May 17, 2024

Ogwal Improves Sanitation, Learning At Bata SSS

(This article was first published in the new Vision on June 1, 2022)

By Michael Onyinge

Denis Ogwal is the headteacher of Bata Senior Secondary School in Bata town council, Dokolo district.

He was transferred to the school in 2020 and his first challenge was poor sanitation.

“The boys did not have latrines. One of the girls’ latrines had collapsed. Their bath shelters had no curtain walls and the girls shunned using them,” Ogwal says.

The teachers lacked latrines and were living in poor semi-permanent houses.

Ogwal’s first task was to improve the sanitation for learners and teachers, which he says he achieved with the help of the board members and the Parent-Teacher Association.

At the school, 99% of the students are in the boarding section and 1% in day school. The arrangement was set up to enable students who could not afford the boarding fees continue studying at the school.

COVID-19 Interventions

During the COVID-19-induced lockdown, Ogwal says in order for learning to continue, they made several interventions.

Ogwal says he and some teachers held radio talk shows where students were advised to read their notes and parents sensitised to allow their children to revise.

To monitor the students, he would call their parents and ask about their progress. During such phone calls, he learnt that one of the learners had been married off. He worked hard to ensure the learner returned to school and supported her to do her final examinations.

“She now has a certificate that can enable her to go for a course,” Ogwal says. One male student also married, but failed to fulfil the responsibility that came with marriage, so he was allowed back in school.

When the Government announced the reopening of schools, Ogwal mobilised parents via radio announcements to return their children to school.

Teachers were also encouraged to pass on this message at their respective places of worship.

A medical team was brought on board to sensitise staff and students on preventing the spread of COVID-19, Ogwal says.

When the school reopened, Ogwal ensured all the standard operating procedures were adhered to. He says they provided enough handwashing facilities, temperature guns and masks for both teachers and learners in need and a COVID-19 task force was instituted.

Regarding welfare, the learners were asked to bring food items and whatever amount of fees a parent could afford.

“Once there is food for a student to eat, then we can start learning as the parent looks for fees,” Ogwal says.

He explains that he allowed the arrangement given that the school is in a rural area where most parents are farmers and low-income earners and he did not want to discourage them from bringing their children back.

Denis Ogwal inspects one of the latrines constructed at Bata SSS in Dokolo district

Motivating Teachers

When he was posted to the school, Ogwal says there were only nine teachers on the government payroll vis-à-vis 532 students.

He says he recruited 17 teachers who were paid allowances by the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).

“Imagine having a public school where more teachers are paid by parents than the government,” Ogwal says.

He says this was difficult, especially since hard-to-reach areas usually do not attract teachers, but he had to find alternatives. This year, Ogwal says the Government posted five more teachers to the school. The teachers paid by parents were retained to enable the school compete favourably with others.

In the 2021 Uganda Certificate of Education results, Bata Senior Secondary School got three students in division one.

Supporting Vulnerable Students

Ogwal pays attention to needy learners and those with special needs, ensuring they also get an education. He says there is one student who has a hearing impairment and teachers worked out how to support the learner.

Special attention is also paid to girls to prevent them from dropping out of school, he says.

To enable students contact their parents or guardians, Ogwal dedicated one of his personal phones for the purpose.

He says since students are not allowed to keep phones, he has one in his office which they use to communicate with their families.

Co-Curricular Activities

Ogwal says he takes sports seriously. Both boys and girls play football and engage in athletics.

He says he was elected as the chairperson of co-curricular activities in the district for secondary schools by fellow headteachers.

The school has a debate club that meets every Friday.

For spiritual development, Ogwal says he has promoted Scripture Union and the Young Christian Society.

To protect the environment, he and the learners have so far planted 1,500 eucalyptus trees.

Community Impact

Community members are earning an income from the school through the supply of foodstuffs and doing casual work.

Janet Alum, a neighbour of the school, says Ogwal allowed community members to sell food items to the learners.

To cement the relationship, community members are allowed to fetch water from the school borehole at no cost. Alum says in the past, community members were not allowed to access the borehole.

The school truck is available to community members, provided they fuel it.

Susan Adongo, a community member, says they can access the truck for events such as funerals.

“Ogwal has shown that the school is there for us as a community and we feel attached to it,” Adongo says.

She says the community also keeps an eye on school property, guarding it against theft. The community is also invited for school meetings.

“When we are invited as a community, we give our views for the betterment of the school. Whereas those whose children go to this school may not be aware of what is happening, some of us who live close to it know more than those who come from far,” Rachel Ejang, a community member, says.

What Leaders Say

Peter Ajungu, the chairperson board of governors of Bata Senior Secondary School, says: “Ogwal has brought back the school to life given the infrastructural developments amidst the limited resources and moreover during the COVID-19 era. He improved the running of the school.”

Faustine Acar, the PTA chairperson of Bata SSS, says: “Ogwal ensures that teachers who are not on the payroll are paid on time, showing his commitment to the learners being taught. The school sanitation has improved greatly, showing that Ogwal cares about the health of the students and teachers. The massive renovation that was going on in the school with the little financial resources is attributed to Ogwal’s industriousness.”

James Otoo Apili, the Dokolo district chairperson, says Ogwal is one of the outstanding headteachers in the district and is making a great change in the community

Fact File

  • Ogwal was born in 1979 to Yuventino Okello and Lucy Akite Imat in Dokolo town council, Dokolo district
  • 1987-1993: Attended Atur Primary School
  • 1994-1997: Studied O’level at John Bosco Senior Secondary School, Dokolo
  • 1998-1999: Attended Dr Obote College Boroboro for A’level
  • 2000-2002: Went to National Teachers’ College Ngetta for a diploma in education
  • 2003: Taught at Midland High School in Kaberamaido for one term and the insurgency of the Lord’s Resistance Army affected him.
  • 2004-2014: Taught at Kwera Senior Secondary School l 2009: Completed his degree in education at Makerere University
  • 2015: Appointed as the headteacher of Iguli Girls’ Secondary School
  • 2017: Completed his master’s degree
  • 2018: Transferred to Nambyeso Agro Secondary School in Kwania district
  • 2020: Transferred to Bata Senior Secondary School as a headteacher.

He is finalising his post-graduate diploma in human resource management at Islamic University in Uganda in Mbale.

Long-Serving Teacher Speaks Out

Richard Lemo has been teaching at the school for 21 years and has served under three headteachers.

He says although Ogwal has not been at the school for long, he has done a lot, including constructing latrines for teachers and pupils, as well as renovating the staff quarters.

The school lacked electricity and Ogwal bought solar panels and batteries to ensure the school is well-lit, Lemo says.

The school has more textbooks for essential subjects.

Lemo says Ogwal has united teachers that were previously divided into factions. “We used to have selected teachers to tell our challenges to some headteachers, but today, any of us can walk into the headteacher’s office and speak their mind without any fear,” Lemo says

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