Busoga College Mwiri gave us the national motto but is now in ruins

Monday July 16 2012

A scenic view of Busoga College, Mwiri from the campus shows that significant development has taken place in the grounds below the hill that accommodates the vast campus of the school.

A scenic view of Busoga College, Mwiri from the campus shows that significant development has taken place in the grounds below the hill that accommodates the vast campus of the school. Sprawling gardens of sugar cane can be seen depending on where one stands as well as the vast lake Victoria in the far ground. Photo by Edgar R Batte Jr.  


Very few schools and indeed public or private establishments can boast a view as beautiful as the one you will have from atop the hill that hosts Busoga College, Mwiri. It is a great scenic presence giving one an eagle’s view of the splendid waters of Lake Victoria and the river Nile, bedecked in the background and below the view the splendid spread of a carpet of green sugarcane fields.

Initially envisaged as a school that, like Kings College Budo and Gayaza High, would provide an education to an exclusive club of sons of royals and chiefs, Mwiri was to change in the early years of its founding to accommodate all Ugandans, a shift that saw it produce some of Uganda’s most influential individuals.

The change from an exclusive school to a merit based institution attracted talented individuals outside the net founders had intended to draw from, and for the better; the college went on to educate Uganda’s first executive head of state, Apollo Milton Obote, plus a long list of distinguished individuals.

Its contribution to the nation goes even further, as Paul Etyang, an old boy, notes: “Mwiri has always been represented in the Uganda cabinet. Mwiri did not only give the motto to Uganda but the nationalistic appeal too.”

Mwiri's motto, “Kulwa Katonda N'egwanga Lyaffe” (For God and Our Country) was in 1962 modified into the national motto "For God and My Country" when Uganda became independent.

Engineer James Zikusooka, 84, who studied with Obote in Mwiri between 1942 and 1948, remembers Mwiri at the time as “a practical school, a school of workers, not kings and a school that was not selfish."

Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, one of the prominent old boys says that Mwiri evolved over the years and emerged as a premier centre of education in Uganda. “It became a vibrant national incubation centre for producing high quality professional and skilled personnel who have made enormous contributions in various fields of human endeavor like politics, religion, legal, academic, scientific research, business and other areas of development,” he explains.

Today it is in disheartened tones that alumni of this college compare the glorious past, of, among other things, good grades and sports dominance, to a college that is a shadow of its former self.

Yet, efforts have been taken by the old boys to restore the school to its former glory.

“We identified the challenges, rank them and find the best possible solution to them. This approach has helped us play our part constructively in the process of propelling the school into its second century in partnership with other stakeholders,” Dr. Daudi Stephen Muduuli, president Mwiri Old Boys Association, says.

Mr Etyang who studied at Mwiri in the 1950s is very unhappy about the school’s status. “When I recall the glorious days of Mwiri, I feel like crying,” Etyang, a former deputy Prime Minister, says.

He says: “During my days in Mwiri, going to Makerere for what was known as higher school certificate was after O-Level. You studied for two years at Makerere before doing preliminary exams where the university decided who would go for degree courses.

But in the case of Mwiri, those who went for preliminary exams, all ended up doing degree courses.” “That tells you how good Mwiri was. Gayaza had twelve students, only three ended up doing degrees; Kisubi sent 25 students, but only eight went to do degree work,” he recalls.

However, despite the fall in academic performance, Mwiri’s domination in school cricket still stands. The current National Cricket team has a number of Mwiri old boys.

“Busoga College Mwiri certainly has the most successful cricket team in the history of the Uganda Schools’ Cricket Week, with a record 14 titles, the most recent being 2009. Mwiri’s apparent invincibility as a strong cricket school was cemented in the 1930s when it dominated teams from the likes of King’s College Budo, Nyakasura and Ntale,” says Rodney Mugisha, an old boy.

The school's decline started in the late 1970s, following the turbulent reign of President Idi Amin.

George Ndiko joined the school in senior one in 1980 when most of the school property had been destroyed in the war to remove Amin.

“The general disorder in the country took over the school as older students started bullying the younger ones.

“And, of course, when the young ones realized they were being bullied, they had to fight back. There was an air of anarchy as we fought the big boys,” Ndiko recalls.

Prominent old boys
- Dr. Apollo Milton Obote - Independence Prime Minister and later President of Uganda
- Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda - Minister of ICT
- Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze - Retired Bishop of Busoga diocese
- Christopher Brown Nambago - Cricketer
- Rev Canon James Zikusooka - Prominent cleric in Busoga
- Prof A. J. Lutalo Bossa - senior educationist, former Chairman of the UNEB board and former VC Kyambogo University.
- Prof George B. Kirya - Medic and retired diplomat
- Justice Samwiri Wako Wambuzi - former Chief Justice of Uganda
- Justice Dr. George Kanyeihamba - Retired justice of the Supreme Court
- Daniel K. Kalinaki - Managing Editor, Daily Monitor
- Fred Kyazze Simwogerere - journalist and academician