Initially, when I asked Brother Michael Butorwa to tell me his life story, he asked me to join him for lunch.
With his other Brothers, we share a meal of matooke, rice, Irish potatoes, beef, and groundnut sauce. Salads and fruits make our dessert. The conversation at the table is laced with jokes and draws smiles from everyone.
As Brother Butorwa tells some interesting stories about former students, the other Brothers chip in to add a fact or to simply connect a few strands to the tales. He talks about how his students loved the moral lessons he gave them. It is not surprising that most of his former students are now his friends and they call on him from time to time to reminisce on the past.
Warm and jovial
At the tail end of our conversation, he jokes about his beard being overgrown and in need of a shave. He requests me to return the next day for an interview.
At 83, Brother Butorwa still has the humour that tickles those in his company as much as himself. As the midmorning sun slips through the canopy of trees and onto the tarmac, I ascend the stairs to the living quarters of the Brothers of Christian Instruction eager to capture Butorwa’s story as he plans to celebrate six decades in service.
As I draw closer to the residence, I cannot help but enjoy the hymns coming out of the chapel as they celebrate Mass at 10am. In the residence, Butorwa, though, struggles to get up from his chair.
“My legs hurt. Age is catching up with me and diabetes has made me weaker. Pray you never suffer from it,” he says as he gets up from his seat to extend his right hand out to mine.
In a checkered shirt and khaki trousers, he announces that he needs to dress up. “I would look smarter in my cassock,” he says.
Like priests, brothers wear clerical clothing, and for Brother Butorwa, this takes some minutes as his grasp onto things is not as firm and energetic as it used to be. Nonetheless, as he makes an effort to speed up his dressing, we exchange more pleasantries.
“Interesting how an old man has to take almost an hour to dress yet young folks like you do it in just a matter of minutes,” he says as he smiles. He would know, after so many years of interaction with youth.
Long service in education
On January 4, 2018, he will be celebrating 60 years in education service. In 1958, he joined the Brothers of Christian Instruction, which brings together men in the service of God’s people, especially youth, with a preference for the poor, through Christian education and instruction.
“I was inspired by my former headmaster to become a brother. He was a teacher. I knew what I wanted and what I thought I would do in the world was to become a teacher. I did not mind serving God. At that time, I was in Junior Three,” he recollects.
His father, Alkadios Kawadwa, a catechist and farmer, was happy with his decision and so was his mother, Teddy Nalubega. Brother Butorwa had six siblings.
“Our parents were married and they managed to take all of their eight children to school. When I eventually became a teacher, I served in several schools as headmaster. I started at Mugwanya Preparatory School, Kabojja in 1973 before being posted to Ibanda Secondary School where I served for three years as deputy headmaster and six years as the headmaster. I then moved on to St Edwards Secondary School in Kumi District where I spent four years.”
In 1988, Brother Butorwa was posted to St Henry’s College, Kitovu where he served as the headmaster before being transferred to Caltec Academy in 1992.
“Thereafter, in 1996, I went to Rome to study a religious course. When I returned, I was posted to St Charles Secondary School Mubende where I served as a teacher for 17 years from 1998 to 2015 after which, I retired.”
In Mubende, he recounts memories of connecting with community members, emphasising that it is important for students to connect with the communities they live. “Students can interact with the people to learn their values. My students, after interacting with the community, appreciated their way of life and were grateful for what they had. I implore school heads to emulate this.”
Having a Bachelors degree of Science in Secondary Education from the University of New York, he taught science, biology, chemistry and geography.
The fulfilling years
Butorwa’s 60 years of education service to the country have been fulfilling to him. “I loved the children I was teaching and they loved me back. I enjoyed teaching somebody something they did not know. I taught several people how to drive a car after school hours. I remember teaching Joseph Matovu, who is now a lecturer at Makerere University and Roger Luyombya, an engineer, and many others,” the elderly educationist recounts, with a smile.
He adds, “When I was headmaster, I used to teach because we learnt how to teach every subject so that we could fill in, in case there was a missing teacher. My first qualification was a diploma in education from Kyambogo College after which I travelled to the United States of America.”
Brother Butorwa believes that teachers today are not motivated enough to enjoy their profession. “Because of meagre income, teachers find themselves teaching in a number of schools to make ends meet. This compromises the quality of their teaching.”
The education system today
As an observer, Brother Butorwa says the education system in Uganda does not seem to work very well. “In the past, it was much better but now, with Universal Primary Education (UPE), children are not prepared for a bright future. The educators are basing on academic work. In our time, we dedicated time to moral education.
We were taught how to live in the community, which is currently lacking. Our teachers were very devoted because they were paid well and their salaries came on time. These days, only old schools like Mt St Mary’s Namagunga and Kings College Buddo, are doing good work because they have lived in the system that performs well for a long time.”
Proper etiquette matters
The veteran teacher is also irked that morals are not considered important in school. “I value moral education and taught it, for example, how someone needs to behave when with peers, teachers or older people, table etiquette, and more, for 10 years and students later appreciated it although in the beginning, they did not like it. I taught them how to behave when given a responsibility, to be accountable and how to be fair and not promote favouritism.”
Brother Butorwa was taught how to behave in public by his Junior school headmaster and his parents. They emphasised prayer, justice, and not running after teenage girls.
Now in the evening of his life, Brother Butorwa wakes every day at 6am to say his prayers and attend mass. “I do some reading and some small jobs. I am not very active because I am sickly. I thank God, though, that I can still move around.”