Monday December 24 2012

A man of principle

Kamuhanda with his wife Mary Kirabo and their children.

Kamuhanda with his wife Mary Kirabo and their children.  


There are many cases where people’s desire to amass wealth or get favours have led to compromising of morals, ignoring rules and professional ethics. People ask for bribes to give services and others volunteer to give bribes in order to get this or change that. One has to be principled in order to avoid falling into these temptations.

Part of the story retired civil servant, Stephen Kamuhanda, 67, shares about his experiences typifies such scenarios. He taught and became headmaster at Kings College Budo, Ntare School and lectured at Institute of Education Kyambogo, now Kyambogo University, during his 30 years of service. “To be a deputy headmaster and headmaster at Kings College Budo was quite tough. It (Budo) is a school of all sorts of expectations and challenges,” Kamuhanda says.

In 1983 he became deputy headmaster at Budo and served as acting headmaster for one and a half years from 1988. He was posted to Ntare School as the headmaster in 1991. Many pupils pass and their parents want them to join the prestigious school, Budo. But all the qualifying aspirants cannot be admitted. Kamuhanda says even when they would pick the best of the best they still left behind those who qualified.

Offering of bribes
This often left parents desperate and discontented thinking that bribery was the magic that earned one a vacancy, but it was not. “You would take the number the school can accommodate. The rest we would say sorry to and tell them we didn’t have space. It is tough; people want to give a bribe and there were many people offering us bribes,” says the soft spoken man. He adds, “One time a lady who wanted vacancy for her child came to my office with a blank cheque. She said, ‘Write there the amount (of money) you want’. I told her that I don’t need money. I said, ‘If you want to donate to the school, go and register the donation with the school bursar’. Imagine someone bringing you a blank cheque.”

So why were parents desperate to have their children study from Budo? Kamuhanda, who is an old boy of the school, says, it is much associated with the elite and rich class of Ugandans and the teaching and child modelling are exceptional. “From academics and discipline to sports, the school offers the best. When a child goes there, he or she gets into a big network because students come from strong economic and educational backgrounds. The likelihood of becoming a failure in life is very slim,” he says with emphasis.

At Ntare School, he served as the headmaster for 12 years until 2003 when he retired and went to look after his largely inherited cows in Kiruhura and Ssembabule Districts.

In 2006, Kamuhanda was approached by leaders to head Kiruhura District Service Commission. He accepted and his four year term ended in 2011. It has been renewed up to 2014. Kauhanda oversees recruitment of staff and confesses that he still meets people with a corrupt mind.
“You get people who want to compromise you, to be given jobs or give their people. But I say, ‘No, I can’t destroy my reputation. I am not looking for wealth, I want to serve and be remembered for doing a good job’,” he says.

At Ntare School, his assignment was to redeem the image of the school, then defined by ill-mannered and drunkard students and average academic performance. “I did not apply, I was told by the Ministry of Education to go to Ntare. The minister (Amanya Mushega) said they had looked around the country and decided that I would be the one to manage Ntare,” he says.

“At the time I came, Ntare was in bad shape in terms of discipline and academics. There were no good teachers and students were always going out of the school. My immediate task was to keep students inside the school and hunt for good teachers,” he says. He checked excessive freedom that was exposing the students to alcoholism, women, films and drug abuse. Kamuhanda says, he would roam popular drinking joints in town especially Kajogo township herding students to get back into the school.

He engaged in hide and seek spectacles with students especially in the evenings and nights. But this angered bar operators. “I would follow them in town at night. During one of my night patrols, an owner of a bar who was hosting a group of the students drinking and watching a film threatened to kill me,” says Kamuhanda. “He said, ‘Kamuhanda, you came to manage Ntare School but not to invade people’s homes.’ He vowed to kill me. From then I never followed students because I knew my life was in danger,” he says.

Kamuhanda says, he settled for internal roll calls which he would at times conduct at 3am or 4am. “We would punish those who would not be found in school. That’s how we managed to make students concentrate on books. Although theydid not stop going out 100 per cent, we changed a lot in keeping students inside the school,” he says.

When the good teachers were recruited and best performing students admitted, it helped on reducing the number of students going out without permission and the school registered improvement in academic performance.

His studies
Kamuhanda, a holder of Masters of Education, says, his enrolling for formal education was little short of a miracle. He is the second and last born and the only boy of his then wandering pastoralist parents owning hundreds of cows.

