Kabigi Taqwa Primary School in Butenga Sub-county in the Bukomansimbi district is struggling to get students back after the government took over management last year because of long-running disputes between members of the school’s founding body.
The school, which is part of the historic Kabigi Islamic Institute, is at the centre of a fight between the local Kabigi Muslim community, led by Sheikh Abdul Jabar Mawanda, and his brother, Sheikh Haruna Jjemba, a former teacher at Makerere University.
Their father, the late Sheikh Juma Katungulu, was one of the core founders of the institute. The community accuses Jjemba of fraudulently taking over the school’s management, yet it was started as a community project. Due to the tension between the warring parties, the Resident District Commissioner of Bukomansimbi, Sharon Akunda, led the Bukomansimbi District Security Committee to take over the school early this week. This was done to make sure that learning could continue.
The security committee also decided to deploy anti-riot police personnel to prevent any eventualities. Despite the deployment, a substantial number of learners are yet to return to the school after it was opened for the third term. Only 162 out of the registered 432 learners who were in the school at the closure of the second term had reported by Friday, according to the attendance register seen by Uganda Radio Network.
Sulaiman Kakeeto, a parent in Kabigi trading center, says his two children are still at home, fearing that the fighting between agents of the warring factions may break out anytime and they will get caught up in the middle of the confusion. He argues that the school has repeatedly changed management amid clashes, which has caused confusion among the parents who are still uncertain of its future. He explains that several parents have since transferred their children to neighbouring schools.
According to Kakeeto, the dispute has since sucked in many parents, whose decisions are based on who is managing the school at a given time. Abdul Noor Kasasa, another parent, says some of the teachers who were recently kicked out of the schools are also exploiting the current controversy to discourage parents from taking their children to the school in favour of neighbouring schools. He says that even though the RDC said the government would take over the school’s management, she let Dr. Jjemba keep running the school’s business so that students could keep studying.
“This certainly did not go down well with their counterparts who also previously managed the institute. So, some of the teachers who had been hired by Sheikh Mawanda were fired, and now, because they are unhappy, they are sending some students to other schools to try to get in, he said.
A teacher of Islamic religious studies at the institute, Musa Mugerwa, blames the low turnout of the learners on the misconduct of a clique of parents, whom he accuses of resorting to a smear campaign against the school for selfish reasons. He is, however, optimistic that more students will report back in due course, upon establishing that learning is going on normally.
Sharon Ankunda, the Bukomansimbi Resident District Commissioner, says that they have instructed the local leaders in the area to mobilise learners to return to school by giving them assurance that nobody will disrupt the school again. She says that they know some former teachers are sending some students to other schools and that security is looking into the claims and will soon come up with a solution.
She says that they will maintain security at the school’s premises to ensure that students are not disrupted pending the court’s final decision on the same matter. The Kabigi Islamic Institute started having problems in 2019 when Hajj Haruna Jjemba took over running the school from his brother, Sheikh Abdul Jabar Mawanda, because he thought Sheikh Abdul Jabar Mawanda was not running the school well enough.
Mawanda counters that his adversaries are registering the school as personal property with the intention of running it as a business, something he says is against the objectives of the initial founders, who wanted to run it as a community institute.
According to Mawanda, parents have withdrawn learners because they don’t trust the current administrators. He, on the other hand, says that besides the court case that is still going on in Masaka High Court, he is also talking to different parties to find a way to settle the dispute.