By Jackie Nalubwama
Looking at Aggrey Memorial, not many miles from the city
in Bunamwaya, it is hard to believe that this school was
once one of the academic notables.
At the gate, the board, which bears the school name and
motto- “Ama Et Labora,” is brown with dust,
which makes Aggrey appear to be fading. Perhaps looking
at the board alone prepares you for what lies inside the
Lustre and enthusiasm, which was probably once at the school
is now gone. Students walk sluggishly across the compound
to the canteen. Well, at least there are some students lying
on the grass, reading their books.
Contrary to popular belief, Aggrey Memorial was started
in 1932, by Dr. Ernest Kalibbala and his wife. “Dr.
Kalibbala resigned his lucrative job and prestigious appointment.
He disagreed with his White masters in the Education Establishment
on the education policy for Africans and the status of African
He and his wife founded Aggrey Memorial School to give
vent to his burning desire of uplifting the Africans from
their then perceived inferior status.” This is according
to ‘The Aggrerian,’ of 2000, the school’s
In 1943, over at King’s College Budo, black teachers
found themselves in the same derogatory predicament as Dr.
Kalibbala had once been. The imperial muscle was quite patronising
to say the least of their culture, so teachers resigned.
Off to Aggrey Memorial they went, where Dr. Kalibbala welcomed
their expertise in 1943. “Aggrey of Achimota,”
as Dr. Aggrey Kwegar was called, was the man the school
was named after because of his contribution in education
[specifically in Ghana], and his fired up spirit against
subservience to White superiority.
| The administration block
Against a rebellious background, laced with assertiveness,
nationalism, respect for culture and values, Aggrey Memorial
It is important to note that this school’s founders
were people with good academic credentials. Most especially,
Dr. Kalibbala, son of a Buganda chief Paulo Balintuma, studied
in America and became the first Ugandan to hold a PhD [doctorate
It is also this background that cost Aggrey Memorial funding
from the then colonial government. The school was funded
by parents who paid school fees and other well-wishers,
but no government aid at all.
And between 1943 and 1978, the headmasters of the school
rotated among Henry Kanyike, Rev. Pollycarp Kakooza and
Justin Sengendo Zaake.
“Many people know Aggrey as one of the old good schools.
We want to bring it up again.” These were the words
of the deputy headmistress, Jane Kigonya. A warm and motherly
figure, with a smile which makes one feel at home; surely
the students have a mother in their deputy headmistress.
Kigonya said the school has made an improvement in general
since 2003, when a new team of administrators came to Aggrey.
“There is a great improvement in the discipline. The
general cleanliness is also better.”
In addition, the deputy said, “We have new facilities;
more bathrooms and toilets.” Looking at Aggrey Memorial,
I must agree with Kigonya, a lot needs to be done to put
this school back at the top where it belongs.
This school is traditionally a day school but with time
the boarding section was introduced. However, the bigger
number of students remains day scholars.
Lasto Namakajjo, the headmaster, says they are trying to
make it a boarding school. This, he explains, will help
the students concentrate more on their studies. And Kigonya
added, “We plan to put up more facilities for boarders
so that we attract more students.”
Setbacks to overcome
Namakajjo says that school fees are the greatest problem
the school is faced with. “The parents can’t
meet the school charges.”
He says Aggrey Memorial, which is situated in the outskirts
of Kampala, in Bunamwaya, serves communities, which are
“Most of our problems are financial because it is
located in a place where parents are poor,” he explains.
Parents often have to pay school fees in inadequate instalments
which come late.
Day scholars are required to pay Shs 141, 000, while borders
part with Shs 270, 000 every term. The deputy headmaster,
Kigonya, observes that the fees are so low, compared to
other schools in the neighbourhood. The school suffers competition
from private schools in the area.
“The competition from other private schools, which
are cheaper, is also a challenge. Schools like: Standard
High, Kitebi High and Baptist High.”
Kigonya explains that the school was taken over by government
in the 1980s. But the government is only meeting the teachers’
fees, the rest of the funding coming from school fees, according
Aggrey, the giant of old, has grown a huge slump in the
back, as far as its academic performance is concerned. The
school administration is particularly concerned and wants
to improve the situation.
Ow’ekitibwa Jimmy Semugabi Bakyayita was at Aggrey
in its heydays. He was a student from 1956 to 1958 for his
He remembers the school as having had good teachers, who
taught “the whole person.” “Aggrey taught
you not only books, but also skills so that you become a
responsible person in society,” said Bakyayita.
He explains that since the school was built on such firm
ideals (nationalism and spirit), students wanted to live
With a hint of pride, Bakyayita says that his former school
was one of the first successful private schools in the country.
And it had no religious affiliation. The school was charged
with educating young people, and that it did.
“We had students from all over Africa: Kenya, Tanzania,
Malawi, even Congo [DRC],” says Bakyayita. To him
Aggrey was simply great.
That was then, since Aggrey is now struggling to get back
on its feet. “Last year we got 121 first grades and
181 first grades in 2004 [in O-level],” says Kigonya.
She explains: “There’s a downward trend because
of compulsory sciences.” Science subjects became compulsory
in 2003 when Namakajjo became headmaster of the school.
Much as Kigonya hopes the “downward trend”
will change, Universal Secondary Education is fast beckoning.
“We are not expecting much. We think that it will
worsen because the school depends on the [poor] parents
paying fees,” said Namakajjo.
Namakajjo is also worried that if the government subsidises
school fees [with USE], Aggrey Memorial will find it harder
to survive, considering that it is already struggling to
break even with the current fees!
Let Aggrey prosper
And ever shine
In the rays of the green light
The fruits of hard work
Begun by Africans
In memory of Dr. Aggrey
They all sung in one voice
That’s love and work.
Prominent Old Students
Prince Besweri Mulondo
Jimmy Semugabi Bakyayita
Dr. James Mulwana
Prof. Livingstone Walusimbi
Prof. Eric Paul Kibuuka
Late Henry Kanyike (1943-45)
Late Rev. Pollycarp Kakooza (1945-48)
Late Justin Sengendo Zaake (1949-50)
Late Henry Kanyike (1951-52)
Late Justin Sengendo Zaake (1952-66)
Late Pollycarp Kakooza (1968-76)
Samule K. Busuulwa (1978-86)
Late Wilberforce Kalyesubula (1986-87)
Nsole Matovu (1988-94)
John Bbosa (1994-2003)
Lasto Namakajjo (2003-todate)
Next week we visit Kibuli S.S.