“You are a young and handsome man. How will you manage (to teach) these girls?” the white head teacher at Kyebambe Girls SS asked Humphrey Ahimbisibwe in 1977 when he was given a job at the all-girls school located in Fort Portal.
He replied, “Madam, I have come to teach and I will treat all of them as students.”
That marked the amazing start for Ahimbisibwe, fresh from university, as a professional teacher. He was a little confident because he had done his teaching practice at Makerere College School, where he taught Physics and Mathematics. He had also scored a distinction in mathematics at Kitabi Seminary. Kitabi, one would say, was where he cut his teeth as a teacher during his Senior Six vacation and during university holidays.
In 1979, he was transferred to Nyakasura School in Fort Portal, bringing an end to a rather short stint of two years at Kyebambe. In Nyakasura, he taught Physics until 1982.
First time in Bweranyangi
Around the same time, Bweranyangi Girls Seconday School in Bushenyi was starting an A-Level section and needed science teachers. Ahimbisibwe was hired as a physics teacher and in 1985 was promoted to head the Physics department Two years later, he was promoted to deputy head teacher.
In 1988, he shares: “My next stop was Kashaka Girls SS in Mbarara, where I was a school head for 17 months.”
Kashaka was quite an experience too, only that the script took a rather challenging twist. “I was there for a short time but it was a tough going. I replaced someone who had been there for a very short time and thus left the school disorganised. Pastoralists and their cows would invade the school. You would find animals in the compound and in classrooms. We had to fight hard to sober up the school.”
And yet, all this was in the morning of his life as a head teacher. In May 1989, Ahimbisibwe was transferred to Ruhinda SS in Mitoma District, where he spent less than a month. Around that time, students at Bweranyangi forced out their head teacher through a strike.
“I was then ordered by their school board to report as soon as possible to take over as head teacher. This made me the first male head teacher of the school till 1992 when I was transferred to Muntuyera High School in Ntungamo where I stayed for 11 years.”
Muntuyera too was a tad difficult. The monster of gross student indiscipline awaited him with menacing anxiety.
“It was a tough time. Students lived in their own world. They would attend class as and when they felt like, spend time in the market, and in the evening, roam around town. We put up a strong fight to bring sanity and we succeeded.”
In February 2003, Ahimbisibwe was transferred to Ntare School in Mbarara, which he left in 2010 after seven years and seven months. This, his former school, was his retirement home.
Ahimbisibwe says due to his work ethic and commitment, he has left all schools he has headed better in infrastructure, games and sports, discipline and academics.
On a personal note, however, the profession has been glorious for the 35 years he spent teaching and 24 years as headmaster.
If I was to become a teacher again, I think there is nothing new I would do. I am satisfied I did the best I could. There was never a year when I didn’t teach even after becoming head teacher. I was a teacher and I wanted to remain a teacher and remain in touch with the school and close to students.
Advice to head teachers
Ahimbisibwe concludes by advising head teachers love their school with all their hearts and to devote their energies to the job. “It is one profession that never disappoints because years later, you are rewarded seeing the fruits of your hard work transform society. I could never have chosen a better profession”.
On today’s education
Ahimbisibwe says he is not happy with a teacher’s remuneration.
“An MP earns Shs20m a month whereas a teacher is paid Shs450,000. This makes us feel worthless,” he says.
This educationist also believes that students no longer attach as much value to education.
“The students of 1970s were surely self-propelling. Ntare School, for instance, had no strict school rules but the boys would go dancing and return to their books,” he says.
Today, Ahimbisibwe believes, the style of teaching is also more exam oriented.
“I can bet a Senior Three student of the 1970s outsmarts your average Senior Six leaver of today. Look at the magnitude of schools cheating exams. In the early days, we did not have external invigilators. We invigilated national exams among our students and the thought of cheating for them never crossed your mind,” he adds.