13th July 2006
Handsome, hardworking gentlemen from Kisubi
By Jackie Nalubwama

Of the schools I have visited, I have not seen beauty such as I did at St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK).
Perched on top of Kisubi hill, the school gate opens to a wonder world of green grass and trees, as well as randomly selected flowers.

The effects are utter beauty and magic; they help me momentarily forget the ugly fracas with the gatekeeper who surprised me with a “no women in trousers allowed on the school campus” announcement, referring to my jeans-clad self.

But the magic disappears when the reality of the bell sets in and the boys get out for lunch. Alongside SMACK’s enchanting beauty, the school has an interesting history.

Arial view of part of the school in 1996

In 1906, when the White Fathers opened the school, St. Mary’s College was in Lubaga. Later in 1924, the college was shifted to where it now stands because the students had grown in number and facilities in Lubaga had become inadequate. The school that therefore celebrates 100 years of existence became SMACK after the move to Kisubi.

SMACK could fool any new visitor with its brand new look, but it has nestled boys and groomed them into gentlemen for 100 years. And by the look of it, the school still has the duty to make other young boys’ dreams come true.

Bro. Edward Bukenya, the headmaster said that it was the old boys’ initiative to give the school a new face. “We removed the old asbestos roofs and replaced them with new iron-sheets.”

Although the headmaster is not an old boy, he has managed to keep SMACK’s tradition alive. Bukenya said that SMACK’s tradition is principally success “in every thing the boys do.” It is this spirit of success that makes SMACK unique, explained Bukenya.

“When you look at the product, the old boys are professionally productive.”

Who is who OBs

Without a doubt the list of old boys easily rolls off the headmaster’s tongue, as if their names were a regular prayer he says daily.

But you cannot talk about Kisubi without mentioning its first layman teacher (and first African graduate from Cambridge University), J.C. Kiwanuka; and the first African headmaster, Bro. Anthony Kyemwa.

Kiwanuka started teaching at Kisubi in 1951 and by the late 1990s, he was still a common figure on the school campus, with speech slurred by old age and a stoop after years of teaching Mathematics. He is now retired.

Right now there are 974 students in the school but many more have gone through SMACK, pledging allegiance to the school. The car stickers with “SMACK 100” are seen all over town as proof of the old boys’ loyalty.

These old boys, through SMACKOBA: St. Mary’s College Kisubi Old Boys Association, have contributed to SMACK’s reign in achievement.

Different projects such as, the new Junior Library, computer laboratory, a HSC block and swimming pool, are all courtesy of SMACKOBA.

These also include the school and old boy websites; and created with the help of MTN Uganda’s Charles Mbiire and Dr. George Mayanja. Indeed, it pays to give good education, since the new developments have the old boys written all over them.

Eng. J.B. Walusimbi realised his dream in SMACK from 1961 to 1966, and memories of his student days are still fresh in his mind. He belonged to Kakooza House for which he played football and participated in drama and debate. SMACK has three other houses besides Kakooza. They are Lourdel, Mugwanya and Kiwanuka.

However, Walusimbi said that much as the school has kept the high standard of academics, “These children are not as we used to be in behaviour.”

“Sometimes as chairman of the board [of governors] I come to talk to them,” explained Walusimbi, who said that in his time, they never got to see the chairman of the board because there were no cases of indiscipline.

Sports gurus

Sports and SMACK are like peas in a pod, they go hand in hand. Football, tennis, badminton, rugby, basketball, volleyball and athletics are popular and with the on-going construction of a swimming pool, the list is expanding.
It is therefore no surprise that Uganda’s football leagues were graced by SMACK talent.

Alphonse Temaligwe, John Kaddu, Lusico Kasozi and Herman Sebazza, are SMACKists who played on that famous national football team of the 1950s and 60s, which played without soccer boots in England in 1956, and won!

The story goes that the team was conceding goals until it was agreed that the boots were the problem because they were used to playing barefoot back home. Everyone kicked off the shoes and their luck changed. Present-day Kisubi students would break their delicate toes playing without shoes, I bet. How times have changed!

Former Democratic Party president, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, was the national boxing featherweight champion while at SMACK.

