Kololo High School is legendary for producing Uganda’s celebrated boxers. Boxing legends such as 1990 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Godfrey Nyakana, former national team coach Dick Katende, 2002 Commonwealth bronze medalist Jolly Katongole, former national boxing team captain and professional boxers John Munduga, Sharif Bogere, Fred Muteweta and Hamza Ssempewo all went through Kololo High School.
Amina Mukasa Buyinza took over as the head teacher in 2011. She started her teaching career at Jinja Secondary School in 1993 as a teacher of Islam, a senior woman, assistant head teacher and games mistress.
“Even then, I had interest in sports but I focused on improving my career as a leader and classroom teacher,” she reminisces. Nevertheless, she led the school as it participated in several games including chess, cricket, netball and football.
After five years, she was appointed care taker head teacher of Bubinga High School, Iganga.
In this role, she helped promote football, netball and chess with some success. But it was not until her appointment at Masindi Secondary School in 2004 that she cut her teeth in sports management.
The spectrum of her achievements included securing an ultra-modern science laboratory for the school, launching a school magazine and inaugurating the old students’ association. Twice in her reign, the school played at the Copa Coca-Cola finals.
“That was the turning point for me being in position to compete with schools that invest heavily in sports. We did not have enough funds but my passion for sports always saw me giving whatever could help to have a competitive team,” Buyinza narrates.
Changing the narrative
In 2011, she was honoured with her fourth appointment as head teacher at Kololo High School. This is a school renowned more for boxing than any other sport.
“I found a different sport at Kololo but hey, I had to make the best of the past successes,” Buyinza notes.
“Boxing was a new thing to me but the closer I got to the team, the more I enjoyed it because they kept calling me and I started by looking for equipment,” she recalls.
She got equipment from Bogere and Nyakana boosted her confidence.
While she had the duty to improve discipline and increase enrolment, sport was a tool she could not ignore.
“My students come from challenged places such as Katanga, Kibuli, Kibuye, Kivulu and need these skills to survive. Sport is a skill that is a source of wealth, happiness and discipline.”
For many years boxing was an all-male activity with girls enjoying fringe roles. It was a blood sport.
Katanga slum-based Rhino Boxing Club was prominently the first club to promote female boxing. But Buyinza decided to give it a try. She started with just four boxers trained by volunteer coach Sam Kabugo, a former student of Kololo High School and Nelson Ndugwa.
The dusty playground at the neighbouring Bat Valley Primary School is what they call the training ground but everything around is about improvisation. There is no punching bag, no washrooms, no breast holders for the girls and no feeding at this Universal Secondary Education institution that has 2,800 students; sparring sessions are done with bare fists.
“Our facilities are lacking but our children come from the toughest conditions and they are ready for anything. What drives them is the passion to excel,” she notes.
The school has up to 40 female boxers in just two years and just this year, they have won the schools and the intermediates championship.
Amina Mukasa Buyinza, headteacher of Kololo High School, says that her mission is only half done.
“I know how powerful sport can be and to me it is a good alternative for successful life. Many sportsmen around the world are not living off academics and thus I will do everything to push my students far,” she vows.
She regrets the way her school was eliminated from the 2018 Copa Coca-Cola finals.“Many schools underestimate our students because they do odd jobs after school. But in boxing since we have been accepted as a club, we shall box to the top,” she adds.