KAMPALA – Recently the former Principal Private Secretary to the President and now State Minister for Economic Monitoring, Hon. Molly Nawe Kamukama was interviewed in one of the dailies over a wide range of issues on politics, what will the economy be like post-COVID-19. What caught my attention most was her views on education. She said school children in Kazo have of late not been passing well. “We must work on the decline to improve as a community’’
This reminded me of a recent experiences when traveling to Kampala at the beginning of the school or going back to Gulu when schools have closed. Being able to secure a ticket to travel becomes nearly impossible. Parents who have some means no longer faith in Gulu schools and prefer to get good education for their children from Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Masaka etc. This is a big problem that politicians from the North should get concerned. In the past there were very good schools in Northern Uganda that very important people like Hon. Amelia Anne Kyambadde(Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives), Hon. Cecilia Barbara Atim Ogwal traveled from faraway places to study at Sacred Heart School, Onapito Ekomoloit is who is Legal and Corporate Affairs Director at Nile Breweries Limited studied at Gulu Senior Secondary School, The late Vincent Opio Lukone ( Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet and Deputy Head of Public Service), Dr. Ocaka Julius Abwone ( Aviation,Transportation and Occupational Safety Specialist/ Management Advisory Task Force Chairman at East African Civil Aviation Academy ) went to Sir Samuel Baker School in Gulu. The late Prof. Odonga, Dr. Martin Aliker, Dr. Apollo Milton Obote, Ambassador. Olara Otunnu, studied at Gulu High School. Good schools then were not a preserve of people in the city like it appears now and education was relatively affordable.
In terms of primary school, Bishop Angelo Negri Primary School and Mary Immaculate Girls school run by the Comboni Missionary Sisters then had a tradition of academic excellence. Negri Primary always ranked among the best schools in the country. It is worthy to note to some important people making serious contributions who went through the great school and ask why parents are no longer keen to take their children to study from there.
The Accountant General, Semakula Lawrence is an old boy and so is Sam Ayo of Capital FM who was his classmate in the early 1980’s . Lawrence never forgot his former headmistress, Sr. Veronica Landonio. He made every effort to always visit her at their convent in Namugongo before she was taken back to Italy three years ago due to old age. Sr. Veronica made 98years this year and the old boys are happy to know that she is well inspite of the Coronavirus pandemic that killed thousands of people in Italy. Hon. Richard Towdwong, the NRM Party Deputy Secretary-General, Victor Acellam ( Formerly Chief of Protocol, First Secretary at Uganda’s mission in Rome), Ocitti Sunday Paul Labeja who works at the Joint Clinical Research Centre, Onen Patrick Ezaga, head of the Emmaus Foundation that oversees schools and organizations that the late Fr. John Scalabrini founded and Bishop Angelo Negri Primary and College fall in this category, Dr. Lucaci Patrick Lucas who specializes in oral-facial and implant surgery in the US. Larok Arthur of Action Aid and ANT Party, Tony Awany is First Secretary at Uganda’s mission in the UAE, Mone Simon is Principal Aerodomes Inspector at Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, Tempra Omona, one of the most popular Ugandan musicians. (His musical talent was nurtured from this school where he mimed Philly Bongoley Lutaaya’s Alone and Frightened effortlessly.), Aliker David Martin, a teacher, author and politician, Oci Sioko, a renown Civil Engineer currently working with Mercy Corps in the DRC, Boniface Ojok stands out in Civil Society as promoter of peace, justice and social transformation. He has just completed his doctoral studies on Education after Conflict from Birmingham University. Gabriel Binaisa Akena and his young brother, Ayo Sam Cris founded Diro Technologies, an Information Technology firm. Sam specializes in Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics having recently graduated from the University of East London with distinction. He is one the few Ugandans who speak Chinese fluently having exceled and earned a scholarship to study in China. Gabriel did his Diploma in International Baccalaureate from Italy and then the rest of his studies from Uganda. He is an expert in IT networks and holds a MBA as well. The two brothers have excellent academic records right from primary to university. These are many prominent old boys of the school are making a worthy contribution to the development of Uganda and beyond but because of limited space the listed ones paint a picture of what excellence meant then. Also, past Presidents, Apollo Milton Obote and Idi Amin Dada are among high profile people who are said to have visited Negri Primary school to understand what was exactly taking place in the mission area.
In trying to understand what has gone wrong with traditional schools with a focus on Bishop Angelo Negri Primary School, I had a chat with an old boy who has good institutional memory of the school. Alfonse Opwonya was nostalgic about the good old days at the once famous school. Alfonse is well known for doing business, commercial farming and he is into media as well under The Republic Lens. He says liberalization of the economy where education became commercialized can be attributed to the decline of Bishop Angelo Negri Primary School. The same applies to hospitals were the private ones are more popular because of better services. Most of the good schools were faith-based especially the Catholic Church through Comboni Sisters and Verona Fathers. Once the schools were handed over to Ugandans it became impossible to access support from benefactors in Europe. In addition, the tuition fees that were normally subsidized went up and most parents want value for money when fees are high. With the decline in performance, the able parents look up to Kampala schools where great results are assured. Private schools are flourishing but they come at a cost most parents can’t afford.
However poor administration can’t be ruled out for the decline too. The inspection of schools is no longer taken seriously. According to the Ministry of Education guidelines, a headteacher should remain in a school for a maximum of ten years. The current headteacher has been at the school for a much longer time. Probably nothing spectacular should be expected as complacency could have set in. Getting used to a system that is no longer competitive leads to business as usual attitude. Unless the old boys take serious interests in the affairs of their school like LACOBA does at St. Joseph’s College Layibi, we may not talk about Bishop Angelo Negri Primary School with pride the way we used to. The coming of the Jesuits whose vocation is education with the establishment of Ocer Campion has brought some little hope to parents in Northern Uganda.
Jimmy Odoki Acellam has interests in Education and Mental Health. He is an old boy of Bishop Angelo Negri Primary School