The Deceased was identified as Natasha Byenjeru who was pursuing a degree in Law at Makerere University. Natasha took her life on June 6 following a mental breakdown over an exam retake.
Natasha joined Makerere University in 2015 and dreamt of completing the course within the four-year duration.
However, almost seven years down the road, she was still held up from graduating by a retake in the course unit called Business Associations II.
On June 1, she made her third and last attempt at passing the paper but shortly after coming out, a crestfallen Byenjeru intimated to friends that the exam was harder than expected. Under the university rules, a student is disqualified from a course once he/she fails a course unit for a third time.
“She had performed poorly in coursework after missing out on marks for class presentations via Zoom…so, she knew it was always going to be an uphill task in the final exam,” said a friend who preferred anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Byenjeru feared for the worst and seeing how most of the colleagues she started the course with were already advocates of the High court, she fell into a deep depression.
“She only said she had nothing to tell the parents if she fails again because that would be the end of her attempt to become a lawyer,” said another friend who is now an advocate.
Sadly, on June 6, Byenjeru ended her life through suicide. She wanted to end the mental anguish caused by the fear of shame to the parents. Several people close to her who preferred anonymity say the signs were obvious that she was depressed. Her death has since raised the issue of mental health at the Makerere University School of Law, with various stakeholders suggesting an overhaul to the studying at the school.
Efforts to reach out to Dr Christopher Mbaziira and Dr Ronald Naluwayiro, the principal and deputy principal of the School of Law respectively, were futile as they didn’t pick their calls. Grace Waiswa Nsaawa, the president of Makerere Law Society (MLS), told The Observer that Byenjeru’s death is a wake-up call to MLS and that they are going to take the issue of mental health seriously among students and the administration.
“Recently, there was a psychologist who was assigned to the school of law and actually she came and spoke to first year students during orientation a few weeks ago. She emphasized that she is always going to be available at law school so that students can interact with her whenever they are having issues of mental health,” he said.
Nsaawa recognizes that very many students at the school of law are suffering from depression and anxiety disorders which he attributes to the pressure that comes with the heavy studying and that it sometimes leads to drug abuse, addictions and alcoholism, which may lead to circumstances such as suicide.
“I have been able to get in touch with some of the close friends of Byenjeru and they think and at- tribute her demise to drug addiction as a result of depression but it cannot yet be confirmed; it just alleged but it is one of the things that have been mentioned by her close friends,” Nsaawa said.