SERIES: CENTENARY SCHOOLS
 
 
17th August 2006
Busoga College Mwiri; 'Ghost' on the hill
By Jackie Nalubwama
WEEKLY OBSERVER

After the Bugembe bus stop, the road gets dustier and the bumps more gruelling, but the boda-boda rider does not relent. He keeps on riding faster, with the dust rising higher and higher. When you are about to give in and sulk the rest of the journey to Busoga College Mwiri, God sends in the breathtaking view of Lake Victoria, which remains to cheer you up for the bigger part of the rough ride.

This great school that taught Uganda’s former president - Dr. Apollo Milton Obote (RIP), was started in 1911 by the Church Missionary Society. Interestingly though, the school was then called Bulangira High School and located in Kamuli. At the time, it was meant to give Busoga princes comprehensive education. In 1933, it was shifted to Mwiri hill where it stands today.

The S. 2 classroom block built in the 1930s
The former headmaster’s house that later became a staff house
c: Aerial view of Mwiri in 1965

The dethronement

This school that was meant for princes has suffered dethronement. Right now Mwiri College is a shadow of its former glory. Buildings once grand now have paint peeling off the walls, old rusty roofs and some asbestos roofs. The expansive compound of grass, trees and flowers randomly planted, also needs tending for the school to boast again of beautiful grounds. This may be a famous school but the environment is infamous. Arguably, it is not the buildings that make a school a school, but this college is in dire need of a face-lift.

John Mukubira, the headmaster, said, “The school is expensive to run, yet for some time the school fees were [too] low to handle running the school.”

The headmaster also explained that it was mainly the Idi Amin war in 1979 and the successive wars that led to Mwiri’s decline.
Mukubira is a humble man faced with a proud task - manning the rebuilding of Busoga College Mwiri.

With a slight stoop in his back, he walks like a man laden with responsibility, because he explains that he deals with everything at the school.

“I am headmaster but I don’t get enough time to plan because everybody comes to me; even the cook, to tell me there’s no sugar,” said Mukubira.

Mukubira also explained that Mwiri’s decline started as far back as the early 90s because of successive headmasters, who did not stay at the school long enough to implement strong policy.
“We used to be 650 students but we now have 1,200, but with the same facilities.” He added: “There used to be three streams but now we have four because of the population.”

The school turned junior laboratories into classrooms to accommodate the growing student population. The dormitories are also too small for the students to comfortably sleep in. “Only one dormitory has been added - Coates House, since the school started.”

Mukubira is an old boy of the school (1975-76), who plans to restore Mwiri to its former glory. When he was a student, the school had 18 teachers but they are now 63, and the staff houses are not enough.

He, thankfully, won’t go about restoring the school alone because the old boys association is going to give him the support he needs.

The restoration

Mwiri Old Boys Association (MOBA) is planning to re-awaken the college. Through the eyes of the old boys, one can think that they are making up a story of how wonderful the school was.

The potrait of Rev. Francis Gustav Coates, a long-serving headteacher

In an interview with Robert Kisubi, an old boy, he re-affirmed Mwiri’s decline and the old boys’ commitment to raising it again.
Currently UMEME’s Corporate Communications Manager, he was a student at Mwiri from 1974 to 79.

According to Kisubi, Mwiri was a very good school in his time.
“I had wonderful years [in Mwiri] but during terrible times - the war years,” he said.

Speaking highly of his headmaster at the time, Peter Eriaku (RIP), Kisubi said he was a fantastic man. “He oozed respect. People would keep quiet when he passed by. He was the most dignified headmaster.”

He also said that his school declined because of “bad leadership” but was upbeat that MOBA’s plans would crown Mwiri again with achievement.

Mukubira explained that the old students’ plans include renovating the dormitories. “As you have seen, they are not up to standard. They have asbestos roofs,” he pointed out.
Even tarmacking the road, upgrading the clinic and computer centre are some of MOBA’s plans.

Kisubi, who is also MOBA’s honorary secretary, says: “We are planning a homecoming for old boys to see how best they can help the school.”

So far, MOBA has helped re-roof a few buildings in the school but the renovation has only just begun. Indeed the school needs all the help it can get because it is a ghost of the institution it once was.

In Kisubi and Mukubira’s time, the school had running water and the notion of a pit latrine was far from their minds.
But to Samuel Charles Isiko, an S.4C student, pit latrines are part of the norm today. Isiko nevertheless believes his school is one of the best in the country. He belongs to Brewer House and is the assistant head of the house.

To Isiko, his school is great because it has old boys in different walks of life and corners of the world. “It [Mwiri] gives you [pride] because it is known nationwide and all over the world. My older brothers are abroad and they find old boys there.”
He added, “I like the teachers and life in Mwiri.”

Isiko spoke like a true Mwiri boy, because according to Samson Okhwayo, “Mwiri boys will always speak highly of Mwiri, regardless.”

Okhwayo was a student from 1985 to 91 and is presently a Christian Religious Education teacher at the school.
Time and bad management have run this school down so much so that Isiko cannot begin to compare his meals with those Chris Mutalya had from 1968 to 69.

“We had great meals. Balanced diet - bread with jam, milk tea, porridge for breakfast,” says Mutalya.
Mutalya, who works with Uganda Communications Commission as the estates manager, is MOBA’s president.

Tradition

Some things are hard to do away with in an old school, and in the process they become tradition.
As tradition, there was no teasing in Mwiri. On arrival at Mwiri, a S.1 student was given to an S.3 student to be looked after. Kisubi explained that the S.3 guardian would also coach the S.1 in school history, culture and jargon in preparation for the intelligence test.
“This is what makes people get attached to the school,” Kisubi said.

