Reviews & Profiles
A man of principle
Posted Monday, December 24 2012 at 02:00
From heading schools to service commission, Stephen Kamuhanda has faced the vice of corruption, with many people wanting to offer bribes in exchange for favours. But he says, that is not his way of dealing with things.
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.
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.