Rukiga MP Sabiiti led a strike in Primary Four

Sunday October 20 2013

Rukiga MP Sabiiti led a strike in Primary Four

Left, Jack Sabiiti after high school in 1976. He is currently Member of Parliament for Rukiga County. Courtesy and file photos. 

I was born on April 27, 1947 in Mparo village in Kabale. I‘m the second born out of five children. I can call myself a son of chiefs. My father, Festo Bakainaga was a son of a Gombolola chief and my mother, Tabitha Rwomushana, a daughter of a county chief who served Kigezi.

I think we were privileged. My father was among the few educated people in the area, while mother was a nurse. Having tasted the fruits of education, they loved their children to go to school and were very strict disciplinarians who cherished church activities and religion.

Naughty but nice
I was stubborn and vividly recall my primary school head teacher saying so. Often times, I got caned. Despite that, I was a gentleman. I also loved music and played the drum at school.

In Primary four I led a strike. I mobilised fellow pupils to rebel against the teacher of arithmetic whom we felt was not up to the job. I convinced my peers he had to be kicked out because he seemed more interested in harassing than teaching us. Our head teacher was very passionate about sending many students to Kigezi High School so he took it seriously and replaced the teacher with himself after calling an emergency assembly to warn us.

All I can say is that that strike shaped my class. Our lot was the first to leave Nyakisoroza Primary School to Kigezi High School for Junior One and Two in an impressively big number.

I went to Kigezi High School which was one of the best at the time for junior school. It is there that I met people like the current Bank of Uganda governor Tumusiime Mutebile was a brilliant mathematician. Again I was involved in a strike at Kigezi. We had a teacher who was ruthless yet he was not delivering. We could not stand him.

I later joined Old Kampala S.S at a time joining senior school was terribly competitive. The allocation of slots was centralised. I had applied to Ntare School but was selected by Old Kampala S.S. That shaped my future as well.

We used to go to Parliament and admire the likes of Cuthbert Obwangor, Grace Ibingira and Henry Ochieng during debates. They truly inspired us. Old Kampala S.S instilled in me the lifelong skill of personal responsibility and self-drive because we resided in hostels.

We were put together in the hostels along Buganda Road with students from Makerere College, Aga Khan and the school itself had many Asians- that liberated me from the narrow outlook of life and tribe to embrace cultural diversity.

First attempt at leadership
By the time I went to Makerere University, it was not like going to heaven. I had been there and seen it everyday so there was nothing really new for me. I was so confident that I stood for Guild President with Mr Mutebile and Elly Karuhanga. Mutebile won but it was not easy mobilising students. What I noticed was the spirited campaign he put up.

First major political engagement
One incident in the 1960s changed my life. I remember I when at 16 in Junior Two, a man called Komukoryo came to recruit students to UPC and identified me. I was then assigned to help with LC elections at the time. To my shock, local politicians from Kabale had organised to rig elections in Nyakishenyi village. Majority of the residents were Roman Catholics. We were ordered to cross out all names of Catholics (from Democratic Party). It took us a whole night and for the first time a UPC (Protestant) man won. There was a lot of chaos and that is when I hated UPC and cheating at large. Later, I crossed to Uganda Patriotic Movement where I expected clean politics, unity and peace. Today, when I see such acts as election rigging re-occurring I get disappointed. That one incident made me suspicious of any politician. “

Memorable moments?
Yes, both good and bad. I was a stubborn but gentle fellow. The reason I managed to mobilise students.

The saddest was the loss of my father at nine years. I cried so hard. Our mother took over his role and persevered to bring us up. I had to look after my siblings.

Were you spanked?
Oh yes!One time I went back home late .I was very argumentative and had groupmates . We used to have debates between Catholics and Protestants daily.

On that fateful day, the argument stretched till late in the evening and I paid the price. I got a thorough beating from my grandfather. On top of that, I was denied food.

That partly instilled punctuality in me.

Parent-child relations?
The young ones in our days were closer to their parents. Our parents took direct charge unlike today. Children are not guided properly which makes them take things for granted and lose focus.

On relationships?
Tricky one there (giggles).I started getting to know girls in senior four and five. That is when I started to write love letters to girls in Gayaza High School.

If you could turn back time, what is that one thing you would want to do?
I think I should have been more rebellious. If I was to become say, 20 years again, I would struggle against injustice in all ways.

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