In Part XVI of Project Success, we track down Moses Mukisa, Uganda’s fourth best UACE science student of 1996. Now an architect, a pastor and gospel artiste, the former Busoga College, Mwiri student tells his story to Harriet Anena
The dream of becoming an architect occupied Moses Mukisa’s mind right from childhood.
After witnessing his uncle’s success in a similar field, Mr Mukisa did not have to look far from home for inspiration.
That desire to nurture a childhood dream and the inspiration would serve him in good stead later, when the climb became steep or when he stumbled during what he says was not always a smooth journey.
Born in a family of six and raised by a single mother, Mr Mukisa knew his chances of completing advanced level secondary school hang on his mother’s ability to provide. He recalls how hard it was for his mother, a teacher at a rural primary school, struggled to support him and his siblings after their father was murdered in 1984.
Despite those challenges, Mr Mukisa passed well enough in ordinary level to obtain admission to Busoga College Mwiri for his A-Level – where he did Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Fine Art.
At his new school everyone reported at the beginning of the term with or without school fees, but after one-month, the often-traumatising identification exercise for school fees defaulters would begin.
Everyone with fees arrears would be sent home for it.
“I was always among the culprits. My school fees were paid in four to five instalments every term and my mum was working really hard to pay my fees,” he says.
Inspite of Mr Mukisa’s mother’s tenacious efforts to ensure that he eventually had his recurrent school fees crises sorted out, he did not meet his side of the bargain for most of his A-Level.
“I was not really performing well in class; I was having real issues understanding complex mathematics in A-Level. It wasn’t like the O-Level mathematics,” he says.
Mr Mukisa says even with his long-held desire to pass A-Level exams so he could pursue architecture at university, he did not pass his mock exams.
He reminisces how frustrated he was when he got O in maths, E in Physics and E in Economics.
Nevertheless, Mr Mukisa applied for architecture, a new and competitive course then, at Makerere University.
“I took a very huge risk to apply for architecture because, with the kind of marks I was getting from senior five first term up to mocks, if the trend was to continue, there was no way I was going to be given architecture,” said Mr Mukisa.
Time was running out for him to prepare adequately for his final exams. But Mr Mukisa’s consolation was that he still had two weeks to go and set targets to read during weekdays and weekends.
But fate did not listen to his last minute resolve. Shortly before the exams, his mother passed away. All morale and determination was swept away by the death of a woman he says had come to personify “my world”.
“That was the defining moment. It was the moment where I was either going to lose it completely or something miraculous would happen,” he said.
Being the last born, and having grown up without a father, Mr Mukisa recalls how lonely he felt because to him, “My mum was my world.”
Just like many other people who find themselves in hard situations and with no one else to turn to often do, Mr Mukisa turned to God. Before sitting for his final exams, he prayed: “God help me, because my mum is now out of the picture. If I don’t pass, I don’t know anyone who is going to take care of me. If I don’t go to the university on government scholarship, this is the end.”
After completing his exams, Mr Mukisa went to live with his aunt in the village. When the results were released, joy and gratitude towards God was what Mr Mukisa knew. He had passed, with an A in Mathematics, A in Economics, B in Physics, B in Fine Art and a distinction in General Paper, making him the best student at his school and the fourth best in the country.
“It was amazing. I couldn’t believe it,” he recalls with a smile. “The next day I went to town and bought a newspaper, cut out the newspaper piece which had my name and put it in my wallet up to date. Wallets have come and gone but it’s still there,” Mr Mukisa explains, as he pulls out his wallet to show the newspaper cutting.
His dream of joining the university on government scholarship had been realised and being given his dream course- architecture- was what gave him even more joy after all the years of riding rough.
No simple task
While at Makerere University, the five-year course was not any simple. Mr Mukisa had to endure three years of studying compulsory subjects and doing projects throughout the week until fourth and fifth years.
He struggled to remain at the top and remembers seeking God’s intervention again. He graduated with a second upper degree.
Mr Mukisa says his love for architecture and his desire to serve God, especially after seeing him do wonders in his life, made it hard for him to decide which career path to take.
“After university I thought I would go to the seminary. I wanted to get involved in God’s ministry at a better thinking level, but I also wanted to be an architect,” he says.
But finally, Mr Mukisa got a job with Kiggundu and partners architect which later became Arch Forum Ltd. After working for two years, he did professional exams at Uganda Society of Architects and there after opened his own business called, Living Space, specialising in innovative design.
Despite giving first priority to architecture, Mukisa’s desire to serve in the ministry was not diminished. He started a church called Worship Harvest and located at Kati Kati in Naguru a Kampala suburb. He says the goal of the Church is modelling a different kind of leadership. But why leadership? Mr Mukisa says Africa is facing a very big leadership challenge, with churches, governments, and schools alike, affected.
In his church, the congregation is allowed to ask questions, challenge what the preacher says and make comments after the sermon.
Mr Mukisa believes it is through conversational relationship with God that people can begin to have a collective effort towards development.
“We have turned the whole thing around. Leadership in the church nowadays is not about being some sort of village chief. Everyone has to participate,” he said.
Mr Mukisa says leadership should be about “laying down your life, interests and helping other people achieve their dreams, where your dream becomes seeing other people’s dreams come true.”
Mr Mukisa is married to Sarah with two children. He describes his wife as ‘a friend’ and adds that “marriage is wonderful as long as you know what it’s about.”
Like a bank
He likens marriage to a bank where depositing and withdrawing money are made.
“When people are dating, they see each other in the best of times, so there is always deposit but when you get into marriage and dishes are not washed, food is not ready in time, it becomes a withdrawal and if that continues it will reach a point where the account gets to zero.”
Looking back at his life and where he has reached so far, Mr Mukisa – who is referred to as Mose (short for Moses), instead of pastor, by people who pray at his church – believes the quest for success should be driven by “a sense of focus, of purpose and of knowing what you want.”
The problem with people today, he says, has been because of fear to think widely and have big dreams. “Remove the boundaries, get out of the box, and don’t look so much at the circumstances surrounding you. Destroy the fences. It doesn’t hurt to have hope. Hope costs nothing and yet without it we are doomed.”
So will Mr Mukisa’s hope drive him to study more? No, he believes that more school leads to more conformation, as opposed to revolutionary thinking.
“The more you go to school, the more the boundaries,” he said. “For the sake of responsibility to people in my church, I will probably do a Masters degree in Divinity to understand better how to manage and run a church, but I wouldn’t do it to get more knowledge.”
Best UACE science students, 1996
Simson Ngabo ................Namilyango College
Sunday Ocitti..... ............St. Mary’s College,Kisubi
Sesse Musamba...............Kings College,Budo
Moses Mukisa.................Busoga College, Mwiri