12th October 2006
St. Leo's Kyegobe strives for excellence
By Jackie Nalubwama

Under heavy dark clouds, pregnant with rain, St. Leo’s Kyegobe’s buildings bring colour to what would have been a dull hill.

A few minutes at the school, the clouds give in and the rain pelts down on the red and green roofs of the school buildings.

According to the boda boda cyclist, this is a typical Kyegobe day - wet, misty and cold. At St. Leo’s Kyegobe, all the students act as one person. The dean of students, Solomon Sabit, who is also an old boy, explained the solidarity phenomenon, which makes up the culture of the school.

The headboy
Joseph Mwesigwa

“We had solidarity; what affected one affected everybody,” he said. Sabit was a student at the school from 1983 to 1986.
Speaking to the head prefect, Joseph Mwesigwa, he confirmed that student solidarity is still as strong as ever at Kyegobe.

A couple of weeks ago, students marched from their dormitories to the headmaster’s office, and after outlining their grievances; asked him to leave the school immediately.
Mwesigwa says that some of the complaints were; bad food and no electricity for two days.

The student leader explains that the headmaster, Joseph Byamukama, had been told of the problems before but had not responded, and that he was rather dictatorial in his methods. Consulting with other members of staff was not his style of operation.

Mwesigwa suspects that since Byamukama was not an old boy of the school, he did not know how to aptly run the school.
He added, “The old boys used to work but with the coming of Byamukama in 2003, the association declined.”

The school is now under the first deputy headmaster Alex Rumanika, who is the acting headmaster. To Rumanika, an old boy of the school, life as a student was lovely.

St Leo’s statue in front of the administration block

“I really enjoyed my O-level,” he says. Rumanika was a student of St. Leo’s Kyegobe from 1965 to 1968. He agrees with Sabit that solidarity has always been part of the school’s culture, citing a similar spirit during his days.

It appears that St. Leo’s is a school riddled with rebellions because back in the 90s, an old boy described the school as “chaotic”.

Simon Kiiza, Systems Administrator of MGS International in Kampala, was at St. Leo’s from 1992 to 95. Recalling his time as a student, he says, “The school was too chaotic. Always fighting with villagers [from Bukwali] because students used to eat villagers’ stuff. So they would retaliate.”

He added that they used to have “bull dances” every end of term because no girls’ school wanted to dance with them. “We would have bull dances because of the chaos [the boys used to cause], no girls wanted us,” said Kiiza.

Even Mwesigwa, the current head boy, says that dances with Kyebambe Girls were stopped in 2001 because of student indiscipline.

When Kiiza was at the school, the headmaster was Henry Basaliza, who went on to represent Fort Portal Municipality in the Seventh Parliament.

On the question of what makes St. Leo’s tick, Kiiza re-echoed the solidarity culture, just like other old boys.
“In my S.2, the students refused to sweep after an earthquake [in which] S. 2B had born the brunt. The kids jammed (refused) to sweep and they suspended the whole class,” Kiiza recalls. The students had wanted the school to hire people to sweep the class.

To him that showed how strong the ‘solida’ (unity) was among students. Besides solidarity, Kiiza says that St. Leo’s was unique because it taught students how to persevere in life.
“They did not entertain a lot of money. If you had a lot, you would leave it at the bursar’s who would ration it for you,” Kiiza explained.

Kyegobe jargon

As it is in other schools, St. Leo’s has its own jargon. Mwesigwa gave a few examples of the Kyegobe lingua, which seemed weird. He explained that a person who eats a lot is called ‘kuduma’, ‘embitchy’ is a pretty girl, while a ‘dunku’ is an ugly girl. Why cabbage is called ‘ibbage’ left my head spinning because the jargon sounds worse than the original word. If you own a big cup or plate, in St. Leo’s it would be called ‘kuduma’.

On condition of anonymity, an old boy, currently teaching at the school, said that S.1s and newcomers were called ‘lobos’ while S.2s were called ‘pogos’ because they had progressed from ‘lobos’.

The teacher, who was a student at St. Leo’s from 1994 to 1996, added that S.5s were nicknamed ‘advanced lobos.” These terms are still used by Mwesigwa and his contemporaries.


Once upon a time, order reigned at St. Leo’s Kyegobe, one of Uganda’s grandest schools. Built in 1922 by the White Fathers, the school still has a strong Catholic foundation. Evidence of this is the statue of St. Leo in front of the administration block.

The clean green compound and freshly cream-painted buildings is a sign that this giant’s grand structures can yet still produce academic excellence. Even with recent internal upheavals [such as strikes], the school structures remain unscathed, showing a semblance of order.

According to Sabit, the dean of students, St. Leo’s is still performing well in the academic and sports arenas. The main sports disciplines at the school include: football, hand ball, and athletics.

“In this region, we are the best. Last year in O-level, we had 64 in Division 1out of 100 students and the rest were in Division 11,” said Sabit. And this year the school’s projection is 90 students in Division 1.

Sabit also said that as a student in the 80s, there was proper control by the then headmaster, Austin Mulengwa. “There was no confusion. Games and sports were excellent. And we would win in many cases.” Sabit is hopeful that order will prevail again as it did in his student days.

The acting headmaster, Rumanika, is still waiting for a new headmaster to be appointed by the Minister of Education. Presently, the school has recovered from the strike, which was luckily not violent.


The School Anthem

In God we triumph in all we do for our school
Our lives and nation, and our dear land
Where we reside, Let Saint
Leo be our ideal.

We thank God for our Founders,
The White Fathers for the academic
Achievements, for victories gained
In sports and for all success.
We always get.

We are proud of our old boys
For all they have and what
They now are Civil Servants,
Politicians, Religious and Specialists
In all sectors to improve man’s life.

May all students, staff and parents
Too, maintain and uplift the standards
Of the School By hard working obedience,
Co-operation and cleanliness, of body,
Heart happiness of mind.

Prominent Old Boys

  • Justice Vincent Kagaba
  • Justice Joseph Mulenga
  • Justice C. Kato
  • Francis Sekandi
  • Hon. Tom Butime
  • Hon. Steven Kaliba
  • Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere
  • Alex Rumanika
  • Charles Onyango-Obbo
  • Bernard Tabaire
  • Jeff Mbanga
  • George Rubagumya
  • Solomon Sabit
  • Deogratias M. Byabazaire
  • Simon Rutega
  • Chris Kasami
  • John Ntimba
  • Jos Kakooza
  • R. Bitamazire
  • John Butime
  • Dr. Venancio Baryamureeba
  • Dr. Twaha Basamba
  • Dr. Chris Kairumba
  • Dr. Pius Ruhemurana
  • Dr. Arseni Semaana
  • Tarciss Buchanayandi
  • Crescent Baguma
  • Chad Nyakairu
  • James A. Musoni
  • Protase Musoni
  • Engineer John Byabagambi
  • Steven Kagwera
  • Emmanuel Lule

Next week we visit Makerere College School