Francis Drake Gureme, former classmate
At the 100th birthday celebrations of Nelson Edmund Nkalubo Sebugwawo last Saturday on April 28, there was a huge presence of ‘who is who’ in Buganda and from other parts of Uganda. I shared a table with retired Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi, retired Chief Justice Mayanja Nkanji, and my friend and former Budo classmate, Prof George William Ssenteza Kajubi. When I finally espied him, I called out “Stalwart” to which he responded “Stalwart.” That was the praise name we called ourselves as finalists in Senior Six (S.6) at King’s College Budo.
It can be imagined how shocked and horrified I was when Mike Ssegawa of the Monitor called just before 8am to tell me that my friend had died. I could not believe it. I begged him to call the family and confirm the terrible report. Hardly five minutes had passed when he called back and confirmed what I thought was a tragedy.
I called Apollo Nsibambi who had already heard the terrible news. He also told me that Senteza had had a stroke earlier. It is then that I remembered that I had noticed that Kajubi leaned rather heavily on his walking stick, and wondered why he was ageing rather fast. Both of us held grandiose sticks, mine was a gift from India imported by Esther, my daughter-in- law, eight years ago. I swung mine as a “malidadi” (stylish). His was an old man’s cane.
When I noticed the way he walked, I talked about how old age had come to me with many ailments and that I was spending a fortune on medications. He also told me he had a number of ailments. Senteza, the man who was not given to self-pity mentioned nothing about his stroke.
Senteza Kajubi and I, had entered Kings College Budo in senior four in 1944. We are both well-known Budonians. We are not of the Budo family like the late Daudi Ochieng who had joined in Primary One. We had come from what the Budo family termed as “Bush schools.” Senteza had done his ‘bush education’ at Mengo Junior Secondary school; I had done mine at Mbarara High school.
The death of Senteza hurts me because out of the class of about 20 boys and girls, only three of us still lived who had entered joined Budo in 1944; Peter Mpagi Bakaluba, Senteza and myself. With the exit of Senteza, that lives me and Peter above ground. I have not seen Peter since we left Budo at the end of 1946. But Senteza assured me that he is alive. Senteza was good in class especially in Geography which was my weakest subject. In those days all the subjects we did in class were examined in the Makerere entrance exam. Depending on which subjects a candidate did well, they would be assigned some three subjects for “higher sciences” or “Higher Arts.” A candidate had to pass all the subjects. Senteza and my other classmates knew that I would never enter Makerere because of my low grades in Geography.
I told my classmates that I would enter Makerere even if it meant cramming World Geography, our textbook then. I memorised all the chapters in our syllabus. I passed the entrance exam highly in all subjects including Geography. At Makerere I was assigned Mathematics, English...and – you guessed it - Geography. Senteza would call me “Mr. Retentive Memory”. But it did not take long before a lecturer in Geography recognised I was an “impostor.” I was made to substitute Geography with Fine Art. Needless to say, Senteza continued to do so well in his combination, gradually advancing to professorship.
Our Budo times under headmaster Denis George Herbert were in the wake of the closure of the school during what was called the Kabaka’s riots of 1943 when the picture of the British Queen was destroyed and replaced with that of the Kabaka.
Under Herbert, strict discipline was observed. At Mbarara High, we’d been told that there was no discipline at Budo and that boys drank local brew and smoked. There was no boozing but, surely, some of us smoked. However, pupils were displined and proud of the good name of Budo that up to now, OBs (Old Budonians) say people go to other school for instructions but only those that go to Budo get educated!
The best-behaved student I came across in my education career is Boniface Byanyima, who as far as I can remember has never been involved in schoolboy notriety nonsense. The second is George William Senteza Kajubi. But hold on, in our time at Budo, there was a road situated above the library, the chapel, the quadrangles, and the boys dormitories. Below, there was a large playground beyond which there were the girls’ dormitories. The road was called the ‘Equator’. Nobody was allowed to cross the Equator from either side beyond 6pm. But the assembly/concert halls were all above the equator. Apart from big functions such as debates (Senteza was a great debater).
When however, the results of the Makerere entrance exams came, those of us who had passed, crossed the equator after supper and invaded the girls’ territory. There was free kissing at one of the girls’ residences where each successful candidate kissed as many as five girls, and girls kissed as many boys as they found (it was a ritual of sort). Significantly, George William Ssenteza Kajubi was one of us that night.
Country at loss
The death of Prof Ssenteza Kajubi has deprived this country of a significant academician, scholar, administrator and politician.
Senteza was the first born child of Lugonzi of the Nsenene (grass hopper) clan. His dad drove the Post Office Mail bus all over Uganda and was awarded a certificate of honour by Queen Elizabeth of England for his 40 years of service. Senteza’s mother was Bulanina Namukomya of the Mamba (lung fish) clan. They lived in Busega, one of the suburbs of Kampala. The man destined to be a great professor and schoar, started out at Natete’s Mackay Memorial Primary School in 1933. He was in Mengo Junior School in 1941-1943. We entered senior four of Budo together in 1944 and joined Makerere College in 1947. He was there till 1950 until he got his teacher certificate (1947-1950). He bagged his M.SC in Geography at the University of Chicago in 1952-1955 and taught at Kako Junior Secondary between 1951 and1952. From 1955 to 1960 he taught Geography at Budo and became director of the National Institute of Education of Makerere between 164 and 1977 where he brought teachers closer to the university and taking the university nearer to the teachers.