He admitted the school had undergone decline but was quick to add that “we are still not shy to say that it is our school.”
Okhwayo also noted that bullying is officially not part of Mwiri even though informally big boys send the smaller boys to run errands for them, such as going to the canteen.

Mwiri of old was known for sports, particularly cricket – one of the few things to have withstood time here.
“We used to win a lot and we knew cricket was our game,” said Mutalya.

Kisubi added that there was a time during the slump when all anyone would talk about Mwiri was cricket.
Perhaps a sign that Mwiri reigns supreme in cricket is the cricket trophies in the headmaster’s office, the latest being the “Coca Cola Week Cup, Champion 2005.”

The nationalistic character of the school is also part of the school’s custom. “The school was very nationalistic. Students came from Kigezi right through to Arua. I liked the national element. I think it helped us bond,” says Kisubi.

Mukubira and Mutalya share Kisubi’s sentiments.
As if to affirm this, Okhwayo noted that students at Mwiri don’t care about social background but achievement. “They don’t put emphasis on where one comes from as long as someone performs. If one is a good cricketer, that is what they’ll see, not how poor.”
Mwiri’s patriotism resonates from the school’s motto-‘Ku lwa Katonda n’eggwanga lyaffe’, Luganda for the national motto – ‘For God and my country.’

The school uniform is another aspect that remains unchanged. Students in O-level wear white short-sleeved shirts and white shorts, while A-level students wear white long-sleeved shirts and black trousers.

Academic achievement and good leadership are also part of the tradition. So much are these two upheld that there are boards in the school’s main hall with names of former head prefects and heads of schools (the best academic performers). Among the heads of schools, one finds names of prominent figures in Uganda, such as: [Dr.] James Rwanyarare in 1958, [Prof.] J. Rwomushana in 1960. [Dr.] Ruhakana Rugunda was head prefect in 1968, while [Justice] Samuel Wako Wambuzi was head prefect in 1950.

The most grand of all, that only God and the country’s poor management of natural resources can fade away, is the scenery of Lake Victoria at the school.

To date students often sit on verandas and watch the lake, probably dreaming of heights they are yet to achieve.
And with MOBA’s assistance, the students and the school hope to climb to splendour, whilst realising their dreams.

njackie@ugandaobserver.com

The School Anthem

With light and truth to guide us,
Thy faith and hope beside us,
We'll brave the world outside these walls to live ever free
Our Busoga home our mother,
And every man our brother we'll trust in one another
As we follow thee: Busoga Busoga Mwiri!

When light and hope seem paling,
When truth seems unavailing,
Then we shall stand, unfailing, with the brave and the true.
Where right shall need assistance,
Where wrong shall give resistance,
For the future in the distance,
And the good we can do - Amen.

School Jargon

Irrigation bed-wetting
Jawbreakers fried maize seeds
Ngo Namilyango College
Ngali Namasagali College
Moving box School bus
Kachango money
Powerhouse mess/dining
Dodger a person who cuts classes
Pilot a student who sleeps on the upper bed
Wembley football made out of polythene
paper and fibre
Muko a friend
Zzima facts
Danke disco/dance
Ninja one with bulky jaws
Waterproof someone who doesn't bathe
Metallic tough aged person
Ennoga sugar
Virginity of posho being the first man to be served
Luwero triangle prefects' room
Tobbi cigarette
Salvo short cut
Wampa roll call

Prominent old boys

Politicians

  • Dr. Apollo Milton Obote (RIP)
  • Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda
  • Kirunda Kivejinja
  • Henry Kyemba
  • Ben Wacha
  • Dr. Ekulo Epak
  • James Mwandha
  • Abdu Katuntu
  • Dr. Frank Nabwiso
  • Igeme Nabeta
  • Martin Wandera
  • Avitus Tabarimbasa
  • David Wakudumira
  • Gagawala Wambuzi.

Religious leaders

  • Bishop Misaeri Kawuma (RIP)
  • Retired Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze
  • Retired Bishop Jerome Bamunoba
  • Rev. Canon James Zikusoka
  • Rev. Canon Dr. Tom Tuma

Educationists

  • Prof Asavia Wandira
  • Prof A.J. Lutalo Bossa
  • Prof F. Tusubira
  • Prof George B. Kiirya
  • Prof. Livingstone Walusimbi
  • Prof Sam Turyamuhika
  • Prof Patrick Muzale
  • Prof John Rwomushana
  • Prof. James Ntozi
  • Dr. Abbas Kiyimba
  • Austin Ejiet

Business executives

  • Gustav Bwoch
  • Henry Lwetabe
  • Perez Bukumunhe
  • Silver Abwooli.


Legal professionals

  • Justice Samwiri Wako Wambuzi
  • Justice Dr. George Kanyeihamba
  • ustice Fred Egonda Ntende
  • Francis Ayume (RIP)
  • Alex Waibale
  • Chris Ayena Odong
  • Charles Opwonya
  • Daniel Ruhweza

Scientists

  • Dr. David Kitimbo Director of Medical services Jinja
  • Dr. Fred Kigozi
  • Dr. James Rwanyarare
  • Dr. Richard Ogutu Ohwayo
  • Dr. Daudi Muduuli
  • Architect Tom Kajumba
  • Architect Chris Mutalya
  • Eng. D.P. Babinga
  • Eng. Dan Wamuzibira
  • Eng. James N. Zikusooka
  • Dr. J. Batwala
  • Dr. D. K. Kazungu.

Media

  • John Nagenda
  • Andrew Mwenda Mujuni
  • Daniel K. Kalinaki
  • Stephen Asiimwe
  • Fred Kyazze Simwogerere
  • Joseph Basoga
  • Henry Ochieng
  • Magemeso Namungalu
  • Alex Jakana
  • Eric Ogoso Opolot
  • Paul Waibale Senior (RIP).