17th August 2006
Ntare 'the only' School: laissez-faire attitude pays off

By Jackie Nalubwama

Despite popular thinking that freedom breeds academic failure in students, Ntare School has managed to have both its share of cake and eat it too.

Until 1994, when the first non-old boy headmaster (Stephen Kamuhanda) was brought to Ntare, the school had neither gate nor fence. In fact, it was governed in such an informal manner that it also lacked the usual school administration miscellany, which comprises of the school anthem, special uniform for prefects, and school motto.

PTA Millenium block
The lion statue that stands in front of the administration block
The administration block
Crichton Memorial Communication Centre

But most uniquely, Ntare School did not have a religious background and bells ringing for meal times. Students used to walk to the dining at the designated time for meals, and if by any chance the meal would be delayed, an announcement to inform the students would be made.

Ntare School was started by the Government of Uganda as a secular school and to date has no official religious affiliation. But the three major mainstream religions are catered for: Catholics, Protestants and Muslims. It is probably this non-denominational aspect of Ntare that instilled the spirit of Pan-Africanism in some of its students, like presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame of Uganda and Rwanda respectively.

“Ntare” is a Runyankore word for lion. The Omugabe Godfrey Gatsyonga named it in memory of his grandfather Ntare V.
It is appropriate that the school bears this name, because the freedom students have could be equated to that of a lion, which can neither be tamed nor held down by restrictions.

Contrary to popular belief that it is a school for Banyankore, it has students from all corners of Uganda, including some from Sudan and Rwanda. And interestingly, the current head prefect is a Karimojong called Richard Okello Abara.

Started in 1956, Ntare School stood out from others because of the casual way it was ran, especially during the times of William Crichton (RIP). He was the school’s first headmaster, who believed in “educating the whole man” both academically and through extra curricular activities, especially sports.

The Headmaster Humphrey K. B. Ahimbisibwe in his office

He, however, set out to achieve this using the laissez-faire approach. This bore fruit because students became thirstier for knowledge and more conscious of how they spent their time.
So informal is Ntare that up to now the school has no definite motto. Although old boys and current students think it is, “The lion roars.”

The freedom

“Students who used to hang in town would come back to school and instead of sleeping, would go straight to class,” said Humphrey Ahimbisibwe, an old boy. He added that students who would delay in town would compensate for the lost time by studying till late in the night. This was because after class time, students used to freely go to Mbarara town and hang out. This made Ntare a living proof that freedom yields results.

Ahimbisibwe is currently the headmaster of Ntare. As a student from 1968 to 1973, he slept in Stanley House. But during Idi Amin’s regime, Stanley was changed to Pioneer House because Amin did not like colonial names.

Ahimbisibwe explains that Ntare is a special school, out of the ordinary. Whereas others bully newcomers, Ntare welcomes them warmly.

Ahimbisibwe remembers the day he reported to Ntare in 1968, and an older boy looked after him to the point that his bed was made by that boy.

“There was [is] no teasing. The older boys were like guardians or mentors to the new S.1s,” he says. “Very few S.1s would buy something for break, the guardian and his friends would buy.”
After a slight pause in thought, Ahimbisibwe’s face broke into a smile: “Dr. Edward Kanyesigye was my guardian.”

Speaking to Dr. Edward Kanyesigye [of Edward Kanyesigye Consultancy in Health Management] on phone, he said he was very happy at the school.

“It was good for someone from a poor background [like him, then] because it was luxurious. And for those with rich backgrounds, they were humbled.”

While recalling his classmates, Dr. Kanyesigye made an impressive list of: John Nasasira, Dr. Edmund Katiti, Prof. Elly Sabiiti, and Frank Katusiime.

Dr. Kanyesigye also said that he loved the freedom at school. “It was okay because we valued our schooling. I liked the freedom because when you were tired, you would go out of the school for a walk.”

Since Ntare did not have a proper sports field, students used to go to town and play from a field next to the stadium at Kakyeka.
Joseph Muhangi also attested to the no teasing tradition of the school. He was at Ntare from 1986 to 1988 and belonged to Africa House. “There was no teasing. Crichton [the first headmaster] said that since the first students were not teased, they too should not tease others.”

Muhangi fondly recalls the freedom students enjoyed. “What we enjoyed most was the lack of formalities, like a school anthem.”
He explains: “The philosophy was that you were free as long as you remembered what brought you [to school].”

Ahimbisibwe echoed Mahangi’s sentiments because he also remembers that during his time in the 60s and 70s, students governed their time. “Teachers were not so involved because prefects used to do a good job.”
It is partly because of student liberty that Ntare registered academic success.

