On October 26, Faith Loyce Nangiro was awarded a Bachelor’s of Medicine and Surgery at Mbarara University of Science and Technology. She was among the 1,031 students the institution awarded that day. But despite being among a sea of graduates, her story is unique. It is a story of resilience and courage.
Born in a polygamous family on April 5, 1994 in Chekwi County, Nakapiripirit District, Nangiro’s chances at education were very slim until 1999 when she took herself to Primary One at Namalu Primary School.
Commonly known as Little Faith in her close circles, Nangiro is the third of eight children born to Apuuni Abednego and Jennifer Nyanga. Her father had more than 35 children from eight women.
“From Primary Two to Primary Seven I went to St Mary’s Girls Primary School in Nakapiripirit District. I took myself to school because my father wanted me to be serving meals to his workers whenever they returned home,” Nangiro said.
Starting her journey
In Primary One, she started staying with relatives and was not paying school fees since the school was under Universal Primary Education.
In Primary Two, her mother started paying her fees up to Primary Five when her father took over until Primary Seven in 2005.
Nangiro was the 3rd best pupil in the district after scoring Aggregate 10. She did not think of joining secondary school because of financial constraints but one of her brothers-in-law offered to pay her fees at Tororo Girls School. She did not disappoint him. She scored Aggregate 18 in Uganda Certificate of Education.
Sadly, her sister’s husband could no longer pay her fees. This meant she would drop out of school. Desperate, Nangiro decided to look for other relatives or politicians who could help her realise her dream of becoming a medical doctor.
“I checked out political leaders in the area to see if any could help pay my school fees for A-Level or in a tertiary institution for a certificate. Former Nakapiripirit District Woman MP Rose Iriama helped me apply to Nsambya Nursing School. Unfortunately, I was not admitted,” Nangiro said.
She did not give up. This time she moved to Jinja to look for a brother-in-law whom she had last seen when she was eight years old. He agreed to pay her A-Level school fees.
By this time, the school year was already half way gone, so she returned to Tororo Girls School where she was known.
“It was easy for them to take me back. They gave me Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Agriculture (BCM/Agric) as my subject combination. But missing one and a half terms affected my performance at Senior Six (Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education). I scored 10 points and could not get admitted to medical school,” Nangiro recalls.
The ambitious Faith
She did not allow her dream to die. She decided to give A-Level another try at Seeta High School, Mukono in 2012. “I changed my subject combination to PCB/Sub Math. I scored 16 points and was hopeful I would join university for a medical course,” Nangiro recalls.
But one day during her vacation in 2013, Nangiro came face to face with one of the commonest practices in Karamoja sub-region, where girls get married before completing their studies. She had grown up seeing her agemates married off.
Her aunties colluded with a man in the village to arrange her marriage before she joined university even without her father’s knowledge.
“I refused to get married because I wanted to study much as I did not know where the tuition would come from. I spent the whole vacation fighting off the man who wanted to marry me. It stressed me up,” Nangiro reminiscences with evident sadness in her eyes.
Determined to fight on, she approached her uncle Andrew Moru, a retired Anglican pastor, about her debacle.
Her uncle informed Nangiro’s father who intervened by calling a family meeting where Nangiro restated her determination to chase her education dreams.
She repeated her statements even before the man who wanted to marry her the following day when he was invited for a meeting.
“My father asked him the plans he had for me to which he replied that he wanted to marry me and then take me back to school after our first child. I stood my ground and refused to get married before completing my studies. Even those who were pestering me gave up. I never enjoyed my vacation because I was fighting with a community,” she recalls.
She had overcome the marriage hurdle, but a lot lay ahead. She would later learn that Mbarara University of Science and Technology had admitted her on Bachelor of Education on government sponsorship.
But she wanted to study medicine. However, even when she applied for Medicine on private sponsorship, she was admitted for Pharmacy.
“My uncle offered to pay my tuition for one semester as I looked for other sponsors for the subsequent semesters. I joined MUST in 2014 to study Pharmacy but that whole week I was in a dilemma whether to join education, which I was sure of completing or continuing with pharmacy where the future was uncertain,” Nangiro recounts.
After joining pharmacy, one of her friends, Gabriel Mungan at Kampala International University, helped her secure a State House scholarship as well as get admission to Medicine.
“Upon hearing my frustrations, Mungan opened up to David Pulkol, who offered to help me. He got in touch with Juliana Amar who was working with USAID and she connected me to Dr Violah Nyakato at MUST. Dr Nyakato approached the former vice chancellor, Prof Ian Kayanja Bantubano, who after hearing my story, accepted to readmit me for Medicine,” she said.
Her dream was finally getting closer. Irama secured her a State House scholarship and the rest of the necessities were taken care of by Lt Gen Andrew Guti, her brother-in-law, Dr Nyakato and Julianah Amol.
On graduation day, a dream that started in 1999 had finally come true. The helpless girl from Karamoja was now Dr Nangiro!