Re-developing Bat Valley Primary School; Is this good for Kampala?

Re-developing Bat Valley Primary School; Is this good for Kampala?
The Kampala City Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago

Kampala, Uganda | By Edward Ronald Sekyewa | A row has erupted between Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and a section of the Indian Community in Kampala over the re-development and future of Bat Valley Primary School in the city centre.

The row stems from a re-development proposal that was forwarded to KCCA by a section of Indians under the Shree Sanatan Dharma Mandal (SSDM) who are the owners of both the school and land on which Bat Valley Primary School is located.

In their proposal, SSDM is seeking to build new structures to replace the 4 dilapidated classroom blocks,
construct new staff quarters and modernize the playground for the school. On completion of the new structures, they will be handed to KCCA and the old classroom blocks will be demolished and replaced
with new modern structures.

Although the technical team at KCCA has been receptive of the proposal, the politicians at the Authority
led by the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago have vowed to block the proposed redevelopments, claiming that “it is a ploy by some unscrupulous individuals to steal the Bat Valley land as was the case with the Shimoni School.”

Some Councilors at KCCA led by Lukwago are accusing the Central Division Mayor Salim Uhuru of colluding with the SSDM and the Bat Valley School Management Committee (SMC) to grab the
school land.

Bat Valley was one of the elite schools in Kampala city together with Buganda Road Primary School, Nakasero Primary School, Shimoni Primary School and Kitante Primary School. Apart from Shimoni Primary School which was demolished, all the other schools are today the shadows of their former selves, in a sorry state after they were put under the Universal Primary Education (UPE) arrangement.

It should be recalled that Shimoni Primary School in Kampala was demolished and it’s land given to an investor to construct a CHOGM hotel. Today, that land is owned by Sudhir Ruparelia and his Kingdom Kampala building sits there.

From an analytical perspective however, the Bat Valley and Shimoni circumstances are totally different. Whereas Shimoni land was “donated” to some investor by government to build a CHOGM Hotel which never was, documents seen by this Writer indicate that Bat Valley land on Plot No. 110 William Street Kampala measuring 5.211 acres is owned by the SSDM group which is seeking approval from KCCA to redevelop the land.

Besides that, the SSDM group is not even thinking of removing the school, but they are instead suggesting that they construct new and better structures for the school and hand them to KCCA before they can commercially develop the remaining part of the land.

Discussions between SSDM and KCCA have been going on for years now about the future of Bat Valley Primary School. This Writer has seen communication to that effect dating as far back as 2016, where the Bat Valley SMC shows support for the redevelopment of the school by SSDM.

In one of such meetings on 22nd July 2016, the SMC leadership indicated that the SSDM had spent 8 million on the renovation of the school administration block and another 150 million on teachers and workers top-up allowances for the two years that had passed.

In May 2022, the Chairperson of the SSDM Board of Trustees Mr. Rajendrakumar Vaya wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) requesting for a stakeholders’ meeting to address the matter. In that letter, Mr. Vaya outlined the plans that SSDM had to redevelop the school.

In a letter written by the Permanent Secretary of MoES to the KCCA Executive Director on 28th July 2022 titled “The Future of Bat Valley Primary School,” the PS asked KCCA to request the SSDM Board of trustees to submit to the Authority a detailed proposal on the school redevelopment and Bat Valley SMC had to be in agreement with the proposal.

“The purpose of this communication therefore is to request you to expeditiously handle this matter to its logical conclusion,” the PS concluded his letter to the KCCA ED.

In a letter dated 14th November 2023, the KCCA Executive Director Dorothy Kisaka wrote to the SSDM Board of Trustees guiding them on how to go about presenting their proposal in line with the decentralized framework of primary education delivery.

 Dorothy Kisaka, KCCA Executive Director.

“We request that you present your proposal through a minute of the School Management Committee (SMC),” she wrote. She added that “the SMC should thereafter present the said minute to the Central Division Council for consideration before we present your proposal for the Authority Council.”

On 24th November 2024, the Bat Valley SMC Chairperson Mr. Rameshbhai Halai wrote a letter titled “RE-MINUTES OF SCHOOL MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE- BAT VALLEY SCHOOL PROPOSAL” to the Kampala Central Division town Clerk.

In that letter, the SMC Chairperson acknowledged receipt of a letter from the SSDM to develop the infrastructure at Plot 110 William Street, and among the proposals was the construction of new school structures. The SMC Chairperson further informed the Town Clerk that that the SMC welcomed the proposal as they seek safety for the pupils and better infrastructure for them to study in.

On receiving the letter from Bat Valley SMC Chairperson, Kampala Central Division Urban Council sat on 6th December 2023 and considered the SSDM request to diversify services and infrastructure at Bat Valley Primary School. In that meeting, Council resolved that;

  • SSDM shall endeavor to construct a new facility on a portion of the present site of Plot 110 William Street for the UPE School.
  • The new facility shall remain the property of SSDM.
  • SSDM proceeds with the development plan to restructure and reconstruct Bat Valley Primary School premises considering the recommendations of the Authority that SSDM should reconstruct the school playground and the school should remain under the management and supervision of KCCA.
  • Maintenance and insurance of the premises shall be the sole responsibility of KCCA.
  • The facility shall be leased to MoES/KCCA.
  • There shall be a Memorandum of Understanding between SSDM and KCCA on the utilization of the facility.

On 7th December 2023, the SSDM Board of Trustee Chairperson Rajendrakumar Vaya wrote to the KCCA ED referring her to the SMC minute and the Kampala Central Division Council resolution, both of which he attached to the letter. This was in fulfilment of the guidance that the ED had earlier given them.

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When some politicians at City Hall got wind of these developments some time in December 2023, they vowed to block the plans citing reasons named earlier. Mayor Erias Lukwago who was out of the country hurriedly returned back and led the fight to block the project approval of new developments in the City Hall KCCA Council meeting, which he successfully did.

After facing resistance from Mayor Lukwago and his men at City Hall, the SSDM were left in shock and awe, so they turned to Hon. Kabuye Kyofatogabye, the Minister of State for Kampala Capital City and Metropolitan Affairs in the Office of the President, for help.

Vaya, the Chairperson of the SSDM Board of Trustees wrote a letter to Hon. Kabuye on 13th December 2023 requesting for guidance and advice on the way forward about the Bat Valley proposal.

While talking to the media at a political function about his achievements in the year 2023, Mayor Erias Lukwago mentioned the blocking of Bat Valley plans as one of his major achievements in the year 2023.

However, the battle over Bat Valley seem far from over, and the New Year 2024 started with drawn political battle-lines, not very different from the usual politicking over development projects in Kampala.