For more than a hundred years now, a silent battle of supremacy has been raging between two of the country’s most enduring and distinguished schools. Namilyango College was established as a “college school” in 1902. Its counterpart, Mengo SS had been founded seven years earlier in 1895 by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) but as a primary school though it transformed into a secondary school a year after Namilyango.
The dispute over which of the two is older is still alive even today. What is not in contention however, the journey of greatness that Namilyango has traveled over 110 years.
Mill Hill Missionaries founded the school launching it on March 23rd 1902 as the country’s first post-primary college school with 13 students.
Namilyango was founded by the missionaries with a two-fold purpose: to train catechists for evangelism and to educate the sons of chiefs. But the future promised otherwise.
Namilyango College was to become an orthodox college which stood out for sports and academic excellence. The Africa Almanac in its 2003 online edition ranks Namilyango as the 65th top school in Africa out of 100 on the continent.
“For the first time last year all our students passed in division one,” Barnabas Langoya, the college’s deputy head teacher- academics, chips in for effect.
But besides academic excellence which naturally puts it in rivalry with other top academic giants, Namilyango excels as a sports icon.
Valencia Bizimana the school’s sports tutor digs up some history to fortify the college’s sports success.
“We are the pioneers of playing rugby in the country therefore we have spearheaded the winning,” Bizimana shares about one of the reasons for the fame of the college at which he has taught for at least a decade.
He says that Namilyango began playing rugby in 1964 when no one knew what this game was all about.
“The missionaries knew all these games so one time someone saw an old ball in a store and brought it out and consulted on how to play with it. The missionaries began teaching students and it remained a game played here. It was until 1997 that rugby leagues started to bring in more schools to compete,” he explains from history.
The school currently holds an enviable sports success in this game, with eight trophies from the national championship. It is little wonder that Namilyango’s alumni contribute a good percentage on the national rugby team.
“Some of the notable names include Robert Seguya, captain of the national team then Timothy Mudoola who was national team captain when it won the Confederation of African Rugby in Madagascar in 2007. You can liken this cup to the World Cup,” Bizimana adds about the school’s rugby profile.
Last month Namilyango celebrated 110 but the century or so festivities did not pass without a share of challenges to the college.
“Namilyango has continued to excel amidst challenges like competition from private schools. We are restricted on how much we can do, for example we have to promote students automatically unlike private schools and then have ceiling on how much we can levy in terms of school fees,” the college’s headmaster Gerald Muguluma who is vying for expansion given the growing student population, explains.
Muguluma, who taught at the college for a decade in the 1980s, in his earlier years as a teacher, says that Namilyango unlike the conventional methods in other schools looks at an approach of grooming a self-decisive citizen.
“Our approach in the way we teach students is different because we teach them to make independent decisions. You can rate our education to that of university. There is a lot of self-drive.”