St Leos College Kyegobe can rise and shine again

Monday February 29 2016

By Robert Kyaligonza

This is in response to Conan Businge’s article in the New Vision of February 24 titled “St Leos College Kyegobe gets a new lease of life” My friend Busingye wrote the article like a politician: euphemistic, subtle in approach and not ready to call a spade a spade. I sincerely believe that I can write a very good balance sheet of this former great school because I am an alumni (1976-1979), I taught in that school in the year 1984 and I am a native of the Rwenzori sub region whose interest in St Leo’s College cannot be disputed. I do believe that the discipline issues of the school are historical and deep-rooted.
This only-boys Catholic founded secondary school was initially in the hands of the White Fathers who founded the school in 1924, handed it to the Brothers of Christian Instruction or Kisubi Brothers. These were succeeded by the Brothers of the Holy Cross in the 1960s and the Holy Cross brothers were mostly supported and funded by Notre Dame University and Catholic charities in Maryland and Massachusetts in the USA where they originated. It is these Brothers who inadvertently laid a strong foundation for indiscipline, rascality and the violent behaviour of the students which immediately started when the school was handed over to African managers in late 1960s, reached fruition in the 1990s and which persist up to the present day.
Results from the interviews of a convenient sample of 100 old boys who studied in the school in the 1950s up to 1970s point to the fact that the white brothers encouraged a liberal culture in the school and students were handled with kid gloves. The students could smoke so long as it was not done in school buildings. Students were allowed to go out to Fort Portal Town on weekends (not in uniform), students sometimes could invade the girls in neighbouring Kinyamasika TTC and Kyebambe Girl’s School at night and rape the girls and come back drunk. There was no school fence and there was no serious enforcement of school rules and regulations and students were untouchable. It is the laissez-faire management style and a liberal school climate which obtained by the time I joined S1 in January 1976 under Austin Mulengwa administration. It is the same climate which drove me away from St Leo’s College to Makerere College School in 1980.
As noted by Businge, notwithstanding the school challenges and weaknesses, the institution was an academic giant, one of the prestigious institutions in western Uganda which produced Dr Paul Ssemogerere, Col Tom Butime, Justice Joseph Mulenga, Dr Adam Mugume of Bank of Uganda, Minister Tress Bucyanayandi, Minister John Byabagambi, Justice Asaph Ruhinda, Onyango Obbo, Mr James Musoni (Rwanda Finance minister), Mr Protais Musoni (Rwandan minister of Local Government) and others. However after the departure of Mr Henry Basaliza , the school went to the dogs because of the following challenges:
Poor management of the school by people who did not have the school at heart and who were appointed not because there were good managers but because there were puppets of certain conservative interests.
With the mushrooming of private schools in the country, St Leo’s College Kyegobe ceased being a rainbow school which could attract students from all over the country. The school is now largely a tribal enclave whose language outside classes is Lutooro
Admission of students with poor grades in S1 and S5. These students are usually liabilities and have nothing to lose, yet don’t care about academics and the name of the school. These pseudo-students (locally known as emihiri) are more bothered with Dstv to watch Liverpool versus Arsenal and will go on strike if the school denies them the TV. How can the school go on strike and beat the headteacher almost to death because the administration has not secured a bus?
Sectarianism has contributed to the apparent fall of this school. For somebody to be a headteacher in this institution, they must also be a practicing Catholic and preferably an Old Boy. This is a fallacy in the year 2016. A well trained rational Muslim or Anglican manager can run such a school and propel it to the heights.
The minimal role of parents, alumni and the community in the running of the school affairs is overwhelmingly evident.
What should be done?
a) Appoint headteachers with management skills and competences and not based on any other sectarian considerations.
b) Re-brand the school to attract first class students countrywide. This can be done by rigorous advertisement, school open days, extra-curricular advocacy which can propel the school to stardom in dance, drama, sports and games.
c) Let the school management utilise the alumni, the parents and the community. This group could support the school with extra funds to motivate teachers with financial incentives to mitigate moonlighting which is rampant in secondary schools in Fort Portal area. The poverty among teachers is largely responsible for poor performance in schools
d) Admit first grade students in S1 and S5 from all over the country once good re-branding has been done. This is what has sustained super schools like King’s College Budo, Gayaza High School, Ntare School and Uganda Martyrs Namugongo.
e) Build the fence around the school and allow the students to exit once a month and strictly in uniform.
f) Make St Leo’s College a mixed school. Studies have shown that girls have a moderating influence on the boys
Dr Kyaligonza is a lecturer at Makerere University. [email protected]