Amuria, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | A 20-year-old student, Abraham Obadia from Amuria High School in the Amuria district of northern Uganda is grappling with a life-altering spinal cord injury, allegedly inflicted by his teacher.
Abraham Obadia, who was a senior five student at the time of the incident on September 26, 2023, is presently under the care of Soroti Regional Referral Hospital, where he has been hospitalized over spinal cord injury, for nearly three months.
The incident happened when Obadia was purportedly beaten by his teacher, Samuel Opio, for arriving late to the morning lessons. Following the incident, Obadia has faced severe mobility challenges, rendering him incapable of sitting or walking independently since last year.
Despite seeking medical attention at various private orthopedic hospitals, he eventually returned to Soroti Hospital.
Recounting the traumatic event from his hospital bed, Obadia revealed that the teacher struck him in the waist while he was lying down, resulting in immediate paralysis.
Subsequently, the teacher, Samuel Opio, reportedly observed a sudden change in Obadia’s physical condition and provided pain relievers, which unfortunately failed to alleviate the worsening situation. In response to the escalating health crisis, Obadia’s family decided to withdraw him from school.
“Now after beating me that evening, I told Mr. Opio, teacher of O level alias exam secretary, about what happened. He bought for me some drugs, and I kept swallowing those drugs for one week and the situation was not ‘changing.’
My parents came, and now they started treating me from there. I tried to ask the school to let me inform my parents about what happened, but they refused that I do not need to call them, but after one week, I had to sneak to borrow a student’s phone and I called home,” said Obadia.
Dr. Billy Outeke, a member of the medical team overseeing Abraham Obadia’s care at Soroti Hospital, has indicated that the student’s current health predicament may necessitate back surgery if there is no discernible improvement in the coming days.
Dr. Outeke attributes the severity of the condition to the suppression of the nerve responsible for supplying blood, a consequence of the waist injury.
While acknowledging the gravity of the situation, Dr. Outeke emphasizes that they are closely monitoring Obadia’s condition over the next 2-3 weeks to assess and determine the most appropriate course of action.
In the midst of this health crisis, Mr. Joseph Opolon, Obadia’s father, voices the substantial toll on the family’s financial standing, disclosing that they have had to relinquish family land to cover medical expenses.
Mr. Opolon further laments the lack of support from the school, highlighting that since retrieving his son from school in October last year, there has been no assistance forthcoming.
“I have gone to the school four times to seek help for the treatment of my son but no response. Instead, the school is protecting the teacher and frustrating every effort to have my son treated,” he said.
Mr. Opolon reveals the distressing financial burden he now faces, grappling with escalating hospital bills. Having exhausted all available resources, including selling possessions, he finds himself in a challenging situation to cover the ongoing treatment expenses for his son.
Paul Omoit, a fellow student reportedly beaten alongside Obadia, shares the shock and disbelief among students who witnessed the incident. Omoit recounts the aftermath, where their classmate, Obadia, unexpectedly failed to walk out of the classroom, leaving a lasting impact on those who observed the distressing episode.
“One of the teachers came in. Some of the students ran away, then he followed up those students who ran away and that friend of mine was one of those who ran away. Then he was only beaten 2 strokes. After he said that, “teacher has beaten me, I’m even sick right now,” said Omoit.
Our reporter visited the school on Monday 5, February 2024 in an attempt to obtain a statement from the school administration and management. However, all officials present at the school declined to comment on the matter. The Amuria district Education Officer (DEO), Kelen Acom, stated over the phone that she was not aware of the incident.
Samuel Opio was initially apprehended under reference number 19/24/11/2023 of Amuria CPS but was subsequently released on bond.
Abraham Obadia, who was studying mathematics, entrepreneurship, agriculture, and ICT, faces uncertainty regarding his ability to resume studies this year due to his current incapacitation.
This case raises concerns about the efficacy and enforcement of laws prohibiting corporal punishment in Ugandan schools. Despite corporal punishment being illegal, a national survey on violence against children revealed that 75 percent of children report being subjected to physical punishment in the classroom.
Save the Children, a humanitarian organization for children, has consistently emphasized that corporal punishment contravenes the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Uganda is a signatory.
The Children Act CAP. 59 expressly prohibits corporal punishment and advocates for safeguarding children from all forms of violence. Save the Children underscores that many teachers and parents, particularly in rural areas, remain unaware of these legal provisions.
Save the Children has highlighted a concerning trend where offending teachers, rather than facing appropriate consequences, are often merely transferred to another school. Additionally, in some instances, students who have experienced abuse may be silenced.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child asserts that school corporal punishment is inconsistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Such punishment infringes upon children’s rights to respect for human dignity, physical integrity, and equal protection under the law, as outlined by the Committee.
This underscores the need for more comprehensive measures to address and prevent instances of corporal punishment in educational settings.