Sarah Tumuramye Kiwanuka has never forgotten the piece of advice her mother gave her at a young age –follow your dreams.
They were wise words that Alice Ashajiko spoke to her daughter, leaving giving her words, possibly, to live by.
And then, in 2006, Tumuramye turned those words into action and became a living example of a pursuit she had never dreamed of.
At 34 years of age, the mother of three is one of the most important members of staff at Rays of Grace Junior School in Buikwe District, teaching lower primary classes while acting as the senior woman.
“I liked caring for the sick. This made me wish to become a doctor,” Tumuramye recalled of her childhood ambitions.
But she was very young when her father passed on and left all three children in the hands of her paternal uncle Elisha Bwijuka. It is to him that she owes her teaching career.
“By the time I completed Senior Four, both my parents had died. I thus became one of the many children our uncle was taking care of. After Senior Four, he decided to enrol me in college. I did not like it at first but I am now happy. I cannot imagine I have been teaching for all this long.”
Now, Tumuramye, is more determined to leave a positive legacy on the teaching profession as she plans to start a journey to a Bachelors in Education Administration next year when she stops breastfeeding her youngest child.
She says she is proud of her uncle and the work he put in her pursuit of becoming a teacher. His actions, she says, have set a positive example for her.
“It is okay to have a dream career but end up studying something else altogether. The most important thing is to be happy in the career you eventually pursue,” Tumuramye said. “I am so grateful uncle moved me into this direction.”
The school journey
Tumuramye started school at Mungonya Primary School in Bushenyi District where she sat her Primary Leaving Examinations in 1999.
She proceeded to Rweibare Secondary School in Sheema, obtaining her O-Level certificate in 2003. She then enrolled at Bushenyi Core Primary Teachers College and graduated with a Certificate in Primary Teaching before she upgraded with a national Diploma at Kyambogo University in 2012.
When she started training as a teacher, Tumuramye says she knew her dream of becoming a doctor was over but was thrilled by the opportunity to change lives through imparting education and values.
Tumuramye started her teaching journey at Kampala Model Primary School, Kyebando until 2016 when she joined Rays of Grace School after calling Kyebando home for 12 years.
She taught Mathematics and English while she also held classes in reading and writing. It was also there that she met her husband, who is also a teacher but of Music, Dance and Drama. The couple welcomed their first child five years ago.
Two years ago, her versatility attracted Rays of Grace, an institution founded by Roberts Kiwanuka, the director of Hoffman Family Foundation, which supports the school.
The school, which opened its doors in 2014, was looking for outstanding teachers who would handle their children, most of whom are orphans. Kiwanuka had partnered with Colorado Christian University and they looked at providing an all-round education using sport as a major tool for changing lives.
This is when a friend linked the school with Tumuramye and she has not disappointed. Teaching is now fulfilling Tumuramye’s desires.
“I feel so motivated working here and whenever my employers are happy, I feel excited.”
Tumuramye is a religious person, a trait that follows her right from school where she was the religious and health prefect. She loves her assignment as a senior woman.
“I carry out career guidance with girls and it sometimes takes prayer to impact such a group of children. But I encourage active participation as I seek solutions,” she said.
Tumuramye says she knows she made the right decision to remain a teacher. She uses a systematic approach to children’s challenges normally involving fellow teachers, senior administrators or parents.
Being a family woman, she lacks the much-needed balance as her husband stays in Kampala and she only sees him during holidays or some weekends.
“We are a young couple. Distance is the only challenge I face working here.”
Tumuramye is the only person in her immediate family who teaches and although she will not compel any of her children, she hopes one of them will follow in her footsteps. She is now working hard to become a school owner. But she is hurting with the kind of treatment teachers get, in terms of pay.
“Teachers need to be treated with more value because they form the foundation for all other professions,” she asserts.
Still, she said her adventure in teaching could very well continue into the foreseeable future.
“I have had a great time in teaching and made a lot of great contacts. It would be nice to stay but the reality of it is that the future is still very uncertain.”
Whatever the future holds, Tumuramye says she knows her decision to become a teacher was the right one and the adventure of it all has proven beneficial for her.
What others say
Hajirah Namataka, Reading teacher, “She is a sweet person. When she joined here, she taught me sounds of reading. I am really proud of her. But I also admire her friendliness to children.”
Joseph Balikuddembe, teacher Rays of Grace, “Not so many people can offer too much for the same pay. In addition to teaching, she helps out in many other sections like counselling pupils.”