN-year-old Aggrey Musene is perhaps one pupil who demonstrates the misery pupils and students in Namashet parish are going through, after a devastating landslide that buried and killed several of his colleagues. At least 50 pupils and students have been confirmed dead and over 100 are still missing, according to the Uganda Red Cross Society.

The pupils and students came from Nametsi Primary School, Tunuwasi Primary School and Bukalasi Secondary School. Musene, a Primary Five Pupil at Nametsi Primary School lost his best friend Michael Wabusha and 35 others.

Musene was sad, unable to speak. Misery was written all over his pale face and tears began to fall from his red eyes that seemed to have cried since the tragedy. He was weak, tired and almost unable to respond to any questions.

Recalling the events, Musene says that at around 4:00pm, it started raining heavily and most of his colleagues stayed at school and took shelter. Musene thought otherwise.

"When it started to rain this way, it goes on the whole day, so I decided to leave for home. At about 8:00pm, I heard the bad news, Nametsi town had been buried," he explains.

Musene was shocked because three quarters of his colleagues who had left school for home had taken shelter from the rain at the trading centre. "This community has one secondary school and two primary schools. Most of the pupils and students come from the mountains."

Musene, who believes that God had already planned for his colleagues, says on the day the incident happened, it rained from about 11:00 am to about 8:00pm. "Most of the rivers had flooded and many of the pupils could not make it back home," he recalls.

Nametsi head teacher, Nabute Obedi, said the heavy afternoon rain trapped most of the pupils at Nametsi trading centre as they feared to cross the flooded rivers.

Three streams of Mooni, Khuka, and Nametsi crisscross Bukalasi Sub- county and do not have any bridges. "The pupils first sought shelter at the school. However, when it reached 7:30pm and the downpour persisted, we decided to send them away but warned them to be careful while crossing the streams. Rather, most of them sheltered at the trading centre," Nabute said.

"Even the otherwise shallow Nametsi stream was over flowing. So a teacher in the school improvised a wooden door and put it over the stream to create a bridge for pupils to cross. Most of the missing and dead pupils were in lower primary who could not brave the flooded streams," he said. The school had about 580 pupils.

"To lose 35 pupils is a big blow indeed. Besides, we are not certain whether this is the last time the incident is occurring," Nabute said.

Musene broke into tears. His colleague David Wansuzi, while assisting him, added that some of the pupils and students had taken shelter in the Nametsi Health Centre III. "I had already reached home and I was in the kitchen with my grandmother and at least 18 other relatives. We had a loud rumbling noise and by the time we came out of the house to see it, it had already reached us. It killed five of my relatives, including three girls aged fifteen and two boys aged about 17," Wansuzi, who managed to escape the landslide, says of his relatives.

Sixty-year-old Jennifer Nagudi, the grandmother to Wansuzi adds that when she heard the crumbling sound, she went towards it. "At least I managed to survive because the soil stopped a few inches before me," she explains with tears falling from her eyes. Nagudi lost three grandchildren.

Forty-nine-year-old Dison Nasasa, a parent from Bukibalera village says the tragedy has rendered him childless. "I have lost four children, who were studying at Tunuwasi Primary School. Two bodies of Joyce Nandutu, P.5 and Kutosi Nambya, P.4 have been recovered. Enock Nasasa, P.2 and Lorna Nambuya, P.5 are still missing."

Joab Lukia, the LC 1 chairman of Maika village said out of 26 pupils missing in the area, 12 had been recovered while 14 are still missing.

Although the humanitarian agencies are yet to verify the number of children who are orphaned, the Uganda Red Cross has put the figure at 40.

At Bukalasi sub-county headquarters where some of the orphans had been sheltered, there was confusion because some of the children interviewed revealed they had left their parents at home but had to come to collect food.

Apparently, they did not have enough food at home, prompting them to take advantage of free food given by the Red Cross.

All the three schools in Namashet parish have closed and the Bududa district education office said they will open after two weeks. "We are still mourning the dead and the kids are in shock. We also have not established the exact number of children missing," says Peter Walulya.

Musene wants the Government to shift all the schools from, But Bududa education officials want the Government to improve on environmental protection and also control the population. "It is the high population that has led to degradation of the land and in turn, landslides are common," Walulya says, adding: "The Government should also improve on the infrastructure like roads and electricity in the area. If the rivers had bridges, the kids would have crossed earlier and survived. They should also construct more schools." The pupils of Nametsi are living dangerously, often travelling long distances to school amidst heavy rains. I request President Yoweri Museveni to re-locate our families and we re-locate.

Over 90 bodies have been recovered and over 350 people are still missing.

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