Kamuhanda’s name in Runyankore depicts that he was born while his mother was on a journey with cows. That was in 1944. He started school at the age of 11 with other 12 children in 1955, being taught by a volunteer who was from Ibanda and was dealing in merchandise at an upcoming trading centre in their village.

Six months later, Kamuhanda was the best of all and qualified to join P2 at Kashwa Primary School. “We had been studying for six months. A teacher from Kashwa Primary School came and assessed us. I was the only one who qualified to join P2. I was taken to Kashwa located over 15 kilometres away. I was the only boy and my parents were opposed to my going to school but luck was on my side,” he says.

They had a relative near the school located near the current Kiruhura district headquarters in Nyabushozi. Milk was the main diet, so his parents sent some cows there so he could have a steady supply of milk. Because Kashwa had no Primary 3 class, yet he had passed very well, Kamuhanda went to Kazo primary located a further 25 kilometres away. He was taken to Kazo by Mr Kaguhangire, a teacher, who was a family friend because he had heard that he was performing very well. He studied P4 and P5 there.

Kaguhangire was posted to Mbarara Junior and he shifted with Kamuhanda. He was again posted to Kabwohe in the same year where they still went together. “I passed P6 very well and the kingdom officials had already known about me. Ankole Kingdom treasurer,Godfrey Katanywa, recommended that I join Budo because I was bright and we had many cows so my parents would afford to pay the fees,” he says.

He studied at Kings College Budo for junior secondary and senior secondary and he also studied there for advanced level. This was from 1961 up to 1968. At A’ level, he studied History, Economics and Geography plus Literature in English as subsidiary. “I passed very well and joined Makerere university.

“I had applied for law which they gave me. Within two weeks, they cancelled it and they gave me another course and before we reported they cancelled and gave me BA education with History and Religious Studies, which I did not like. I did not know the reason for changing my course. I did my Bachelor of education against my will,” he says.

When he graduated in 1972, Kamuhanda went back to Budo to teach History and Religious studies.
There was a scholarship for him and seven others to go and do PhD in Britain but he declined, while his colleagues took the opportunity. He would realise later that he squandered the chance.

In 1974, he wedded his wife Mary Kirabo who he had met while they were students at Budo and Gayaza respectively. At the time of their wedding, Kirabo had graduated from Makerere University with BSC in Botany and Zoology and did a post graduate diploma in Education. After three years of teaching at Budo, Kamuhanda went back to Makerere in 1975 to pursue a Masters Degree in education. He joined Kyambogo (ITEK) where he lectured for five years.

Missing another year
“I rose up to a level of a senior lecturer and head of education department. I got a scholarship and left to pursue a PhD. I had declined to take up a scholarship for PhD after graduating with Bachelors, but now I felt I should go and study,” he says.

He was admitted at Columbia University in New York. But on his way to America, Kamuhanda first lived in Lesotho in South Africa where he wanted to leave Kirabo teaching. That was in 1982, the times of political chaos in Uganda. “This was the time NRA had waged war. I decided to go through Lesotho kingdom where I had a friend I had taught with at Budo and was teaching there. I wanted to leave my wife there but that did not work out. I did not go to Columbia,” says Kamuhanda.

While he was still in Lesotho, also teaching at a local secondary school, Kamuhanda got information that back home in Kihaama, Kikatsi Sub County Nyabushozi in present Kiruhura District, his father, Yoweri Kanyontore was sick. “I cancelled going to study, we decided to return and I was posted to Budo as the deputy headmaster,” he says.

Kamuhanda was settling at Budo for the third time in 23 years. He had gone there as a student after emerging the best at Kabwohe Primary School, in the 1960 primary leaving certificate exams.
Kamuhanda and his wife Kirabo have five children. Kirabo teaches in the department of Guidance and Counselling at Mbarara University of Science and Technology.

Kamuhanda now divides his time between doing district service commission work and looking after his cows. He also spends time doing some reading. “I like reading; I have this library that keeps me busy. I spend a lot of time reading. I read scientific discoveries, space science and international relations. I am also writing a book on education based on my experience,” he says.
Kamuhanda does not like politics. “There is a lot of filth, abuse, deceiving and I can’t get involved in that. I want to be free, without conflict with anyone.”

Kamuhanda looks very healthy and energetic. He owes this to physical fitness. He jogs, walks and rides bicycle to keep fit and healthy.