By Benon Herbert Oluka
Teso College, Aloet in Soroti district may only have just
gone past the 50-year mark but a summary list of its most
prominent old boys reads more like a list of the ‘who
is who’ of Teso and its neighbouring regions.
Founded on July 9, 1954 by the Teso local administration,
the school has nurtured respected people in all circles
The most remarkable thing about such personalities from
this boys-only boarding school is that nearly all of them
have excelled at more than just one profession or field
where they have put their talents and skills to test.
For instance, Mr. Stephen Akabway, who has also served
as acting commissioner general of Uganda Revenue Authority
(URA), started out as a secondary school teacher –
and even rose through the ranks to become headmaster of
his former school from 1976 to 1979 – before he ventured
into other fields.
Justice Engwau, who was in Teso College between 1957 and
1960, also started out as a teacher in Iganga C.O.U. Primary
School in 1963 before joining the Judiciary in 1964 as a
Grade III Magistrate. It is only after serving for one year
in Lira district that Engwau joined Nsamizi Law School where
he obtained a first class law diploma.
Their examples serve to subconsciously affirm the school
mission, which is: “To provide all round education
to everyone that comes to it so that they leave when they
are morally straight and ready for further education and
training.” The discipline of the likes of Gen. Jeje
Odong could also be attributed to the school motto: “Aijanakin
ka arimarit (service and obedience)”.
But, as the school embarks on its second half-century,
the feats of such distinguished former students of Teso
College may prove a tough act to emulate for the current
crop of students since the development of the school has
been derailed by several factors.
The Teso College administration
The headmaster, Mr James Akabway, says Teso College is
currently facing a series of problems that largely stem
from the lack of sufficient funds to plan, coordinate and
complete development programmes at the school.
“The biggest challenge is that the cost of living
is not coping up with the school fees paid by parents. It
makes us get into so many different financial constraints
because maintenance levels are very high,” Akabway
told The Weekly Observer last week.
These costs stem from the fact that the school, which owns
1,000 acres of land (Teso elders recently decided that 500
acres be given to the proposed Teso University), runs two
virtually independent wings – each with separate facilities
for accommodation, meals, academics, recreation and extra-curricular
The 500 students in senior one and two reside in the west
wing, which was originally the premises for Soroti Technical
School until it was phased out in 1962 and the premises
given to Teso College, while the 800 in senior 3, 4, 5 and
6 reside in the east wing which also accommodates the administration
A student walks past Kenyatta
house in the east wing. The school has 11 houses in
wing, nine for O’ level and two for A’
The Soroti-Moroto road separates the two wings, meaning
the school has to cater for the two as separate entities.
Akabway said that they, for instance, had to buy two standby
generators to overcome the current power problems given
that students in the two wings have their preps separately.
Even in its administrative hierarchy, Teso College has a
headmaster, two deputy headmasters, and another four deputy
head teachers – two for either wing. The school employs
67 teachers, but 14 are paid for by the Parents Teachers
Association (PTA), which opted to help reduce the problem
of shortage of teachers.
Even just keeping the vast school compound neat is no easy
task. The east wing alone has five soccer pitches while
the west has three. There are also pitches and courts in
either wing for volleyball, basketball, lawn tennis, handball,
rugby and badminton.
Akabway said: “Because we are running two wings,
it is like we are running two schools with funds for one
school so the maintenance costs are high.”
Each of the 1,300 students currently at Teso College pays
uniform tuition fees of Shs 200,000 per term. It is almost
entirely with this annual sum of Shs 520 million that the
school runs all its activities.
Akabway says that because the funds sourced from the parents
alone are not sufficient to fund all school projects, he
hopes that the old boys can rejuvenate their organisation,
TECOBA (Teso College Old Boys Association), to play a more
proactive role in the affairs of the school.
“One of the biggest concerns of the school administration
is that the old boys’ association is not active enough
in assisting the school,” said the 57-year-old Akabway.
“OBs of other schools have opened avenues for their
schools but the unfortunate thing is that ours have not.”
Listening to one of the longest serving teachers at Teso
College gives the impression that it is not just the old
boys who have given the school the cold shoulder. Over the
last 20 years teachers and students have deserted the school
due to the on and off insurgencies in Teso.
The first started in 1986 with the emergence of the Uganda
People’s Army (UPA) rebel group, which operated through
out the Teso region. Mr. Leonard Ochom, who joined the school
in 1985 and has since risen to be acting deputy head teacher
II, said the effects of the rebel’s activities on
the school were overwhelming.
“A good number of teachers ran and even the students
ran away. Then enrolment came down,” said Ochom, who
says less than 20 teachers remained – although many
of them were based in Soroti, five kilometres from the school.
According to Ochom, even the few students who remained had
to grapple for the few available services in the school
with the many displaced persons who had sought refuge at
“We used to have very many displaced people staying
here. Some even used to occupy the classrooms at night.
They used to bring their things out and the students go
in [to study], then at night they sleep in the classes,”
said Ochom, a chemistry and mathematics teacher.
Ochom says although no teacher or student was killed through
out the UPA rebellion, the rebels used to come to the school
premises to loot whatever they could lay their hands on.
Between 1987 and 1988, Ochom says the rebels twice went
to his home and put him at gunpoint – but did not
Another teacher, John Elamu, was however not as lucky when
a different rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army
(LRA), found their way into Teso in 2002. The rebels raided
the school and shot Elamu, a biology teacher, dead.
Moses Ekadu, a senior six student who was in senior two
at the time, said the loss of their teacher had a devastating
effect on everybody in the school.
“It made some of our teachers to leave the school
and some of the subjects were not taught,” he said.
“Besides, there was restriction from Prep attendance.
We were required to keep within the boundaries of the dormitory.