“In spite of the freedom, Ntare used to pick the cream from other schools. There was competition and tension because people used to worry that since they are the cream, they should continue performing [well],” explained Muhangi. “People used to read text books, page by page.”

The school’s high standards of academic performance bequeathed on it several praises such as, “A short cut to university” and “The lion’s empire”.

Academics in Ntare was [still is] taken seriously. “In spite of the pride we had, as ‘the only school,’ we had respect for other schools but not in Western Uganda,” Muhangi said.
“We used to borrow books from Budo, Gayaza, Kisubi and Namagunga and copy their notes.”


Ntare, just like other sound institutions, has traditions and jargon, which the old boys are still fond of.
Ahimbisibwe told the story of how venereal diseases came to be known as “akatenesi” in Ntare.

“Students used to go out to town to drink and socialise with women. One boy got an STD [sexually transmitted disease] and started limping. When Crichton asked the boy what the matter was, he replied that he had been hit by a tennis ball [akatenesi].”

Later, the nurse told Crichton that it was a venereal disease.
From then on “akatenesi” it was. When one hears a Ntare student saying “That bull”, one should understand that to mean a student from traditional rivals, Mbarara High School.

Muhangi explains that traditionally Ntare and Mbarara High School have been rivals, but back then it was particularly because of girls from Bweranyangi Girls School in Bushenyi district.

“The bulls used to like our girls but they [girls] preferred us,” Muhangi said. He added: “The bulls had Mary Hill High School but they still wanted Bweranyangi.”

Well, Ntare and Bweranyangi have been closely related and the relationship is still thriving. They commonly call it Bwera-Ntare.

The deputy head prefect, Paul Mbabazi said: “It is the tradition but we are also friendly with Mary Hill High School girls.”
In Muhangi’s times, that would have been unheard of.
But there are some traditions of the school that have faded away.

For example, Ahimbisibwe said that Ntare used to be known for sports and debate, but these have mellowed down. “We are going to revive the sports,” he stressed.

Well, the students will soon stop strolling all the way to Kakyeka for sports because one of the prominent old boys, President Museveni, bought land for the school to have its own sports grounds.

Sabena fun

According to Muhangi, Ntare boys used to patronise a pub known as Sabena in Mbarara town. The pub was often a centre of conflict as Ntare boys struggled to chase the “bulls” (Mbarara High School) away from “their” pub, from whose name they had developed an acronym, “Students At Bweranyangi Enjoy Ntare Activities”.

Presently, the boys who are at the school simply hear of the age-old Sabena fun because the pub was closed down. Sabena later transformed into a milk factory, which also closed shop.
For many old students, the Bwera-Ntare solidarity developed into permanent relationships; prominent examples being Museveni and Janet Kataha, John Nasasira and Naome, Nehemiah Matembe and Miria, Amama Mbabazi and Jacqueline.

These couples were however not necessarily in the two schools during the same period. Francis Byansi, the physics laboratory assistant, has worked at Ntare School since 1968. He got the job when Paul Kagame was in his S.1 second term.

The president of Rwanda picked his fancy because he stood out as a tall, slender boy whose glasses had a long string hanging on the sides of his face. To Byansi, Kagame looked vulnerable because of his stature. Uganda’s own, Museveni, is remembered to have been a good debater of Mbaguta House, said Ahimbisibwe.


According to the chairman of Ntare School Old Boys Association, the school went into an academic slump in the 80s. John Wilson Kwesiga was at the school from 1971 to 76.

“In the 80s, during Apolo Milton Obote’s reign, the headmaster was admitting students to the school but not on merit. And Ntare declined. It disappeared from the academic scene.”
As an old boy, he remembers one of his contemporaries, John Nasasira (Minister of Works).

“He used to play cricket. And we would cheer him with, ‘Nara, Nara’ – a short form for Nasasira.”
For Kwesiga, one can judge the progress of a school from the growing student population.

“The rate of expansion in numbers shows how Ntare has grown. In the 50s, there were 60 students, 660 in the 70s and 1,030 students currently.

NSOBA was formed in 1988, with minister Eriya Kategaya as its first chairman. It was charged with two major duties: to physically and morally rehabilitate the school.

“We upgraded the sewerage system and renovated the kitchen because it had got burnt during the war,” explained Kwesiga.
He added: “Then there was the academic improvement because of the social comforts NSOBA had created.”

Kwesiga believes that after NSOBA showed such commitment in reviving the school, the parents were equally driven to participate.

