A 20-year-old student of Amuria High School, Amuria district in northern Uganda is battling a life-changing spinal cord injury after he was allegedly beaten by his teacher.
Abraham Obadia, who was in senior five at the time of the beating (September 26, 2023), is currently admitted at Soroti regional referral hospital where he has been hospitalized for nearly three months. He was reportedly beaten by Samuel Opio after reportedly coming late for the morning lessons.
Since last year, Obadia has been unable to sit or walk by himself. He has also been to different private orthopaedic hospitals before returning to Soroti hospital. Obadia told URN at his hospital bed, that the teacher beat him in the waist as he was lying down - leading to an instant paralysis.
He says that after the beating, the teacher noticed a sudden change in his body shape and soon after bought him pain relievers only for the condition to worsen, prompting his family to pick him up from school.
"Now after beating me that evening, I told Mr Opio, teacher of O level alias exam secretary, I told him 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 my parents began treating me from there up to now. I tried to ask the school to let me inform the parents about what happened, but they refused that I do not need to call the parents, but after one week, I had to sneak to borrow a student's phone and I called home," said Obadia.
Dr Billy Outeke, one of the doctors managing Obadia at Soroti hospital says that the student’s condition might require a back surgery if there’s no improvement in the next few days. He notes that the nerve supplying blood got suppressed due to the injury on the waist. He, however, notes that they are observing the condition for the next 2-3 weeks to be able to decide on the next course of action.
Meanwhile, Obadia's father Joseph Opolon says that his son's condition has crippled the family’s financial stand after costing their family land. He notes that since he picked up the boy from school in October last year, the school has not helped in any way.
“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.
Opolon further says that he is currently stuck with rising hospital bills after selling all that he could to raise money to cover the treatment. Paul Omoit, one of the students who was reportedly beaten together with Obadia, says that the fellow students who watched the beating couldn’t believe what happened to their classmate when he suddenly failed to walk out of the classroom.
"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 this Monday to seek a comment from the school administration and management but all the officers found in the school declined to comment on the matter. Amuria district education officer (DEO), Kelen Acom said on phone that she was not aware of the incident.
Opio was first arrested under the reference number 19/24/11/2023 of Amuria CPS but released on bond. Obadia, who was offering mathematics, entrepreneurship, agriculture, and ICT is uncertain of resuming his studies this year since he is currently crippled.
His case raises questions about the effectiveness and implementation of the laws banning corporal punishment in schools in Uganda. Corporal punishment is illegal in Uganda, however, a national survey on violence against children found that 75 per cent of children report being beaten in class.
Humanitarian organization for children, Save the Children has over the years noted that corporal punishment violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Uganda has signed and committed to upholding. The Children Act CAP. 59 bans corporal punishment and calls for the protection of children from all forms of violence. Save the Children further notes that many teachers and parents, especially in rural areas, are not even aware of this.
Save the Children said that usually offending teachers are only just transferred to another school with no further repercussions, and in some cases, the abused students are often silenced. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, school corporal punishment is incompatible with the Convention on the Rights of the Child Corporal punishment of children breaches their rights to respect for human dignity and physical integrity and to equal protection under the law.