Grinding millet is still a piece of cake for Prof. Nuwagaba - Daily Monitor

Grinding millet is still a piece of cake for Prof. Nuwagaba

Sunday January 29 2012

A young Nuwagaba.

A young Nuwagaba. 

By As told to Ivan Okuda

I was born in Kabale North Division in Kabale Municipality in 1964. I grew up as an orphan after losing my father at the age of four. My mother was very hardworking and a strict disciplinarian with a firm Christian foundation.
One time I went to explore what it felt like to dance to music played on a record player and danced till the wee hours of the morning, only to return for a session of uncountable strokes of the cane from her.

However, I was a very disciplined child though of course like any other teenager, very vulnerable to peer pressure. But thanks to the orphan element, somehow I changed and realised the importance of getting serious at an early age. Unlike the other children who had parents, I had no fallback position and I did not want to disappoint my mother.

I ensured the house is clean, fetched water and fire wood and accompanied mummy to church where she was a member of the church choir. Being the second last born in a family of seven, I found myself doing work otherwise considered feminine because my elder sisters were already married. I was a star at grinding millet, even at my age and with all my degrees and profile, if there is a grinding stone I can still do it.

I aspired to be a teacher because those days teaching was the most admirable profession. I recall the female teachers were the icons of the community because of the smartness and character they exuded. Little wonder, when I got a Bachelor’s degree, I got a job with Ministry of Finance, as a Research Coordinator for the National Council for Science and Technology, and another as a teaching assistant at Makerere University.

After one year, I dropped the ministry job to concentrate on my teaching. Even after my Masters degree at London School of Economics, I would have gotten a fat job with a global organisation like World Bank, but because of the lasting impression I had of teaching as a child, I went back to Makerere to teach. It is gratifying to mentor people and see them mature into responsible citizens.

My childhood was not simple because amidst this aspiration, I became a total orphan at 16 years when my mother passed on. It was terrible, considering that she was my last card on top of missing that fatherly love and authority.

Because most of my elder sisters were married in Kampala, I remained in Kabale with my younger brother and had to struggle with life. That dark cloud however, had a silver lining because it created independence in my thinking, I became a parent and child at the same time and this shaped the Augustus Nuwagaba you see today in terms of developing resilience and moral character. I did not have a life of luxury like other children because I knew I had to work tooth and nail for my own survival. After all, even my sisters could not remit financial support to an unserious fellow.

In Senior Three at about 17 years, I became a business man. I would go to Kasese, buy maize flour for sale in Kabale. At that time there was wide spread insecurity in the Rwenzori area and at one time, I slept under the tyres of a lorry as sleeping in the hotel was deadly.

The risky nature of this trade was a blessing in disguise because I made so much money that I seriously contemplated abandoning school. I began with half a bag of maize flour and within a year, I had accumulated 12 bags. Interestingly, when Senior Four results were released, I emerged the best in Kigezi High School with 14 aggregates in six subjects.

At A-level, this made me the natural choice for the post of head boy at the great school though it was a stiff race among four aspirants, but because debating was my hobby, I maneuvred my way to a landslide victory. Throughout my time at the school, Bishops, my house was the debate champion. Of course I was a book worm, just like today. Being a day student, I would stay in the school library till 8pm, reading a wide range of literature, from Chinua Achebe, George Orwell’s Animal Farm to books like Kigezi and Its Peoples.

That self discipline of not reading from home is a virtue I stick to to-date, even if I have an examination, I never read from home. There must be a line clearly drawn between family and office.

My idea of fun was watching Bruce Lee and Ringo films from the community cinema; seeing Bruce Lee beat up everybody in the film was such a thrill. The other was swimming. Our home is near the river, so we would stand on the river bank and jump into the water and swim until we got exhausted. One time, I forgot that I had to balance swimming with house chores and got a thorough beating from my mother which made me give up swimming. Perhaps, I would have become the best swimmer in the continent or even a global star!

At school, we derived fun from standing at a place called “album” to intimidate young Senior One girls (freshers) by calling them silly names and teasing them about their looks. Oh poor innocent girls! I wish they knew that I was an amateur when it came to skills of socialising with girls because I did not grow up with my sisters.