We all have different career aspirations which we strive hard to ensure we achieve. But in the event that a scholarship offer knocks at your door, how would you treat it?
For Alphonse Acellam Ojok, 72, this proved his desire of becoming a teacher was beyond any other profession when he turned down a scholarship to train as an engineer in Kenya.
At just 19 years, after completing O-Level from Nyapeya College in Nebbi District in 1965, Ojok got admitted by the East African Post and Telecommunication to train as an engineer in Nairobi, Kenya.
“I always wanted to be a teacher and nothing else. But in 1965, an offer swayed me off my feet and I was tempted to take it up,” Ojok recounts.
Donning a white shirt and black trouser matched with a striped tie, the soft-spoken former teacher says, however, three months into the training in Nairobi, he felt uncomfortable and decided to quietly return to Uganda.
“We were being paid allowances enough to carter for a normal life, but I still felt I was not destined to become an engineer. I quietly sneaked back into Uganda using some of my allowance,” he said.
That same year, he managed to secure admission at National Teachers College, Kyambogo to pursue a teaching course. In 1967, Ojok graduated as a Grade Five teacher.
The hard worker
Unlike what he had anticipated would be an easy career, Ojok found out that it was not all roses in the profession he had fallen in love with when he was posted to teach in Moyo secondary school. Ojok said he had specialised in teaching History and English and his students loved and enjoyed his lessons.
“They told me they understood what I taught and this was reflected in their performance,” he recalls.
The good performance, he says, later earned him the trust of the head teacher who was an American citizen by then but it became fodder for jealousy from his colleagues even causing his transfer.
“One particular teacher envied me after learning I would be appointed the deputy head teacher and fought me in all aspects which demoralised me until I asked to be transfered from the school,” Ojok said.
And in 1969, Ojok was transferred to St Joseph’s College Layibi in Gulu District where he joined three other Africans teaching at the school then headed by an Italian priest. He would teach for 17 years at the school throughout the political turmoil that engulfed the country.
However, he was later transferred and appointed head teacher of Koch Goma Senior Secondary School in present day Nwoya District where he served from 1984 till 1994. “I found the school performance in bad shape and with my knowledge and experience, I restored the school’s glory to become one of the best schools in the region. I ensured that I employed part time teachers from some of the best schools and always paid them promptly as motivation,” he said.
In 1984, Ojok said rebels belonging to the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), an outfit that fought with National Resistance Army [NRA] abducted and tortured him from his home in Koch, Goma because he had money.
He noted that the rebels who had been following him right from the bank where he had collected Shs580,000 for teachers’ salaries abducted him one night in 1984 and demanded that he gives them the money or be killed.
“The rebels gave me 150 strokes of the cane before they demanded the money. But after a decade of heading Koch Goma Senior Secondary School, I was transferred to St Joseph’s College, Layibi where I taught History in O-Level until 2002,” the retired teacher said.
Hanging his gloves
In 2003, he said he got another transfer to Gulu Senior Secondary School where he worked until he eventually retired from teaching in government schools in 2006.
At Gulu Senior Secondary School, Ojok boasts of having won numerous awards of excellence for being the best teacher at the school every year. He, however, notes that despite clocking the retirement age in public service, his zeal to teach was still unwavering.
“Teaching is my first love and it is only time that has to make me stop being actively involved. I liked the interaction and confidence I built in my students which has seen most achieve a bright future,” Ojok says.
Despite being retired, Ojok is thriving. He is currently the director Good Foundation Nursery and Primary School, a family business in Dima parish, Mutunda Sub-county Kiryandongo District. To him the sky is the limit.