Besides academics and sports, SMACK is renowned for its creativity in dance and drama. Who can forget the day MP Omara Atubo fondly supported Gilbert Bukenya’s candidature for his first term as Vice President, by saying on the floor of Parliament: “When all of us were preparing ourselves for outings, the good Bukenya was there shining our shoes. I therefore recommend his candidature to Parliament. He is a good man.”

Kisubi invented the popular “Jaba” dance stroke, which every school and youth later adopted. They shuffle their feet, sway side to side and swing their waists.

Victor Seruwagi, an old boy (1989-93), says that he is not sure who the dance genius was that created “Jaba”. One moves smoothly on the feet, as if gliding on the floor, while artistically moving the body to the groove. Seruwagi was ‘Mr. SMACK’ in 1992, which he says is an honour.
To win Mr. SMACK, the best dancers in the school competed for the post.

Besides Mr. SMACK, are the SMACK twins, which too are competitions of the best twin dancers, who co-ordinate their dance moves beautifully in order to claim the title.
George Mbidde and Isaac Mpagi were the SMACK twins in 1997, and to date the twins are proud of their achievement because it is one story they never tire discussing.

Sosh fun

SMACK is a school that can not be characterised as an island because of its interactions with other schools, specifically girls’ schools. This is especially through the S.4 and HSC dances with girls’ schools, commonly known as ‘Social’; but the students call it “sosh”. SMACK invites schools such as Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga, Gayaza High School, Nabbingo Girls’ and Nabisunsa Girls’ School for this dance.

An old boy who spoke to The Weekly Observer on condition of anonymity shared his social experience. He said there was an arranged system of getting a date for ‘social’, which was called “Cinderella”. Like the fairy tale, girls would leave one shoe outside, and the boys would, one by one, pick a shoe and then look for its owner. The owner of the shoe would then be his date for the dance. He however said it was terrifying because there was a high risk of missing the shoe of the girl one admired.

Aside from the ‘sosh’ fun, the school has also gone through some sad times. The Memorial Library at the school was named so in memory of 12 students who died in a motor accident in Kibuli, after winning the secondary schools’ football trophy. The tragedy happened on November 14, 1964.
And now every SMACKist is told the story and honours the memory of those old boys.

Back to the fun side, the school is going to celebrate 100 years of existence on August 13, this year. Important to note is that even the old boys from Kigali (the Kigali Chapter) are preparing to join in the festivities.

It goes without saying: You can tell an Old Budonian from their pride; a Gayaza OG from her spirituality and ladylike demeanour; a Ngonian (Namilyango College OB) from the ‘rough edges’, but a SMACKist stands out of a crowd because of his humility and gentlemanly ways. Well, largely.

They tend to treat their women right, work diligently at their jobs and many would lay their lives down for the Pope.

No wonder, their motto is: Duc in Altum (Latin for the biblical story when Jesus asked the disciples to “Launch in the Deep”).

Excerpts of an interview with Geoffrey Onegi Obel extracted from SMACK’s magazine-‘The Eagle 2005’.

Brother Edward Bukenya at the helm of Kisubi

Eagle: In which years were you in SMACK?
Obel: 1965 to 1974.
Eagle: How did you first hear about SMACK?
Obel: Well, I started in Entebbe and had my primary school there. SMACK to us was always first choice. I did not even put a second choice when we were asked to fill our choices. It was also the nearest Catholic school we knew.
Eagle: What was your worst moment in SMACK?
Obel: That would be when some friends went for a function, got into trouble and were suspended.
Eagle: In your opinion what do you understand SMACK culture to be?
Obel: It’s hard to put into words. It is the desire to be the best. It is something you grow into at SMACK. There was also neatness and smartness instilled by Bro. Kyemwa. Even at campus, you could spot a SMACKist in a crowd.