“The parents [later also] got the self-help spirit and built the P.T.A. block.”
Presently, NSOBA is at work again, busy constructing a monumental hall for Ntare’s 50 years of existence.
“It will be the Centre for Culture and Performances. We want the students to have a place where they can be addressed; plus it will serve as a meeting place for other schools and institutions,” said Kwesiga.

So far construction of the centre has taken Shs 200 million, and another Shs 300 million is needed to complete it.
Kwesiga hopes that the golden jubilee celebrations of the school on September 23 will raise the required amount of funds to finish the monumental building.

The Rwanda chapter of the school is also preparing to join in the celebrations. Quite a number of important people in the Rwandese government were taught at Ntare. Ahimisibwe said that surprisingly, Rwanda’s Ntare Old Boys Association is stronger than the Ugandan chapter.

“They are planning to start a school called Ntare in Rwanda very soon. We will also be able to have a students’ exchange programme between Rwanda and Ntare,” Ahimbisibwe said.
Congratulations to Ntare School for turning 50!
The School Anthem

Ntare School, My shield, my strength
How proud I am that you are mine
I will sing your name wherever I will be
Because of your mighty deeds.

Oh, the school we cherish and love
Synonymous with academic excellence
The cradle of the pillars of the nation
May God keep you up ever more.

We the gallant sons of this great den
Pray toil and uphold discipline
Keep at peace with all your neighbours
Maintain the glory of the school.

Parents, teachers, OBS, Well wishers
Come along now maintain the Lion
Its glory lies in your hands
And we together to the end.

Ntare School, My Shield my strength
How proud am that you are mine
I will sing your name wherever I will be
Because of your mighty deeds.

Prominent Old Boys


President Yoweri Museveni
Eriya Kategaya
Amama Mbabazi
John Nasasira
Tarsis Kabwegyere
Dr. James Nsaba Buturo
Dr. Richard Nduhura
Omwony Ojok
Serapio Rukundo
Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye
Guma Gumisiriza
Hood Katuramu
Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu


Prof. Livingstone Luboobi
Prof. Elly Sabiiti
Prof. Emmanuel Muranga
Prof. Patrick Rubaihayo
Prof. Katunguka Rwekishaija
Prof. Opio Eperu
Prof. Mujaju Akiiki (RIP)
Prof. J. Iraka
Prof. J. Iputo
Prof. L. Erapu
Prof. Yovan Begumya
Prof. J. Baranga
Prof. Emmanuel Tukahiirwa
Prof. Stanley Tumwiine
Prof. Lutalo Bbosa


Justice Gideon Tinyinondi
Justice Alfred Karokora
Justice Ntabgoba
Justice Ezekiel Muhanguzi
Justice Amos Twinomujuni


John Wilson Kwesiga
Fred Ruhindi
Didas Nkurunziza
Peter Nkurunziza
Alex Rezida
Joseph Zagyenda
Frank Mwine
Francis Butagira
Other old boys

Stephen Akabway
Jotham Tumwesigye
Ambassador Adonia Ayebare
Dr. Johnson Nkuuhe
A. Rutaroh
Dan Kidega
James Kahooza
John Rugunda
Kosia Kifefe
Robert Rutaagi
Victor Karamagi
Herbert Ntabwoba
Katenta Apuuli
Swaib Musoke
Hajji Badru Wegulo
Dr. Ijuka Kabumba
Dr. Tom Rushedge
Dr. Stephen Mallinga

The Rwanda chapter

H.E. Paul Kagame
Patrick Mazimhaka
Portais Musoni
Sam Munyabugingo
Dr. Alfred Ndahiro
Eugene Haguma
Henry Kanyesime
Dr. Ben Karenzi
Fidel Rwigamba
Dr. Zac Nsenga
Pascal Ngonga
Charles Gahima
Ephraim Turahirwa
Camille Karamaga
Vianney Gaforomo
Faustin Rwigyema
Edmond Rugumire
Dr. Juvenal Kagarama
Aleston Kyanga
James Butare
John Mills Nkomati
Augustin Gatera
Phocas Mutaga
Francis Rusenyanteko
Pancreas Butamire

A poem by an Old Boy

What a great school
Ntare School was

Mbarara was the town
Where it was found

It was a prize
To look at where it was

It was a humble place
With gentle pride

Born fifty six
With single sex

Young ladies all
Loved to be there

It had six equals
In the whole country

Gayaza and Kings College
And the two St. Mary’s

Busoga College Mwiri
And the school of Kilts

I admired the seven
And the student Museveni

By Sam Twesigye Kalisizo (Old Boy 1966-71)

Next week we visit - Busoga College Mwiri