Nyakasura, the infectious academic giant

Monday July 2 2012

Nyakasura, the infectious academic giant

Commander’s statue at the entrance of Nyakasura School in Fort Portal. Photo by Godfrey Mutegeki. 

By Godfrey Mutegeka Araali

Lawyers, politicians, kings, army men, judges and doctors have all walked through “The School.”

Going by their motto, ‘To Minister and not to be Ministered Unto’, Nyakasura School has produced Ugandans who have benefited the country for the services they offer.

Founded in 1926 by Mr Commander Ernest Ebohard Calwell, Nyakasura is a secondary boarding school in Fort Portal town, Kabarole District in Western Uganda and has been described by its old students as ‘infectious’.

“This place is infectious. Whoever walks through its gates wants to always associate with it than any other places they go to. Even the first teachers in the 1920 are still in touch,” Mr Frank Manyindo, the head teacher who is also an old boy of the school explains.

Calwell, the ‘Commander’ as he is commonly referred to, was posted to Kings College Budo, where he met two boys from Tooro Kingdom, Komwiswa and Byara.

The boys later became very close friends and when Commander fell out with the school head over uniform, the boys urged him to start up a school in Tooro which he did.

“The students at Budo at the time were putting on shorts, but the head teacher wanted long trousers which Commander was opposed to and decided to come to Tooro,” Mr Manyindo says.

He met Omukama Daudi Kasagama Kyebambe III of Tooro whom he requested to offer him a place where there was ample water, food and fertile soil to start up a school. He was offered three places but he chose Nyakasura.

Commander, having been a teacher in Budo, built some elements of Budo in Nyakasura.

“Commander built the school on three foundations, God fearing, hard work and sports which has kept it moving even in times of struggle and its students have loved to live on these foundations even after school,” Mr Manyindo says.

Adding, “The principles under which the school was built drive people from all over Uganda to come here and learn. And everyone had a strong feeling that you had to pass highly here.”

Sports and Academics
Nyakasura School has been an academic and sports giant in the country over the years and is proud that the first Cricket game in Uganda was played at the school in 1929.

“Because the first cricket game was played here in 1929, we cannot miss any participation in cricket games even when we have difficulties, we are the granny of the game,” boasts Manyindo.

The school dominated Uganda both academic and sports arena from 1964-1972. These were the best years of Nyankasura.

“For eight years Nyakasura was the best school both ‘O’ and ‘A’ level, it was second to none and we are looking forward to reviving this success,” Manyindo says.

Uniqueness of the school
The uniqueness of the school begins with the uniform. Since Commander was a Scottish, he decided that the kilt be introduced as the school uniform.

Some people think they are boys in skirts which is not the case. “We don’t have shorts but Kilts, for ‘O’ level, the boys are very proud and some old boys turn up with them during reunions”.

The school has no school anthem but has a school hymn which the head teacher says has kept the students together even after school.

“The hymn is what brings us together even after school, whenever an old student dies we have to sing the hymn at the funeral. This place as I told you is very infectious, we are always proud to mention it and whenever one wants to refer to us you just say ‘The School” Mr Manyindo says.

The former minister of Local Government Jaberi Bidandi Ssali was better known for mentioning “The School” (Nyakasura) at the slightest prompting or provocation in Parliament. And all Nyakasura old students share that pride in their school.

Mr Manyindo reveals that Nyakasura was established to teach people all rounds, not academics only which have made the students who pass through it make it even after school.

Nyakasura begun as an all-boys school but in the early 1960’s under Mr Everd Parrens as headmaster, girls were permitted into the school. The school has since then remained a mixed boarding school.

Things fall apart
The last White head teacher, Mr Edward Bachelor left in 1973 and the school got an African headmaster, Mr Francis Kasiragi. Coupled with poor leadership, the 1970’s economic crisis and the unrest that raged the Rwenzori region then, things were not good for Nyakasura.

Uganda’s troubles during the late Amin and Obote regimes years did not spare the school. It suffered from economic problems, neglect and unrest which affected its academic performance.

An earthquake in the early 1990s and rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) activity on the Uganda-DR Congo border were further setbacks to the school. Now in a period of relative calm and prosperity, Nyakasura strives to rediscover its lost glory.

“The trouble came with Amin in 1972. People were scared to bring their children here but decided to keep them in town schools. Then came the ADF rebels. The school was cut off from the national element and we lost out on better students but we are now on the right track to recovery,” Mr Manyindo says.

Mr Commander had established a mini-hydro power station at school in the 1930’s and the school never used to suffer black outs, but it broke down and no longer functions. There are river falls near the school called Nyakasura falls.

Nyakasura today
The school is recovering using its school hymn, “Years of struggle lie behind us…Sunshine follows after rain.

Currently the school has 970 students compared to 850 last year. According to the head teacher the number is increasing every year.

“In 2010 we were the best in the district with 24 in Grade I and in 2011 we doubled to 46, with a percentage of 51, we are improving steadily and this year we are looking forward to eliminating all grade IIIs and IVs, we want to keep it minimal to Grade II” Manyindo says.

He adds, “I am glad that now the students are gaining confidence in themselves that they can make it, you see we are coming out of the doldrums, once a hero always a hero we are going to shine again,” Mr Manyindo promises.

He said the school has revived clubs which are basic for students learning and is to emphasize on the debating club which has big attraction of the students.

Old structures a challenge
The staff quarters, the classes and all structures need rehabilitation. “Our Alumni have done a great job, Patrick Bitature, Gen David Sejusa, Maj Benon Tabaro and others have contributed to the maintenance and rehabilitation of some structures,” Mr Manyindo says.

In 2010 the government gave the school some funds which management used to rehabilitated three class rooms, Biology lab, animal house and other structures.

Mr Manyindo says they need facilitation to fix the dining hall, assembly hall, and the staff houses.

The alumni
Rukirabasaija Sir George David Matthew Kamurasi Rukidi III was educated at Nyakasura and several of his chiefs and subjects.

Army officers - the late Brig Noble Mayombo, Gen David Sejusa UPDF, Major Okwiri Rabwoni, Adolf Mwesige Minister of Local Government, Steven Kagwera MP Burahya County , Dr Chrispus Kiyonga, Minister of Defence and MP Bukonzo West, Aston Kajara Minister of State for privatization and MP Mwenge North , Tim Lwanga, the former minister of Ethics and Integrity.

Others are; Patrick Bitature chairman UIA, Mugisa Micheal, NFA, Richard Buteera Director of Public Prosecutions, Beatrice Kiraso, Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community,
Margaret Mugisa Muhanga former Kabarole woman MP, Professors Edward Rugumayo, William Banage, Kanti Eriab Kanyarusoke among others.

Justices - Herbert Ntabgoba; Seth Manyindo and Patrick Tabaro

Doctors - Albert Batule, Dr Andrew Kasoro, Dr Paul Baguma, Dr Vincent Karuhanga among others.