The eldest of five, who was born in Buwalasi, Sironko District, and whose family tried odd jobs to see her in school, Winfred Namono had no idea what she would become as a grown up. She only went to school as part of her routine. But a friendly teacher opened her eyes while in Primary Four and today she is proud of having become a teacher.
Namono takes comfort in knowing her father struggled and made sacrifices to give her a better education. The daughter of Biritiyo and Norah Musunga of Bukalasi, Sironko District, her father, a builder, would do odd jobs to take her through school.
While Namono was in Primary Seven, her father took to charcoal burning in addition to bricklaying to raise her school fees. It was always his dream for her to become a doctor. But she fell short in Sciences at O-Level and yet she always thought that profession would pile too many financial demands on the family.
Her journey began at Nambulu Primary School in 2000 but after five years she was moved to Namatala Primary School for the next two years before sitting Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) at Kamuli Church of Uganda in Wakiso District in 2007. She recalls all this was done to find the best career path for her.
“Going to school was not for the faint hearted. On so many instances I could not afford school fees and thus I had to cope,” Namono recalls.
In 2008 when she started secondary school at Bulo Parents Mpigi, she left after just two terms because her father could not afford the Shs180,000 for fees. In Third Term, she was transferred to Light College, Mukono where fees was more affordable. Yet, her father had to walk from Kireka, in Wakiso where he had moved to look for casual building jobs, for visitation days. She attended
A-Level from Mukono Parents School before joining Kyambogo University in 2011.
“School life was never good for me at all. I used to befriend teachers to be able to keep in school,” she says. And since she did not always have enough school requirements, attending the Scripture Union kept her going.
“We spent a lot of time in prayer and this really helped me a lot,” Namono says. It was during such fellowships that she met Pamela Atim, now a mobile money booth operator in Luzira, Victoria Nakawunde and Esther Kayanga, a primary school teacher in Jinja who would share whatever they had with her. “And university wasn’t a bed of roses for me either,” she recalls.
While she attended lectures in the evening, Namono hawked secondhand clothes in halls of residence and hostels around Banda Town to raise pocket money. On Saturday, she was always at Church for a fellowship they code-named, Creek. She graduated a year later in February 2015 after missing the first ceremony for failing to complete the tuition.
“I always wanted to make my father proud and I had to be a good girl all through,” she notes.
My teacher, my hero
By setting high expectations, teachers get the most out of students and put them on a path to success after school. This is what happened with Namono.
She recalls the impact Florence Negesa had on her while in Primary Four at Nambulu Primary School in Mbale.
“Teacher Florence was the first teacher who laid the foundation that I would later build my career on. She made me her friend and helped me cope with studies,” she says. Namono recalls the day Negesa taught them about health.
“I got a lot of information from her about immunisation that day that I thought I needed to be in a similar position to create change among children,” she notes.
Namono started teaching before graduating from Kyambogo University. Despite being a secondary school teacher, she ended up at Top Cream Primary School in Mukono District as a Primary Two teacher of English and Literacy.
After graduation she tried her luck at Divine Touch in Kitega near Lugazi Town. But she was giving a shot at something new. She was allocated Primary One to handle Reading.
Life was good and soon she was placed in Primary Three for two years (2015 and 2016). “Parents would give me gifts. It was just awesome,” Namono says. But something was not working out.
Walking her journey
Despite all this, she found the place uninspiring. At the time (in 2017), she was pregnant with her first born, Divine. The salaries were not forthcoming which forced a section of teachers to take legal action to recover their arrears.
These circumstances opened her eyes to the need to fix her financial needs and she thus chose to start her own school. Since her husband, James Kimera, was the head of Glory Worship International, she used the opportunity to start Glory Junior Primary School in church structures.
A brief market survey had taught her that the area did not have many schools and she used the church membership to slice her way into the market. In the early days she moved house to house but one of the church members gave them a boost with three children.
In February 2017, the school opened with five pupils and by the Second Term, the numbers increased to 12, five in Top Class. She recruited Alice Namataka, her sister, to help out.
“I used to guide her on how to make work schemes and we also got other materials, homework and holiday work from friendly neighbouring schools such as Destiny, Hilton Junior and Global Junior School.
Namono then got a donation of books from a pastor who was closing her school. The pastor also donated the school’s first desk which is still in the school director’s office. Today, she employs two other teachers and a cook.
She is now biding her time to return to Kyambogo University to pursue a Certificate in Nursery Teaching. She hopes too, to expand her school even though challenges abound.
Most parents that come to her school are from humble families and struggle to pay fees. This has greatly strained herhusband’s pockets. Pr Kimera, a part-time lumberjack, builder and mechanic, offers financial support to help the school keep on its feet.
“There was a time when I thought of finding a teaching job elsewhere to be able to support the school but I am hoping things will work out,” she says.
Today, Glory Junior School in Kirangira is a modest facility with just above 30 children but it is like a window through which Namono sees in the distance a magical new world. And she is happy.