In 2011, Francis Erima was the best student at O-Level in Lwengo District. When this happened, he felt he could almost touch his childhood dream of becoming a medical doctor. But fate had other plans and two years later, a State House scholarship changed everything. He was admitted to Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi where he pursued a Bachelors of Science in Education majoring in Chemistry and for the past two years, has been an A-Level Maths and Chemistry teacher at St Josephine Bakhita SS in Ndagwe County, Lwengo District.
Erima was born to Pascal Tabale, a foreman and retail businesswoman Farida Nakabugo on February 1, 1993.
He went back and forth between four schools before completing seven years of primary education. He attended pre-school at St Francis Kindergarten (now Ebenezer Nursery) before he joined Police Children School Kibuli from 2001 to 2003 because it was closer to home. When he matured, he moved to Shimoni Demonstration School for P4 and P5. Then went to Mutukula at St Andrew’s Primary School where he completed his primary school in 2007.
Everything was going according to plan until Senior Two at Heritage College School Kawempe when his mother run out of money to pay tuition.
“My mother could not afford the school fees anymore and I had to find more affordable schools. That is when I came to know about St Josephine Bakhita Secondary School.
Twist of fate
It was a rude awakening when he arrived at the school. It had only one classroom block, did not have electricity and water had to be fetched from nearby ponds. The only highlight at that point in his life was that his mother could afford to pay the Shs150, 000 for fees.
“I had gotten accustomed to ghetto life while at Heritage in Kawempe. My interactions with some seemingly successful people made me want to follow in their footsteps which in this case was dance. My aspirations were mainly influenced by a dance group called Kaje that performed in the 2015 hit song titled, ‘Number one’ by Radio and Weasel,” he shares.
Erimu’s other influences were musician Master Blaster and Rocky Giant, who were also from Bwaise.
“After school, we would go and try to work on our vocals with them,” he reminisces.
However, his fixation with becoming a musician came to a halt during medical outreach camps which he participated in.
During these camps, he saw people suffering with disease and decided that he wanted to be a doctor.
Erimu went on to assumed leadership roles going all the way to the top when he became the school head prefect in 2011.
Even with all these strides towards positive change, old habits still lurked about. He almost got expelled from school for abusing a teacher he didn’t like.
“One day we had a football match between the primary school boys and the girls from secondary. I felt Mr Ssekimpi, who was the referee, was favouring the boys. Then ‘my boys’ told me to confront him. During the exchange, I ended up abusing him. The consequences were an expulsion yet I was about to sit for my mock examinations,” he recalls.
“I thought I was indispensable because I was a brilliant student and the directors liked me, but I was wrong. I was aghast when they decided to expel me and I could feel my world crumbling.
Thankfully, by the grace of God, I was later pardoned but this was only after I had begged the director, Fred Bbaale to save me from the wrath of my mother by not sending me home,” he recalls
Erima went on to become the best student in Lwengo District in 2011 with 18 aggregates.
“In the school it was not a surprise but in the district it was, since the school was largely unknown,” he says.
That performance got him an American sponsor, Melissa Auvil who enrolled him at Masaka Secondary School where he studied Biology Chemistry and Maths. He scored 16 aggregates which qualified him for medicine but then he got a State House Scholarship at Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi to pursue Education and that’s how he ended up becoming a teacher.
Becoming a teacher
His journey into the field started with school practice at Christ the King Bulinda in Kaliisizo District, a single sex school. He recalls his first day as one where he tried so hard to impress the students.
“I had not done any part-time teaching at university. I had been briefed that girls in single schools bully young teachers. In the 40-minute lesson, I tried to make the students change their perceptions of Chemistry. It was not the best time but at least it helped me overcome my nerves.”
But the best day was in 2019 when he was recognised as the best teacher in the first term.
“I never expected students to vote me. It still makes me proud,” he says.
Although in December last year he had a bad experience when he broke a student’s phone that had been returned by another teacher.
Erima is lauded as a hardworking person by peers. On top of teaching, he is a chemical analyst at the water project which Hope for Kabingo operates in Ndagwe County in Lwengo District.
Even if teaching is what Erima wants to do for the rest of his life but he feels he would have fulfilled another one of his dreams when he joins a chemical engineering company. In future, he plans to upgrade with either a Master’s degree in renewable energy or petroleum studies to add value to his teaching career.
Morality is at the heart of Erima’s teaching.
“When I look at my background, I can’t help but notice that if it was not the discipline transition, I would not be the man I am today,” he says.
He is now a member of the disciplinary committee and also represents former students on the school board and is also a member of the school management committee.
Brian Sekanjako one of Erimu’s Biology, Chemistry and Maths students says the latter is helpful when it comes to discussions and career guidance.