Friday February 2 2018

Ocwinyo: Teacher turned author

Ocwinyo has published a number of books key

Ocwinyo has published a number of books key among them a dictionary. Photo by Rachel Mabala. 

By Eric Kyama

Julius Ocwinyo speaks softly occasionally scratching through his receding and greying hairline.
His answers to every question are calculated but detailed, which tells of the character of the former teacher turned author.
I meet Ocwinyo at his office in Kampala on Nasser Road, one of Kampala’s document centres.

I have to squeeze between stationery shops and a horde of people before I reach his office located at the extreme corner of one of the many buildings that dot Nasser Road.
“You are welcome my friend,” Ocwinyo lifts his eyes off the computer as he signals me into a well-lit office.

Inside the office, is a shelf lining filled with different book genres ranging from autobiographies, novels and pamphlets.
Ocwinyo was born in a family of four siblings to Madalena Akongo, 85, in Teboke Parish, Apac District.
His father, Kelementi Ocen, was an army man during the colonial times, which as a result subjected Ocwinyo and his siblings to routine movements across the country.

“We moved to a number of places including Luzira, Mutukula, Masaka and Patiko, among others,” the bespectacled Ocwinyo says as we delve into the almost two-hour interview.
While growing up, he says, our father made it known to all of us that we had to respect education because it was the only way “we could build a better future”.
“My father was not that educated but he cared about our education and encouraged us to read whatever we came across. He would always bring us books to read,” he says.

This, he says, inspired him into becoming the person he has become and has used it, together with the experience of moving from one place to another, to his advantage.
“Of course coping up and adjusting to new environments was always difficult for me and my siblings. But it certainly exposed us, particularly me, to different communities that made me understand and have a better perspective of different communities,” the 57-year-old author, says.
Ocwinyo attended Teboke Primary School and Lango College before moving to Kyambogo Teachers College, now Kyambongo University, to study a diploma in Education.

After graduating in 1986, he moved into teaching and taught in a number of schools including Lira Town College, Lango College and Makonzi Senior Secondary School. He later quit to start authoring.
His first book - Fate of the banished – drafted Ocwinyo into the world of authoring, a career he has carried on through his life.
Today, he is considered one of Uganda’s finest authors and his efforts were in 1997 rewarded after his novel - Fate of the banished - was recognised by the National Book Trust of Uganda as the best adult novel then.

“I am a self-made author and it is because of my passion for reading and writing that I have been able to be recognised as an author,” he says.
Ocwinyo is an avid reader and it is an undisputed fact that he has used this to his advantage contributing to the education sector even as he quit active teaching years ago.

“The kind of work I do at Fountain Publishers involves a lot of education for children going to school,” he says.
Other books he has published include Price of grandma’s love, When hare stole ghost’s drum, poems, Fountain Junior Dictionary and Fountain Progressive English Course, among others.

Throughout his career, Ocwinyo has had some fair successes and is looking to achieve more in regard to his laid out plan.
“I have gained respect from a section of people in the literary world,” he says.
Ocwinyo feels proud that he has been able to influence a number of people through his works some of whom he has crossed paths with.
“I have met strangers who praise me for my work. I once met a man in Wandegeya and he looked excited. He told me I was a good author,” he says.

Fate of the banished, he says, has been his best published work that has placed him among Uganda’s best authors.
Besides that, he has published books for young people as a way of inspiring them to develop a reading culture.
“My work has taken me places. I have been able to go to a number of countries because of my books,” he says.