When I first met him, Gerald Aquino Ssessazi was at the school’s parking yard preparing to go for Rotaract duties in Kisoga, a village in Mukono District. His lessons had ended at 1pm.
But his shirt was still well-tucked in, the necktie neatly knotted around his neck and his shoes still shining. He says it is upon him to maintain that kind of smartness until 6pm when school is done.
“My day starts at 8am or 5am when I have to give an exam and ends at 5pm or 6pm. You cannot go home to change clothes soon after the lesson(s) end,” he says.
Ssessazi, 30, is a teacher at Seeta High School, Mbalala Campus in Mukono District. He is a languages teacher but specialises in French at both O and A-Level.
Apart from teaching, Ssessazi is now the students’ hockey trainer, a new game at the school. Being on the national hockey team, Ssessazi says he has been able to travel to all regions in the country, East African countries and Africa.
His journey with the game started when he was introduced to it as a secondary school student at St Henry’s College Kitovu in 2002. Despite participating in many other games, Ssessazi discovered that hockey could take him far.
“I was not really a sports person during my primary school owing to the fact that football was overcrowded and I could not compete with other big boys. However, in Senior One, I discovered other games such as, volleyball, cricket, rugby, basketball and hockey,” he recalls adding, “I majored in hockey and I was later elected captain of the school team in Senior Three. When I joined Makerere University, I immediately joined the university hockey club.”
It is not surprising that he became captain soon after he joined and as chairman of the club later, Ssessazi showcased a high level of professionalism that many admired. He did not stop playing at university but joined a national club (Weatherhead Hockey Club) that trains at Lugogo Stadium every weekend.
Talent to use
He started training students in November 2018 with only three who showed interest after seeing him play and hearing about his story on the hockey field. However, early this year, Ssessazi put up an announcement at the school which attracted more student numbers than he expected.
“With the support of the Uganda Hockey Association (UHA), I embarked on serious training of my students this year. The association provided me with some equipment which has helped me train these students away from the theory I was initially giving,” he says happily.
Ssessazi is happy to note that last month, his team managed to participate in the East African Secondary School games (secondary schools hockey competitions) in Mbale.
Despite the fact that the team did not perform to their best, Ssessazi is pleased about the competence they exercised in the course of the game putting up a stiff resistance against known giants such as Namilyango College.
“I did not take the students because they fit, they did not, I believe that learning is better through experience that is why I thought it wise to make them learn at the biggest stage,” he said. Although there are many girls and boys who are enthusiastic about the game, Ssessazi says many have dropped out due to being unfit and lack of astuteness.
He teaches in one of the busiest schools when it comes to academics, but when asked how he manages to pave way for the training, Ssessazi reveals that everything operates in good time management which he has also imparted in the students.
“I have taught my students to multitask and be able to fully utilise the time they have. They are able to have 40 minutes of hockey training, then do the rest of the activities such as consultation, bathing and having supper before prep time that starts at 7pm,” Ssessazi notes.
He says, “Success only comes to people who manage their time very well.”
Not every day is designated for training according to Ssessazi, but at least on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays if there are no other allocated activities by the academic office. He can also offer some weekends, that is if he has no training in Lugogo or other errands to run. The training normally starts from 4pm to 5.30pm.
Apart from being a hockey trainer, Ssessazi is a class teacher of Senior Two and in charge of the Interact Club of the school.
Unlike the so many schools which hire people to train their students in different sports fields, Ssessazi offers the training free of charge.
Given the fact that his boss is a games fanatic, Ssessazi wants to contribute to his sports legacy. Not only that but he also wants to erase the re-known criticism of failure for private schools to raise an all-around child.
“I envision a scenario where a child that I have taught is traveling the world because of his talent,” he says.
His team comprises 11 boys and 11 girls and in about three to five years, Ssessazi believes he would have molded stars in the game who will be able to join the national team as well as his club (Weatherhead Hockey Club) that is so active in training secondary school students.
Ssessazi does not enjoy hockey with the students alone. He says the game has helped him keep fit as well as be around high profile people like bank managers, engineers and accountants, among others.
As a child, he aspired to be a doctor but along the way when he could not perform science subjects to his best, he resorted to education but majoring in French since his family is dominated by educationists.
“My father is a teacher. I derived love for medicine from people who lived close to us. They were doctors and lived a posh life so I thought I would become a medic to enjoy such life. But I later realised that my ability was more at languages,” he states adding, “I had earned myself a name, ‘The French boy’ by the time I completed A-Level.”
Ssessazi started school at Bright Grammar Primary School in Masaka where he completed Primary Seven in 2001. He joined St Henry’s College, Kitovu and completed O-Level in 2005 and A-Level in 2007.
He later joined Makerere University in 2008 where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Education majoring in French.
In 2012, Ssessazi furthered his education at Tampon Réunion, a French Institute in France where he attained a diploma in teaching French as a foreign language.
What others say about him
“Gerald has a great personality that pushes us to always get results from each game we play. We are really proud of him and his great leadership.”
Moses Tushabe, software engineer
“He is a principled teacher who loves his job and is interested in producing excellent results. He is also open minded and a team player.” Joseph Mawejje, teacher
“He is a smart and intelligent teacher who has that eye for detail. He is always willing to learn and easily acknowledges quality work. You do not expect less than excellence from him.”
Davis Kafumbe, inspector of schools