Many children in Gulu with physical impairment are facing an uphill task to acquire education and be able to favorably compete with other peers across the country owing to administrative and financial problems.
Numerous children in Gulu with physical impairments cannot access quality education due to administrative and financial problems in their district.
The challenges in Special Needs schools range from the lack of teaching materials, shortage of teachers, the absence of a committed supervisory department and no support from parents of physically impaired children.
There are three Special Needs schools in Gulu - Gulu Primary, Laroo Primary and Prisons Primary School. They offer education to blind and deaf children, as well as those with mental disabilities. Despite the fact that Gulu has more Special Needs schools than most districts in Uganda, the facilities are severely underutilized.
At Laroo Primary School for the Deaf, there are only seven teachers to handle a student population of 49.
Charles Ouma, head of the school's Hearing Impairment Unit, says the teacher-student ratio is supposed to be one to ten. He says the staff shortage is amplified by the fact that most staff do not have sign language knowledge.
Two sign language teachers were transferred from Laroo four years ago and have not been replaced.
Ouma says the few sign language teachers left have to abandon their classes to assist the other staff with their lessons.
In addition to this, the pupils at Laroo don't have sports classes because the school administration doesn't have the money to buy special sports equipment for them.
The situation is no better at Gulu Prison Primary School. 51 mentally disabled children are split into two classes where they are taught skills like knitting, weaving, tailoring and making beads.
Emmanuel Oppo, the head of the Special Needs Unit, admits that the support given to the children is inadequate. He blames this on inadequate financing from government. He says that when the money comes, it is often too late in the school year to be meaningful.
Hellen Ocaya, the head teacher at Gulu Prison Primary School, says she is bitter that such a critical education service is left for her school to arrange. She says the school serves students from poor homes and so it needs all the government support it can get.
Ocaya appeals to government to provide them with a fully fitted workshop and to increase the number of Special Needs schools so that more children can receive a quality education.
In 1999, the Ministry of Education established a Special Needs department to coordinate the teaching of children with physical impairments. Despite these, the education of children who are born deaf and blind is still problem ridden.
Vincent Ochieng, the Gulu District Education Officer, says the branch of the department in Gulu is collapsing. Like the school administrators, he blames this on a severe lack of funds from government.