It is 12:30pm. I am at Bishop Stuart Demo Primary School, Kakoba in Mbarara municipality where Jenkins Mbakureeba teaches Religious Education to Primary Six and Seven but also doubles as the school’s head teacher.
Because he is the head teacher, I head to his office only for his secretary to tell me he rarely sits there but prefers to meet pupils in class or check out their meals at the kitchen.
“He is always moving around school doing inspection and rarely sits in office. You need to call him,” she advises.
He arrives 10 minutes after my call. “I cannot sit in office for long. I keep thinking something might not be right outside there; in classes, compound, and around the school. I spend my day moving up and down interacting with pupils, teachers and staff,” says Mbakureeba whose love for pupils has seen him rise from a humble classroom teacher to head teacher.
Born to the late Zadock Mbakureeba and Can Jane Mbakureeba of Nkokonjeru, in Mbarara Town, Mbakureeba, 44, attended Mbarara Mixed Primary School and Mbarara Junior School for primary education, Mbarara high school for O-Level and Bujaga Senior Secondary School for A-Level.
“I do not remember considering any profession in my younger years, but after Senior Six, even before results were out, I told my told my parents that I wanted to be a teacher. The love for children as was always being emphasised by my parents had started manifesting in me,” says Mbakureeba.
Groomed to love
My mother used to tell me, “When you grow up, give the same love and responsibility to other children as I am doing. Children are God’s innocent souls on earth. They need to be loved and cared for and God will reward you abundantly,” he reminisces.
In 1998, Mbakureeba joined Bishop Stuart Core Primary Teachers College where he graduated as a Grade III teacher, then National Teachers’ College, Kakoba where he graduated as a Grade V teacher.
He was to later join Uganda Christian University, Mukono, for a Bachelor’s of Education and Bishop Stuart University for a postgraduate Diploma in Education.
Mbakureeba started teaching English and Social Studies (SST) immediately after college. “I taught at Mbarara Mixed School for a month in 1999 then joined Mbarara Junior School as an assistant classroom teacher but as a private teacher of English and SST. These two schools remain very key in my life because they opened my gates into the profession. Also, both my parents taught there,” he says.
At Mbarara Junior School, Mbakureeba was appointed as a government teacher after a year and then rose to head class teacher of Primary Seven from 2004 to 2008, director of studies from 2008 to 2012 and deputy head teacher from 2012 to 2016.
In 2017 he was appointed head teacher of Bishop Stuart Demo Primary School where he still serves.
“There is no job I can do outside teaching or push me further from working with pupils; that is why even when I chose to go for higher studies I stuck to education. I have colleagues who have diverted to other professions, who have gone into administrative posts in education such as education officers but not me. I will continue teaching and offer love and care to the young ones; that is where my future lies,” he states.
To Mbakureeba, seeing his former pupils from all over East Africa call him and appreciate his efforts makes him feel that he is in the right calling.
“I just received a call from a pupil I taught in Rwanda expressing gratitude. There are many more of these who call me across the country and abroad. Seeing I am part of those that have positively impacted the lives of a young generation inspires me a lot,” he says.
At this school, Mbakureeba has already started a feeding programme that has seen all the 500 pupils get breakfast and a half of these get lunch. He says he found a challenge where pupils would study on empty stomachs.