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Barlonyo Attack Survivors Struggle To Access Education

Thirteen year old Jacqueline Aceng is unhappy that she will not be joining senior one at her dream school at Apala Secondary School, about ten kilometers from their home at Barlonyo, the former IDP camp where rebels killed hundreds of people in February 2004.
Some of the children commemorating the 8th anniversary of the February 21 2004 rebel attack lay wreaths on the Barlonyo mass grave.

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Access to education remains elusive to the survivors of the 2004 Barlonyo Massacre, eight years after the Lord's Resistance Army-orchestrated attack.

On February 21, 2004, rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army attacked and burnt the camp killing up to 300 people.

Thirteen year old Jacqueline Aceng is unhappy that she will not be joining senior one at her dream school at Apala Secondary School, about ten kilometers from their home at Barlonyo, the former IDP camp where rebels killed hundreds of people in February 2004.

 

Aceng, who speaks with a fluency envied by many of her mates, says her parents are unable to afford the 200,000 shillings tuition fees to begin her secondary education.

 

She tearfully narrates how she managed to score credits 5, 6, 6 and 5 in Mathematics, Social Studies, Science and English respectively totaling to aggregate 21 in the 2011 primary leaving examinations. While such a score many not draw much attention among the country’s best performers, at Barlonyo former IDP camp, the score makes Aceng stand apart as she remembers her daily trips to Coo Rom primary school located a few kilometers from the former camp that witnessed some of the worst atrocities of the two-decade war in Northern Uganda.

 

Aceng says she won’t be joining her peers at school and is not sure when she will ever get to step in school again when her parents finally manage to raise some money. As a result, she has sounded an appeal to the president asking him to come to her rescue and pay her tuition to enable her continue with her education.

 

//Cue in: “I am not happy…”

Cue out: “…pay for me my school fees.”//

 

 Molly Acio, Aceng’s mother says she is sad that her daughter won’t be able to join school this year. She says that for now the family can only afford to raise tuition for Aceng’s sister who is studying at Amach Complex secondary school, several kilometers away. Acio says the family relies entirely on the proceeds from her tailoring work, which fetches about a hundred thousand shillings monthly. She too has a message for the president reminding him about a pledge he allegedly made over seven years ago to provide for the education of the children from the former IDP camp.

 

The problem of children failing to continue with education due to inability by parents to afford school requirements is common among the Barlonyo community who seem to be finding their feet after the war. Moses Ogwang, the area LC1 chairman says that there are over 100 children who failed to continue with their education after sitting Primary Leaving Examinations in 2010.

 

To help provide alternative education, a vocational school has opened its doors to the children living in Barlonyo. Geoffrey Okello, a registrar at Barlonyo Technical and Vocational Institute explains that the school enrolled three hundred when it began three years ago. He, however, explains that often, the students at the school exhibit trauma signs that require counseling. Okello adds that the students are finding it difficult to cope following the horrid experience of the February 21 2004 attack.

 

//Cue in: “You may find…”

Cue out: “…bring them in line.”//

 

Despite this, a few children are braving to beat the odds to find their ways in life. Denis Oyo, a student at Barlonyo Vocational school says that he opted to join technical education because it is an affordable way to help him secure a better livelihood. He says after three years at the school he can now seek casual employment in the construction industry where he earns some money during holidays to cater for his upkeep at school.

 

//Cue in: “When am out…”

Cue out: “…while in school.”

 

The story of Oyo and Aceng are typical experiences shared by several youths in the region that was home to decades of war.