St. Mary’s College, Choir - 1940

Eagle: What did you study?
Obel: I did a corporate law degree at Makerere, [and] then went to Princeton University and [got a] master’s in finance.
Eagle: How did SMACK mould you for your profession?
Obel: Without SMACK, I would not be where I am. If you make it to SMACK, you have the confidence that nothing is impossible unless you make a very big mistake. With that attitude you only have to do your best and pray to be successful.
Eagle: Tell us about your sosh.
Obel: It was no different from the ones you have now. For my six years the school was always Namagunga.
Eagle: What makes you happy to be associated with the 100-year-old college?
Obel: It is still the best. It has performed excellently in the past and still continues to do so. It is a neat place and produces highly productive people who add a lot more value to their societies than most people do; there is surely a lot to be proud of SMACK.

SMACK Jargon

Air force one The SMACK bus
Chariot Nabisunsa bus
Coffin Namilyango bus
Game reserve Mwiri
Fumblers Ngonians
Residue Former SMACKists in Ngo
Circle The few girls’ schools that relate with SMACK
SMACKplex The SMACK movie-viewing area
Blingage A guy with ornament value of accumulated metal work
Humanitarian A guy who gives consolation to not so appealing chics
Shirt/Box Someone with a low I.Q
Taj Mahal F.N. Laboratory
Foundation Chic with a large rear
Ice Instant rejection from a chic
Swank A chic who feels wanted
C.M.B A financially stable guy
Benjis (Benjamins) Money
Timon and Pumba A tiny chic in company of a fat one
Hustler A guy who gets away with crimes
Sandwich Dirty dancing involving two chics with one guy
Weak An ugly chic
Michelin A rather fat chic
SMS Mail that comes without an envelope
Golf Slashing as a punishment
Tsunamis Form 1s
Gentlemen 2nite(Elders) Form 6s
Alqs/Lable Form 4s
Scrum Bout at the canteen
Horse A not-so-beautiful girl
Horse riding Being seen with a “horse”
Future A young girl with prospect via beauty
Rockafella A guy with a high libido
KKL Vibing a chic in a lower class
Champs league Vibing a chic in a higher class
General happiness Unconstructive conversation with a chic
Super sport Survival rugby on pitch
Shortie An appealing female
Grill Shiny yellow teeth
Sanctuary Girls’ schools constantly rejected for the senior prom
Sleeping pills Boring teachers
Cowboy/Jockey A guy with bad taste via chics
Refugee An addict to school meals
A fox Someone who goes against the majority
Extracted from “The Eagle 2005”  

Some prominent Old Boys

Politicians: Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, Speaker Edward Sekandi, Henry Muganwa Kajura, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, Omara Atubo, Hilary Onek, Charles Bakabulindi, John Kawanga, Baguma Isoke, Prof. Joseph Mukiibi

Educationists: J.C. Kiwanuka, Brothers JV Tinkasiimire, Anthony Kyemwa and Michael Butoolwa.

Medics: Prof. Francis Omaswa, Doctors Katongole Mbidde, Edward Ddumba, Charles Lwanga Sezi, Alex Coutinho (TASO), Sebastian Kyalwazi (RIP)

Judges: Joseph Mulenga and Remmy Kasule.

Lawyers: Prof. Frederick Sempebwa, John Mike Musisi, Protazio Ayigihugu, Karoli Ssemogerere, Francis Bwengye.

Dr. Louis Kasekende,
Charles Mbiire, F X Kitaka, Martin Kasekende, Charlie Lubega, Dr. Geoffrey Onegi Obel, Dr. Simon Kagugube, Stephen Ngobi Mbalule (Citi Bank – South America), Julius Kakeeto (Citi Bank - UK)
Sportsmen: JB Semanobe, William Nkemba, Mike Mukasa, Charles Temaligwe, Paul Nkata, Paul Mukatabala, Mark Ssali, Joel Otim

Other professionals:

Eng. J.B. Walusimbi
Samuel Kiwanuka
Philip Besiimire
Serumaga Claver
Peter Mungoma
Maj. Muhoozi Kainerugaba
Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura
Prince Kassim Nakibinge
Richard Tebere (RIP)
Denis Mbidde
William Blick
Richard M. Kavuma
Henry Ssali

The School Anthem

Lives are in the making here
Hearts are in the waking here
Up and on!
We are arming for the fight
Pressing on with all our might
Pluming wings for higher flights
Up and on!

Up boys truest fame lies in High Endeavour
Play the game, keep the flame burning
Brightly ever.