Diana Hope Tuhumwire Nyago is the quintessential teacher; vibrant, exciting and passionate. Nyago has a knack of making one feel comfortable and relaxed which probably is the secret to her illustrious career.
Nyago is known for her successful career in teaching that spans more than three decades. She is also the first Ugandan woman CEO of a football club. The 59-year-old says she did not set out to become a teacher but the profession chose her. Her first dream was to become a journalist but providence intervened.
“I wanted to become a journalist but there was no clear cut course for journalism at Makerere University at that time. While at campus, I bumped into one of my former teachers who inquired what course I was doing and I explained the subjects I was doing with the intention of joining journalism. The teacher then advised me to change to education because it was a professional course and I would also be able to work as a journalist if I still wanted to,” she recounts.
Nyago started her teaching career as a graduate teacher in 1984. Three years later , she was appointed as acting deputy head teacher at Rock High School in Tororo and then three years later became the head teacher. In September 2008, she was transferred to Jinja Senior Secondary School.
“When I was informed of the transfer to Jinja SSS, I was so disappointed. First of all I did not want to leave my school and my student to whom I had become very attached. And secondly it was not a secret that the school was struggling. Everything had been run to the ground. In fact the situation was so bad that enrollment had dropped from 6,500 students to 1,200. I felt I was being sacrificed and punished for no justifiable reason. But I agreed to come here for just two years,” Nyago recounts.
But when the apprehension died down, she set out to transform the school and ended up staying for close to 12 years.
With the backing of a committed staff and teachers, Nyago managed to change the school’s performance “Academically, the standard of the school has improved tremendously as seen when results are released and from admission to tertiary institutions and universities. Apparently, we do very well in Sciences at A-Level compared to Arts,” she says.
The passionate teacher says she also realised that there was need to give students every opportunity to discover and cultivate every natural talent at their disposal.
“I realised that while some students were suited to excel academically, others had sports ability so, I decided to facilitate that, in facilitating and supporting sports, I noticed that as they thrived on the field they put in more effort to improve academically. And I want to say we are playing football beyond school level, but as a club.
Our football club is currently playing in the Ugandan Premier League as Busoga United Football Club, which has been in the league for four seasons. We also have clubs for cricket (both boys and girls), football for both boys and girls, rugby, athletics and scouting. When you look around, there are many trophies as testaments to our efforts, and that is what defines me,” Nyago says proudly.
She says to her knowledge teaching is one of the best and less stressful professions.
“As a teacher I derived satisfaction from the realisation that I was impacting and changing lives. Thinking that teachers are poor is outdated; when you look at the public service structure we earn as much as other public servants. Plus we have less pressure; we can programme our time well,” she says.
And at the height of this success, Nyago has retired, unlike most people who choose to retire to a life of peace and quiet, she opted to embark on a new career as a politician. She recently declared her intention to contest as Buikwe North Constituency Member of Parliament.
“The fact that I have voluntarily retired means I am prepared for it psychologically and financially because when you work, you don’t wait for the last year of retirement to start investing. Preparing for retirement should begin on Day One. When you enter a service, you should be aware that time will come and you have to check out. So, you have to identify what it is you want to do when you retire,” she reveals.
Nyago reveals that at the beginning of her career, she, just like many teachers felt unsatisfied and started looking for a way out of the profession into another one. She felt her skillset would do well in public administration so she enrolled at Uganda Management Institute (UMI) for a post graduate diploma in Human Resource Management.
Later, she decided she wanted to become a chief administrative officer (CAO), “because we thought those people earned a lot of money at that time. I went to Makerere University for a Master of Arts in Public Administration and Management, went to Uganda Christian University, Mukono for a Master of Education Planning and Administration to upgrade my qualifications . Then I realised, I enjoyed my profession and decided to continue with it,” she says.
Nyago’s other lifelong passion is farming.
“I grew up in the village and my love for farming is ingrained in me. When my father died I was able to study up to university,” she says, adding “This included going through some of the best schools in this country, because of farming. My late mother was a peasant but because she had cows, she managed to educate nine of us. So, I value farming, I value a cow; I am a cattle keeper and have a farm in Njeru Municipality. It is another option I wish to look into.”
Most enduring lesson
The first time she reported to this school in 2008 and they set about changing signatories in the bank, Nyago recalls going to Bank of Baroda and, “the gentleman who was taking us through that in the bank said: “Welcome to Busoga!” I replied: “Thank you!” He went on: “For us in Busoga, we have PhD.” I looked at him and asked: “Do you mean you have read so much?”
He said: “Not exactly that, but we have Pull Her Down. PhD is Pull Her Down.” It was then that I understood that people will get out of their way to pull you down and along the way, I have since witnessed that. But, that it is not about Basoga only. I think that was his own thinking and my thinking is that, it is everywhere.”
“Every time you are going up, someone is trying to pull you down because nobody wants to be left behind or have someone above them; so there will always be such obstacles, but the best thing for anybody to do is to find a way of going round such obstacles.”
The beauty of it is that you go into it when you are already aware that people want to pull you down and once you are aware of that, you move on.
What she will miss most
“I will miss the learners. Most people keep saying teachers don’t age and I want to give you the secret why we don’t; it’s because we work with children. So you start thinking like them, they challenge you, you challenge them and in the end, they bring you to their level,” Nyago says, “you remain youthful.”
Nugget to success
Nyago says she has been able to succeed because of her determination, patience and commitment.
“I have been luckier than most because I was cut out for hard things . When challenges come my way I look at them as things that I must overcome. I am naturally optimistic as my name suggests,” she says.
Nyago sat her O-Level at Bweranyangi and went to King’s College Buddo for A-Level. She later graduated from Makerere University with a bachelor of Education degree and is finalising her PhD in Educational Planning and Management at Uganda Christian University, Mukono.