Several parents have expressed reservations about the recent involvement of students in protests against the resolution by the European Parliament to delay the construction of the East African Crude Oil pipeline –EACOP.
On Thursday last week, Uganda National Student’s Association-UNSA led students, mainly from secondary schools in protests on the streets of Kampala and Hoima without prior notification of school headteachers let alone their parents.
Although UNSA claims that students participated voluntarily, parents argue that they were exploited with some calling for the penalization of whoever played part in the process. URN has also learned that headteachers have been receiving endless calls from parents seeking answers on how their children ended up on the streets.
Patrick Musinguzi, a resident of Hoima City is one of those whose child participated in the protest. Musinguzi, who was confident that his child is safe at school, says that he was shocked when he learned about the protest on Television.
Musinguzi wonders whether even the children who were given placards knew a thing about the EU parliament resolution or the effects of the protest they were tricked into.
Rajab Jjingo Bandibubi, a parent of Kawempe Muslim secondary school has also castigated the move, saying that whoever arranged the protest exploited learners thus setting a bad precedent where someone else will mobilise learners using similar means.
“I have never seen such a thing. How do you pull students out of school and take them to the streets? Here in Uganda, everything has a precedent. So if someone mobilized our children to protest against those things of oil. Next time someone else will use a similar trick over another issue,” Bandibubi said.
He wonders who would have been answerable if any of the students got a problem during the protest.
Although school headteachers have also shown innocence, arguing that they were duped by UNSA leaders who told them that children were going to meet the president, or prime minister, according to the invitation letters, parents insist that they are partly to blame. Annet Mukadde, a parent of Wampewo Ntake SS, notes that the staff that accompanied the students would have walked away when they realised they had been tricked into joint a demonstration.
“Am not convinced by the explanation given by the school headteachers. If these learners went to the so-called meeting with the teacher, he or she could have stopped the children from participating in or communicated to the headteacher to seek advice. They are all accomplices in this,” said Mukadde.
However, in a recent interview, Edward Ssekiziyiu, the deputy head teacher of Wampewo Ntake Secondary School, noted that his staff stopped the students from taking part in the protest but at that point, it was difficult for the teacher to control the learners.
Even after hearing the headteachers’ response, a section of parents is adamant that since the students were in the care of the schools, they still bear full responsibility and to some parents like Umar Katende from Hoima, the top administration of all the schools that took part in the event should be probed.
To him, protests in Uganda have always been bad, and wonders what the headteachers or whatever teacher had accompanied the student could have explained to the parent just in case something bad happened.
Robert Ajuna, also wonders how the government, which has branded previous protests by students in their school as bad turned around to allow them to hit the streets. To him, formally allowing street protests means that students can and should protest what they think is not good in the school environment.
While parents throw the blame on the schools, Bandibubi notes police are also to blame. To him, it was unprofessional of them to permit this protest without understanding how it was organized.
“So what was written on the letter that the police received? That pupils from these institutions will hold a nonviolent protest in the city? Did the police ever attempt to find out from the schools whether they were to permit kids to miss class and take part in demonstrations? All of those questions are unanswered,” says Bandibubi.
He says that it is obvious that the police may have not considered anything before permitting the protest because it was in favor of the administration. Bandibubi’s questions are critical given the fact that URN has established that this was the first protest by UNSA that was sanctioned by the police.
According to the information that is now accessible, two days after notifying the police about the planned protest, UNSA received a response approving their request to proceed as planned. In a weekend interview, Abius Bakashaba, the UNSA coordinator for the Wakiso district stated that “this was rare as many prior demands by UNSA had always been denied by police.” Police authorities have since shied away from answering questions regarding the student’s protest.