He was a professor of higher education between 1979 and 1986, Vice Chancellor from August 1977 to April 1979 (Makerere), Principal of I.T.E.K between 1986 and 1989, VC of Makerere, between 1990-1993 and VC, Nkumba University from 1994 to 2008.
He will among others be remembered for his participation in the designing of the national flag and emblem, and more particularly for stimulating, Wilberforce Kakoma to compose our prayer and national anthem.
From 1963 when he was the member of the Education Policy Review Commission, he has participated or chaired committees and commissions, including the presidency of Uganda Scientific and Cultural Society, National coordinator, East African Social Studies programme, first president of teacher education in Africa, Vice president, International Council of Education for Teachers, chairman Eastern Regional Council for Education (Nairobi) and Patron of Uganda Geographical Society. Between 1973 and 1976, Prof Senteza was chairman Regional Council for Teachers’ Education for Eastern Africa and advisory editor Africa Encyclopaedia.
He is the grandfather of universal primary education in Uganda, chair of the 1987-89 education review commission resulting in White Paper titled the Kajubi Report recommending UPE and wide range access to higher education, accepted in 1992, that remains the guiding basis for government’s investment and strategy in education at all levels.
Canon Matthew N. Rukikaire, Kajubi's former student
I first knew Senteza Kajubi in 1960 when I was an A-Level student at King’s College Budo and he a Geography teacher. The other African teachers, among an almost wholly expatriate teaching staff, were Deputy Headmaster, Sempebwa, and Erisa Kironde, an English language teacher.
Erisa Kironde and Senteza Kajubi represented a new breed of African teachers, beginning to penetrate senior secondary school teaching, an area hitherto dominated by expatriates.
Senteza Kajubi was one of them – brand new, brimming with infectious energy, and exuding brilliance in his field of Geography. Even students who did not take the subject were immensely influenced by the personality of the man which shone all around the school, not just in the classroom.
Later in his career, Senteza Kajubi exhibited unusual courage when, like (Boniface) Byanyima, also a Protestant, opted to join the Democratic Party (DP) against all odds and logic. He was driven by factors of outstanding reasoning. When I stepped forward to accept the Budo Order of Merit award recently, one of the things I expressed was my regret that although Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) appeared to many of us as a more liberal progressive party than DP, and for that reason attracted many young men and women of our time, I personally had serious forebodings about the future of Uganda on account of its leader, Milton Obote. I said so to my senior colleagues like John Kakonge, Grace Ibingira, Mathias Ngobi, George Magezi and Sir William Nadiope, etc. I would have preferred Benedicto Kiwanuka if only he had been the one leading a more ideologically acceptable party than DP of that time. To this day, I believe that even with DP as it was then, under Benedicto Kiwanuka, Uganda would not have been plunged into the subsequent political and constitutional upheaval that ensued.
With the benefit of hindsight, I now know that Senteza Kajubi was right and I was wrong. Both of us were taking calculated risks; he joining an extreme conservative largely Catholic organisation (at least in Buganda) and me joining a liberal-looking nationalistic organisation but with highly suspect leadership. Senteza Kajubi hoped he would change the texture of DP by joining it - which I believe he was able to do with modest success; me joining UPC with disastrous results.
To the end of his life, he continued to show that spirit of fierce independence. He was a towering, inspirational events shaper, with an underlying spirit of hope in whatever he was doing.
His public service is a tale of outstanding contribution comparable only to that of men like Canon John Bikangaga and Dr. Martin Aliker; Senteza Kajubi in Education and Politics, John Bikangaga in Education and Church, and Martin Aliker in the Corporate world.
In spite of the adoration that surrounded him, he remained a humble servant of the people, exhibiting outstanding humility, modesty and civility. When I was Minister of State for Planning and Economic Development, I recall Senteza Kajubi, then Vice chancellor of Makerere University, coming to my office in 1990 with his Management team to discuss the funding of projects at Makerere. I could not believe the humility and courtesy with which he met me, knowing how much I respected him as my former teacher and also as someone who belonged to a higher league of leaders than I belonged to. He had a diverse personality reflecting different facets of the man. He was a Muganda at heart but stood as a nationalist when he joined DP at a time when DP was perceived as anti-monarchy in Buganda. He was a man who belonged to his time but also to the future. The passing of Senteza Kajubi is reminiscent of the passing of Abu Mayanja. Mayanja never attained the towering heights he seemed to have been destined to. His political life spurning nearly 60 years, never achieved its full maturity, largely because of circumstances. Senteza suffered a similar fate – i.e. an unfriendly African political environment in which potentially average leaders remain dwarfs while outstanding men like Abu Mayanja and Senteza Kajubi remain average.