Edward Ssenozi, the chairperson Uganda National Teachers' Union Chairperson-Nakasongola branch says that some pupils wake up at 3am to graze the animals when the grass is still wet and by the time of going to school they are just returning home to catch up with sleep.
Information from Nakasongola District Veterinary Office shows that at least 80 cows have died over the past two weeks due to lack of water and pasture. The most affected sub counties are Kalungi, Nabiswera, Lwabyata and Nakitoma.
As a result, several parents have ordered their school age going children to tend to the animals. The children travel with the animals for a distance to river Kafu and Lake Kyoga about 15 Kilometers awat in search of water and pasture.
This morning, URN visited Kikooba Primary school and found only 180 out of the 270 enrolled pupils in attendance. The situation was not any different at Kafu primary where only 270 pupils were presented out of the 350 registered. At Kirooro Primary School more than 100 Pupils had not returned in the upper classes.
The situation is worse at Kabyuma,Njeru, Kigarambi, Nabiswera,Namansa and Kimaga primary schools among others. Mathias Mbaga and Samuel Mbabali, the head teacher Kikooba and Kafu River Primary schools respectively says most of the absentee pupils are seen attending to cattle at river Kafu as the valley dams in the area have dried up.
They say that, even the pupils who show up for classes report late which may affect the completion of the syllabus in time. Edward Ssenozi, the chairperson Uganda National Teachers' Union Chairperson-Nakasongola branch says that some pupils wake up at 3am to graze the animals when the grass is still wet and by the time of going to school they are just returning home to catch up with sleep.
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A group of parents in Nakitoma Sub County led by James Mushemeeza say they want their children to be in school but the situation is out of control as they need to save their animals, which is their only source of livelihood. Juma Mukuye, another resident says some of the parents are using their children to ten to the animals because even herdsmen locally known as "Abalaalo'' are too scarce.
However, some of the pupils interviewed by URN were not bothered about missing classes. Some of the pupils who spoke to our reporter on condition of anonymity said there are no serious lessons at school since the term has just begun. Nakasongola district authorities are considering sensitizing parents on the need to send their children to school.
Sam Eswaggu, the Nakasongola District Veterinary Officer advises pastoralists in the district to reduce the number of animals and invest in the construction of valley dams to mitigate effects of the dry spell.
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There are over 254,000 cows in Nakasongola district. Reports from the district show that at least 3000 cows die each year due to lack of access to water and pastures.