That Namilyango College is the first born of Uganda’s secondary schools is reason enough for Ngonians to hold their heads high as they celebrate a record-breaking 110 years of existence this Saturday March 24, 2012, at the College.
But “Ngonians” (as Namilyango ‘citizens’ both old and current are called) will walk to the school with their heads even higher this time, having come first in the national examinations for Ordinary Level, and if one counts the overall performance, first in the Advanced Level examinations as well.
More than half a dozen bulls will pay the price of this success as the Ngonians roast away in celebration on Namilyango Day, starting at 8:00 a.m on Namilyango hill in Mukono District, 19km from Kampala.
The College was opened on March 23, 1902, with 13 students, by the Mill Hill Missionaries, and was the first post-primary school in Uganda, and a boarding one at that.
Namilyango College was started with a two-fold purpose: to train Catechists for evangelism and to educate the sons of chiefs. The aims and objectives of the school were summarized in the motto “Education for Responsibility”, which was adopted to guide students and teachers alike. Later, the motto “Nisi Dominus” (without God nothing is possible or worthwhile) was adopted in line with the Catholic foundation of the school.
Under Bishop Hanlon, the school’s founder, the school emphasized a system of free discipline. During class hours, the boys would be without supervision. Hanlon felt that the rigid supervision of the students’ spare time activities would be detrimental to their character development. The school thus developed a liberal tradition at the very time of its inception. Every Wednesday afternoon, the students were allowed to walk as far as Seeta, the nearest trading centre to purchase items, or simply enjoy a good old-fashioned walk. Every last Saturday of the month, they could take a ride to Kampala and be back by 6pm.
In September 1906, the catechists who constituted a certain percentage of the students in Namilyango, were transferred to another institution that had been created for that purpose. After this move, the school’s name was changed to “Sacred Heart Namilyango High School”, although the school was generally known as “Namilyango High School”.
In 1907, Fr Philip Jackson, the headmaster, was appointed the pastor of Namilyango Parish. This new arrangement meant that the school and the parish were inextricably linked. In September, 1912 the parish was once again separated from the school, each with its own head.
Change of name
In August 1929, the Brothers of Christian Instruction order (The Kisubi Brothers) took over the school and named it ‘St. Aloysius College.’ However, after three years, the Mill Hill Fathers took it over again in 1932, under Fr. P. Preyde.
The school became known as Namilyango College after the government introduced a new system of naming schools whereby secondary boarding schools were to be called colleges.
During 1941–1945, new dormitories were built and enrollment rose to 125 students in 1945. In 1943 the school was chosen as one of the self-governing schools of the Protectorate under the terms of The Thomas Report. In the same year, the Cadet Corps and Boxing Clubs started.
Towards independence, many of the students who had passed through the school had occupied important positions in the civil service, society and pre-independence politics. In 1960, two years before National Independence, the school was granted ‘A’ Level status, thus becoming a fully-fledged ‘A’ Level boarding school for boys.
Culture of excellence
Namilyango College is among the most prestigious schools in Uganda, owing to its excellent academic performance and dominance in sports disciplines. For long, it was Uganda’s best school in boxing, equipped with the world class boxing facilities in the “Pyramid” built just for that. The school also excelled in football. Boxing was stopped in the school in the early 1990s. Rugby is now the biggest sport in the College.
Namilyango has won the national schools’ rugby title more than any other school, and this is reflected by the numbers of players it has sent on to the national team.
In 2003, Namilyango College was rated the 65th best high school on the African continent and today it remains the highest rated Ugandan high school in the various continental rankings. Namilyango College was a pioneer in Information Technology in Ugandan schools, building one of the first and today, possibly the finest school computer laboratory in the country.