“Psychopaths are social predators, and like all predators, they look for feeding grounds. Wherever you get power, prestige and money, you will find them,” Robert D. Hare said.
The sudden and untimely death of St Lawrence Schools proprietor Lawrence Mukiibi came as a shock, especially for those who had come to believe that he was a transformative force, a beacon of light in an otherwise gloomy education landscape important to the broader transformation of Uganda’s education.
After the dignified – almost stately funeral and accolades usually only reserved for political dignitaries - little did the public know that no sooner than he – Mukiibi – had been laid to rest there would be a different kind of outpouring, an avalanche, actually a tsunami of disgust and disbelief!
Unmasked as a rampant pedophile and child abuser, his demise signals the beginning of real questions about the accountability structures of our education system especially in the pursuit of quality at all costs.
More so in our so-called ‘elite’, ‘first-world’ schools where parents pay through their noses to get the grades and supposedly the grooming of their young into confident young adults and responsible citizens.
The astronomical fees paid by parents were uncontested at St Lawrence going into an account controlled by one person – Mr Mukiibi himself. And apparently grooming too took place but not the kind that parents thought they were paying for. It seems this too was done and principally controlled by one person – Mr Mukiibi.
Simply put, it was done for the gratification of one person who used parents’ trust and the authority entrusted in him as well as the ‘safe’ school environment to conduct his rampage on the young and innocent unabated - for years judging by the children and young ‘widows’ left behind.
To my mind, this raises so many questions that it is hard to know where to start. But for starters; who knew and why did they not raise the alarm?
Were parents aware of the sleazy character running these schools and purporting to look after and keep their boys and girls safe? Were the authorities aware, and at what level?
Were any complaints ever raised and by whom? Did they form part of any report submitted to the ministry of Education and Sports, the district education officer (DEO), the district inspector of schools (DIS) or even the Private Schools’ Network?
How can it be that the unsavoury actions of one man in a position of authority, trusted by parents resulting in the ‘production’ of 50+ children could have gone unnoticed, unreported, and unabated for so long? What does this say about our system of education and structures of accountability – vertically and horizontally?
What does this say about the pervasive culture of impunity? We can’t even begin to speculate about the trickledown effect of this level of moral bankruptcy, sleaziness and predatory destructiveness on the St Lawrence schools, its school culture, head teachers, teachers and students and support staff.
As the ministry with the over- all responsibility for education – planning, oversight and budgeting - can you hear and feel the shock, the horror and disgust of your principal clients – parents – and society at large on this issue?
Can you please do something that shows that you too are as shocked and in need of answers like the rest of us out here? Will the ministry and other responsible bodies undertake an audit of what happened at the St Lawrence schools, the human costs and consequences?
What does this say about the lack of oversight, and accountability in our schooling system and what needs to happen to plug the gaps?
We rage about girls’ lack of school supplies, sanitary pads, books, school meals and how these and other factors undermine the quality of our education.
We are up in arms and practically speechless with anger when we discuss the culture of sex for marks in universities and the uneven power relations created therein that leave young adults 19+ years old powerless at the hands of predacious lecturers.
But how can we sit still on this one when the children we are talking about are possibly below 18 years, away from home for the first time and vulnerable?
Can we really talk of a quality education at any level when predators in the form of school directors, head teachers and teachers are preying on the innocent and robbing them of their future?
Can these be entrusted to put quality before self-gratification, money and greed especially when their behaviour undermines the very essence of quality schooling at every level?
It seems to me that with these recent revelations, we might very well have to revisit that old-age question of why girls are not in school and whether it is not just the lack of sanitary pads that is keeping hundreds of girls from school.
Let’s take this monster – child abuse in schools, particularly of vulnerable and innocent girls – out of the closet rather than shroud it in secrecy that allows the likes of Mukiibi to father children from his ‘farm of girls’ in plain sight!
Let those responsible including the school board of directors, the MoES, parents and CSOs look at this for what it is...a tragedy and part of a more wide- spread and growing problem related to our pervasive culture of impunity that is tempered by power, money and greed.
It has to be addressed; dealt with now, today and not in the next financial year. The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.
The author is head of political science department at Makerere University.