Co-written by Emma Okello, administrator at the Gulu Disabled Person’s Union, and Anna Braverman, Peace Fellow at the Advocacy Project.
On June 29, 2021, Ms. Dolly Oryem, the head teacher of Gulu Primary School, passed away from Covid-19. Her death is a devastating blow to all who knew her. Dolly, in the words of her peers, was a very jolly person and hardworking lady with a lovely family. In charge of Gulu Primary for four years, Dolly transformed the school into a paragon for inclusive education, especially in regards to children with disabilities. She took it upon herself to advocate on behalf of children with disabilities, going out of her way to partner with local organizations that support this population. Under Dolly’s leadership, Gulu Primary participated in Blaze Sports Project, USAID’s Uganda initiative to increase inclusion of children with physical disabilities in sport, and the All Stars Project, which seeks to empower disabled youth through performance theory. Prior to her untimely death, Dolly was planning to build a career in inclusive education.
Indeed, her track record in this department is impressive. Always welcoming, approachable, and eager to help, Dolly dedicated herself to improving the lives of children with disabilities. At Gulu Primary, Dolly trained teachers on how to integrate these children in the classroom. She was in constant communication with Emma Okello and Patrick Ojok, AP’s partners at the Gulu Disabled Person’s Union (GDPU), to learn about opportunities to better support this vulnerable population. In May, 2021, Dolly ordered 400 masks for her students from GDPU in conjunction with a disabled tailor named Mama Cave; this order provided the staff at GDPU, and Mama Cave, with crucial economic assistance during an exceptionally challenging time.
Tragically, Ms. Dolly Oryem contracted Covid-19 before she had the opportunity to fully realize her leadership potential. Even though Dolly was taking medication for diabetes and eating carefully, she became very ill from Covid at the outset of infection. Initially, she was admitted to Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, but due to the seriousness of her illness, she was later admitted to Lacor Hospital. Despite the best efforts of hospital staff, Dolly passed away after two weeks.
In order to prevent deaths like that of Ms. Dolly Oryem, the Ugandan government needs to increase the speed of its vaccine rollout, and increase its messaging on COVID-19 so that Ugandans are aware of the danger, and take effective countermeasures. Unfortunately, until vaccine patents are waived by the World Trade Organization (WTO), it is difficult to imagine how Uganda will be able to significantly increase its vaccine supply.
GDPU and AP send our prayers to the loving family of Ms. Dolly Oryem, and thank them for their dedication to inclusive education. The children at Gulu Primary will continue to reap the benefits of Dolly’s service for years to come.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Posted By Anna Braverman
Posted Jul 19th, 2021