The most important part of being a teacher is that you get an opportunity to influence the lives of different pupils. Inspired by her late parents, Mary Josephine Nabuyungo, 54, decided to walk that path.
One, she admired how her teachers used to behave, the confidence with which they addressed pupils and how smartly they used to dress.
But secondly she saw the commitment with which her father pursued his teaching career.
Against these, Nabuyungo was determined to become a teacher one day. And she has remained committed to the profession 30 years later.
The start of school for the 54-year-old was a bit rocky owing to the guerilla war which was dominantly in her area forcing her parents to flee Bulemezi (the present day Luweero) to Kyagwe in Mukono District.
“I attended Kasala Girls Primary School in Bulemezi from Primary One to Primary Four. When we relocated to Kyagwe, I enrolled in Kasawo Primary School for Primary Five, Six and Seven.
She says she was not certain of how much her parents earned, but was encouraged by the zeal with which they did their work.
But while in school, Nabuyungo was to also be inspired by her teacher Christian Kizza who is now retired.
“Teacher Kizza was always smart. She wore glasses and looked good in them making me to admire being like her one day,” she recalls as she adds that children learn from the people they love.
In 1969, Nabuyungo completed her primary education and scored a First Grade in Mathematics, English and General Paper. In 1980 she joined Nkokonjeru Teachers Training College. Unlike today, Nabuyungo says, the training then lasted four years.
“The first two years were for child study. This was an academic programme that focused on seeking solutions to problems faced by children in education. Third year was teaching practice and fourth year was for the final examinations,” she recounts.
She emerged the best student at college and her first posting was in 1984 to Stella Maris Boarding Primary School, Nsube. “Best students were employed in some of the best schools. I was employed as a teacher in lower primary school. At the time, teachers were not attached to specific subjects,” she explains.
She adds that a teacher was expected to teach nine subjects a day. They would start with news in the morning, Luganda, numbers, storytelling, and English was categorised into two; A and B.
The ambitious Nabuyungo wished to expand her horizons and in 1986, she asked for a transfer to Kayunga Girls Primary School where she taught for a year before becoming a deputy head teacher.
She was dreaming big. In 1990 Nabuyungo applied for the position of a head teacher at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Kabibire in Mukono District. She emerged the best and served as head teacher for the school for 12 years until 2003 when she was transferred to St Joseph’s Primary School, Naggalama.
In 1995 Nabuyungo joined Nagongera Teachers Training College to pursue a course in administration and English language thus upgrading from a lower primary school teacher to upper primary.
However, she says, this was not enough to prove her worth as a teacher. In 1998 she joined Makerere University for a Bachelor’s in Education Administration/Religious Education. “Upgrading made me a better candidate for a number of leadership positions,” she reveals.
“In fact I was elected chairperson Uganda National Teachers Union and served from 2011 to 2016. I also became chairperson African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations from 2014 to 2018 and treasurer Uganda Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Limited from 2012 to 2018,” she says.
“Back in the day, teachers were committed and interested in their work. I remember my father coming home with heaps of books, but before he would go to bed he ensured that all were marked, writing for pupils the correct spellings. He would then make a lesson plan for the next day,” she explains.
Nabuyungo adds that teachers were practical. “If the next topic was about leaves, teachers would spend the entire weekend collecting different types of leaves. They were also known for being smart and clean with neat handwritings,” she recounts.
All this, according to her, has changed and some teachers are no longer passionate about their work. “You will be surprised to find out that some even walk to class without a lesson plan.
Others draft theirs minutes to the next lesson. It is a shame that only a few teachers would inspire their children to take on the profession,” she asserts.
Asked what she is doing to improve her school, Nabuyungo says she is working hand in hand with parents to ensure that pupils get the best they deserve. She heads a school of more than 700 pupils and says the rooms are too small to accommodate the pupils yet waiting for the government to build new structures might take years.
“Not many parents wish to contribute to school programmes, especially government aided ones. My only trick to ensure that our children have new classes was to involve parents in every school programme.
Every term, the school organises an academic day for the different classes. Parents are expected to sit with their children in the same class. Eventually parents realised how hard it was for pupils to study in such an environment thus suggesting that every child pays Shs5,000 per term towards construction of new classes and a main hall,” she says. Working with parents has made Nabuyungo’s work easy. Today, the school owns a new structure.
I must be at school before any teacher arrives and I leave last after every pupil has left. I want to see my pupils arrive and ensure all have left for home. My take home about teaching is the relationship I build with my pupils.
In 1990 Nabuyungo became head teacher at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Kabibire in Mukono District where she served for 12 years.
In 1995 she joined Nagongera Teachers Training College to pursue a course in administration and English language thus upgrading from a lower primary school teacher to upper primary. In 1998 she joined Makerere University for a Bachelor’s in Education Administration/Religious Education. In 2003 she was transferred to St Joseph’s Primary School, Naggalama.
She was elected chairperson Uganda National Teachers Union in 2011 and served to 2016. In 2014, she became chairperson African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations until 2018 and treasurer Uganda Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Limited from 2012 to 2018.