Lawrence Twesigye, 71, worked in government primary schools for 27 years. His last work station was Kigando I Primary School in Rwampara District. At the time of retirement he earned a monthly salary of Shs 360,000. On July 1, 1997, Twesigye retired to Kayonza Village, in Rubindi Sub-county, Mbarara to commit his time to farming. He had migrated from Ihunga- Ntungamo in 1982.
He trained from St George’s Teachers’ College in Ibanda District for a Grade II certificate, joining service in 1972. Later, he enrolled at Itojo Teachers’ College Ntungamo to attain a Grade III certificate.
During his early years of employment Twesigye earned Shs 315 per month. His insight and foresight nudged him to seek a second source of income. He scanned the economic environment and tried his hand at coffee trade.
“I would use my salary from teaching to buy dried coffee berries from farmers which I would sell to the cooperative society for reasonable profit,” says Twesigye.
Twesigye was thrifty with his earnings and he needed to acquire a bigger plot of land because he had inherited a small piece. When he finally bought land in Mbarara, he established coffee and banana plantations.
Subsequently, he invested in commercial trees and rearing cows and goats. In 1997, Twesigye quit his job with 11 years to the mandatory retirement age of 60.
“I took early retirement partly because I had lost some of my relatives and had to fend for my extended family,” says Twesigye adding that what challenged him the most was the fact that he lived in a community of hardworking people.
Twesigye had moved to Kashari in Mbarara and people there were progressive. It is then that he realised that unless he established projects to generate more money the road ahead would be bumpy. “From teaching, farming and trading I was able to educate my 11 children and take care of my extended family,” he explains.
Without any more demanding family responsibility, Twesigye now supervises his projects of dairy cows, goats and pigs, apples, banana and coffee plantations on his 25 hectares of land. The projects are on the scales that Twesigye and the wife manage. Coffee is on less than an acre. He also grows chia seeds and has harvested 20 bags of100 kilogrammes each.
“When we finished educating our children, we had to scale down and do things for only our well-being. I also receive my pension monthly,” says Twesigye.
Twesigye does not drink alcohol, he is thrifty and feeds on a balanced diet to keep sickness at bay.
He says, “Those planning to retire must be ready to adjust their life style. Late polygamous marriages, alcoholism and extravagancy have condemned many people to misery in retirement age.”
Twesigye adds, “I have seen some pensioners take to drinking alcohol, ‘running after’ young girls and women and buying expensive vehicles they can’t maintain.”
Then, there are those battling old age and lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure, prostate cancer, and dementia.
Some are involved in viable farming projects such cattle, goat and rabbit rearing, piggery, bee keeping, poultry, coffee, fruit and banana growing.
Others are in consultancy and leadership positions in churches, local councils, community projects and micro finance organisations.
“Those planning to retire should know that the environment is different. They will no longer receive allowances and should know that the package they are going home with should be economised,” he says.
Most established workers contribute a certain percentage of their salaries to a pension scheme.
“The employer tops up the contribution to make a fund that is expected to work as seed capital for the employee on retiring. The investment should be done carefully to sustain the retired person and their family.”
Twesigye lives in a modern permanent house and drives a Toyota Spacio. He opines that those in active service, especially those employed by government, should endeavour to establish alternative sources of income without which they might live a stressful life.
“In our time people would call government employees to buy their property such as land because we had the money unlike today,” says Twesigye.
Twesigye wakes up at 6 am, says a prayer and goes to check on his enterprises that require daily supervision. He spends time with workers before returning home for breakfast at around 10 am. He then checks on some of the community members before taking lunch and resting at 2pm.
Occasionally, Twesigye attends to the demands of his office of LCII chairperson and goes to office of Mbarara Pensioners Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisation in Mbarara Town where he is the secretary. On Sunday, [before lockdown] he would attend Holy Mass at Rubindi Catholic Parish.
Twesigye suggests to government that it should do more than it is doing for pensioners. It should not just send them pension monthly but should also keep checking on these people to know how they are doing in retirement life.
“Government should sensitise and guide people five years before they leave their jobs. There should be arrangement to follow them in retirement and assess how they are doing; these are the people who gave their best and served excellently,” Twesigye says.
Before Kigando I, Twesigye had worked at St George’s Demonstration and Kihani Primary Schools in Ibanda; Kagamba Boys, Kako and Nyakigongo Primary Schools in Ntungamo and Rweshe, Rubindi Boys, Rwenkanja primary schools in Mbarara.