26th October 2006
Aggrey Memorial, oh Aggrey Memorial!
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 school.

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.

The headmaster Lasto Namakajjo

The Alpha

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 teachers.

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 magazine.

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 was founded.

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 of philosophy].

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.

The present

“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 not affluent.

“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 to Namakajjo.

Academic front

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 A-level.

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 accordingly.

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!

School Anthem

Let Aggrey prosper
And ever shine
In the rays of the green light
The fruits of hard work
Remain today.

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
Godfrey Lule
J.C Ssempebwa
Margaret Kivumbi
Gasta Nsubuga
Augustine Sekyondwa


Former headmasters

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.