Everybody was required to be in the dormitory by 8pm and
to be quiet.”
Despite the uncertainty, which led to the departure of
about 200 students, Ekadu was one of the 700 students who
stuck it out at the school because, he says, “at least
we have teachers who are self-driven to help us.”
One of those teachers, Ochom, says he remained at the school
throughout the difficult period because he had “the
will to serve the school.”
Teso College traditions
Teso College does not have a school anthem. They use the
national anthem and the national schools’ anthem (We
Young Women and Men of Uganda…).
Mr. John Fred Okello, the deputy headmaster I, said they
do not have one because the school is “very nationalistic
“Most of those schools that have their own anthems
are very individualistic in nature but for us we follow
the national programme. The separatists’ nature has
not yet reached here,” he said.
Teso College headmaster,
Teso College students used to come from all corners of
Uganda and Wafula Oguttu, an old boy from Busia, says they
were proud to study in Teso College.
“It was a school you went to and found everybody
responsible. There was a lot of freedom but the students
used it responsibly. [For instance], there was no fence
but the students policed themselves; they were not going
out anyhow,” said Wafula, who was in Teso College
Wafula remembers two incidents in his time that helped shape
the activist and, eventually, the politician he turned out
First, while he was debating club vice chairman, they travelled
to Nabumali High School in Mbale for a debate on how military
coups were detrimental to the development of African countries
only to find that army men had cordoned off Nabumali and
ordered that the debate should not take place. One of the
students, who was a state spy, had alerted the army of the
topic of their debate.
“I have never forgotten that incident because if
we had gone ahead and debated, we would have been arrested
and probably killed,” he said.
The second was when the late Adonia Tiberondwa was replaced
as headmaster and the school meals immediately deteriorated.
Wafula says he led a strike after they discovered that the
prefects were having better meals while other students were
being given bad food.
Following their strike, Wafula says their headmaster removed
the head prefect, and improved their meals. Wafula was offered
the post of head prefect, but he declined it since the changes
they wanted had been effected.
“It was memorable because by just organising the students
[to protest] we removed a very corrupt head prefect. It
showed me that if you organise well, you can cause a change,”
said Wafula, who is now the spokesman of Forum for Democratic
The students of Wafula’s time were however not always
attending to political issues. In 1972, Teso College’s
west wing (S. 1 & 2) hosted Tororo Girls School students
to a football match, which the boys predictably won.
Leading the girls that day was headmistress Geraldine Namirembe
Bitamazire, now the minister of education and sports.
Also in Teso College in 1972 was former minister, Capt.
Mike Mukula, who is remembered for his love of music. Mukula,
who was three classes behind Wafula, was a member of the
school band called the Black Stars.
Picking up the pieces
With the tough times seemingly behind them, the school
is looking to restoring its glory. Having doubled its Advanced
Level intake this year, the headmaster says they will need
to provide more accommodation and academic facilities. They
also need to rehabilitate the majority of the existing ones.
“In case it starts raining when you are attending
a lesson, it is stopped because most of the roofs are leaking,”
said Ekadu, a PCB/Agric student.
The school has just 15 computers in its laboratory to serve
all the students – and only five are connected to
Other areas that need urgent attention, according to Akabway,
include purchase of more scholastic materials, and fencing
the school to improve security.
The situation at Teso College is however not all gloom.
Despite the challenges that have slowed the development
of the school, it has still registered academic achievements.
Since the 2001 students strike, which led to the expulsion
of 34 senior four students, the school has registered consistent
improvement in the performance of its UCE and UACE candidates.
This year Teso College sent 27 of the 165 students that
sat last year’s UACE exams to the four national universities
on government sponsorship. The table of results at the headmaster’s
office showed that 135 of the 165 students passed with at
least two, meaning the 135 were all eligible to go to University.
Mr. Akabway said it was their best performance since 2001.
Also, last year, the school bought an Isuzu bus for its
Now, with the Teso region regaining peace after years of
turmoil, Akabway feels now is the time for the college to
regain its lost glory if only the old boys could give the
administration a helping hand.
Head teachers since inception
Mr. J. E. Jones 1954 – 1968
Mr. Adonia K. Tiberondwa 1968 – 1971
Mr. G. Heddle 1971 – 1972
Mr. J. W. Meadows 1972 – 1973
Mr. F. B. Kasaragi 1973 – 1973
Mr. S. B. Kazungu 1973 – 1974
Mr J. Massa 1975 – 1976
Mr. Stephen B. Akabway 1976 – 1979
Mr. Titus William Epudu 1979 – 1980
Mr. A. Aderu 1981 – 1985
Mr. Juventine Ebamu 1985 – 1992
Mr. Kad Oliba 1992 – 2001
Mr. James Akabwai 2002 – To date
PROMINENT OLD BOYS
PUBLIC SERVICE: Stephen Besweri Akabway, Joseph Biribonwa,
Ignatius Oluka Akileng.
ACADEMIA: Prof. Justin Opio Epelu, Prof. Apuda, and Fredrick
LAW: Justice Steven George Engwau.
POLITICIANS: Musa Ecweru, Capt. Mike Mukula, Dr. Peter Esele
(ex-MP, Bukedea), Samuel Anyolo (ex-MP, Soroti), Tom Odur
Anang (ex-MP, Kwania).
MEDICINE: Dr. Robert Edweu, Dr. John Ecumu, Dr. Joseph Epodoi,
Dr. Silas Oluka.
ARMY: Lt. Gen. Abubaker Jeje Odong, Col. (rtd) William Omaria,
Col (rtd) Charles Okello Engola.
MEDIA: Philip Wafula Oguttu.
OTHERS: Ojiamboh-Ochieng (ENHAS)
Next week we visit Nabumali High School