NWOYA. About 30 public schools in Nwoya District, located in northern Uganda may lose their land due to mounting land contestation and encroachment wrangles that are hampering their redevelopment.
Some of these schools do not possess credible documents allowing them to possess the land on which they are built, which is largely owned by the communities.
The land under contestation belongs to particular clans and households who argue that they want it back to settle their families given the current population growth.
Tension is intensifying between management of the affected schools and the neighbouring communities, claiming ownership of several acres of school land since some of it was a donation from private individuals in the 1950s but with no documentation to this effect and since its value is up, descendants are now reclaiming it.
Daily Monitor has obtained statistics from Nwoya District education department indicating that a total of 19 schools risk losing their land and lack of title deeds exposes them to encroachment.
At the moment, a total of 19 primary schools and eight secondary schools are facing challenges from the communities some of whom have sought legal redress.
Some of the affected schools are: Patira Primary School in Anaka Town Council, Kochgoma Primary and Koch-Kalang, all in Kochgoma Sub-county and Lungulu, Coroom and Lamoki primary schools. Others are, Lara, Kinene, St Peter’s Bwobomanam and Alelelele primary schools in Alero Sub-county.
“Patira and Kochgoma Central took the district to court. In case of Patira, the person claiming school land is to be compensated Shs49m, which both the school and the district do not have,” Nwoya District chairperson, Mr Patrick Okello Oryema, said.
Nwoya District has 44 government aided primary schools and 33 community and private schools.
There are seven secondary schools in Nwoya District with only four owned by the government.
The district education officer, Mr Richard Irwenyo, told Daily Monitor in an interview yesterday that the government cannot implement developmental projects on encumbered land.
Plans to revamp such schools have therefore stalled.
“With such encumbered land, the district cannot risk tax payers’ resources since it can be reclaimed,” he said.
The policy from the Ministry of Education and Sports stipulates that no development should be carried out on school land which has land conflicts.
Mr Irwenyo added that in schools where there is land conflict, service delivery is also inadequate thus affecting the learners.
According to our investigations, some land was donated to schools by sympathisers, before independence but their children and grandchildren have showed up to claim it, arguing that they need it to settle their families.
Mr Oryema, told Daily Monitor in an interview on Monday that the problem is not limited to schools but other institutions such as churches and health facilities that are facing similar challenges.
“The land that was given to these institutions was not documented, something that has resulted into a lot of conflict with the communities neighbouring these institutions. We have resorted to mediation approach, so that the situation doesn’t go out of hand. We feel we shall sort some of these eviction threats posed on the most schools in the district,” Mr Oryema said.
He added: “Two community schools have been closed by the locals. Those schools were put in place to help those who cannot trek for several kilometres to access education in far distance schools but the move has been frustrated.”
He has now instructed all the sub-county chairpersons to embark on inspection of all schools’ land so that land titles are processed.
“We are trying to reach a mutual understanding though in some instances, the cases are already in the courts of law, but we are still having negotiations on the matter,” Mr Oryema said.
The district secretary for education, who is also LC5 councillor for Anaka Sub-county, Mr Geoffrey Ojok, said youth are escalating the problem. “The greed for money, they feel they need a token after hearing that the land was given to either set up a school, church or health centres,” Mr Ojok said.