18-year-old Sulaiman Matovu is an orphan. He pinned all his hopes for a better life on achieving an education.
Last year, Matovu was informed of an incredible opportunity. A Pentecostal pastor in Kampala, Bishop Elijah Semugabi, was opening schools in and around Kampala and offering free scholarships to children from underprivileged homes. He packed his belongings and traveled to Kisowera in Mukono district, to join All Saints College. However on arrival, there were no teachers, no scholarship and no school.
Matovu is one of more than 250 students, many of them orphans like he, who are stranded in Kisowera. Their benefactor, Bishop Semugabi, has been implicated in numerous cases of fraud involving non-existent scholarships. It is alleged that he promises free scholarships, but before these can be obtained, prospective students must pay 80,000 shillings for a uniform, sweater, a bed, an identity card and transport. When students from all over the country arrive at Bishop Semugabi's schools, they find there is no basic infrastructure for a school, there are barely any teachers and the school administrators are young, inexperienced men and women.
Sulaiman Matovu says that the school has provided them with only one meal for the past three days. He says that while hunger is a problem, he is more concerned with his missed opportunity for study.
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The Ministry of Education has closed All Saints College in Kisowera and the police are calling on parents to pick up their children. However, like Matovu, many children do not have parents and cannot afford the journey back home.
On Monday only four children had been picked up by their parents. The remaining children are from as far as Kyenjojo and as near as Entebbe and Mpigi. Many of them have vowed not to budge until their money is reimbursed.
None of the 250 children have been interviewed by the police and their statements have not been taken. There is no security at the school in Kisowera and only a few poorly equipped guards hang around the compound with little to do.
Fred Enanga the spokesperson of the Criminal Investigations Directorate, says Bishop Semugabi was granted bail on Monday and released from Luzira Prison. He says investigations into claims of child trafficking and fraud against the pastor are still ongoing.
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Last year Bishop Semugabi was involved in a similar scandal at his schools in Gayaza and Munyonyo. Although he was questioned by the police, little was done to deter a repeat of his actions.