Enid Kacanda Kanyangyeyo, the founder of Mburara International School, gave my wife and I a beautiful cow. People from the cattle-keeping nations in Africa will understand what this means. Enid, our very dear friend, has been gone for six years, though it feels much longer than that. She remains a frequent reference point in our conversations, bringing us smiles in spite of the pain.
Enid was born to Geraldine Kamuhigi and Erika Sabiiti (the future Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire) on Wednesday, August 3, 1938.
Sir Philip Euen Mitchell was the Governor of Uganda. Her mother was the daughter of Rev Yosiya Kamuhigi. Erika Sabiiti, whose mother was called Kirunga, had been orphaned at a very early age and was raised by Ernest Katungi, his stepbrother.
She was named after Enid Georgina Kacandara, Rev Sabiiti’s first wife, who died from malaria on September 30, 1926, barely one year after their marriage. After graduating from Teachers’ College, Enid married Ben Kanyangyeyo, son of Ishaaka and Kezia Kajojo, one of the pioneer news anchors on Uganda television, with whom she had three daughters and one son.
One friend who remembered the couple in their younger days was Tendo Kaluma of Boston, Massachusetts. “Ben and Enid were the most wonderful professional couple that I knew while growing up in the city,” Tendo wrote soon after Enid’s death. “They embodied the very spirit of life, class, happiness and invincibility.
They drove a station wagon, and our hearts as children were always lifted with joy whenever they pulled into the yard. May we never forget Ben and Enid’s fervor for life, great friendship and their incredibly ebullient personalities and how they touched our own lives.”
Enid was a teacher – an excellent teacher, a self-driven woman, one of those people who probably did not know how to spell words and phrases like “failure” and “give up.”
She taught at Bwerangyangi Girls’ Primary School in Ankole and at Nakasero Primary School in Kampala and is fondly remembered by many of her students. Being one of the very first African teachers at Nakasero Primary, an exclusive school for children of the expatriates and the upper social classes at the time, was a notable achievement.
In spite of her very busy schedule as a mother and homemaker, she started the Little School for nursery and pre-nursery school children at All Saints’ Cathedral, Kampala in the late 1970s. However, when chaos and death threatened her in 1981, she escaped from Uganda, with her four children in tow, leaving her worldly possessions behind, and sought refuge in Kenya.
Her husband joined the armed rebellion against the central government of the day and would later serve as President Yoweri Museveni’s first Press Secretary.
Enid’s next stop was the Kingdom of Lesotho, where she taught in school as she planned her next move. By 1984, she was a new Canadian, along with her little children and a determination to excel as a mother and an educator.
Back to school she went, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Western Ontario and full qualifications to teach school in Canada.
As she raised her children, Enid nurtured an idea, triggered by thoughts about the fate of children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She was going to start an international school in Uganda. The school would be in her beloved hometown, not in Kampala where the money was. Her school would not be for profit, and she would reserve places for non-paying needy children.
By the time the lights dimmed on the century and millennium, Enid was ready to return home to shine a light on a path that would turn her dream into reality. Mburara International School was born in 2000, complete with the correctly spelt name of the main town in Nkore. The school became highly respected, offering an enriched curriculum for boys and girls aged 3-13 from all over Uganda and the neighbouring countries.
In keeping with her school’s motto: ‘Together We Cross The Barriers,’ one-third of her students received subsidised or free education. Mburara International became famous for excellent academic performance, and all-round education that prepared students for healthy lives in the real world. She emphasised art, singing, reading as a hobby, computer literacy and sports. In addition to English, she taught the kids Kiswahili and French.
Enid led her school with great energy and sacrifice. The deaths of her father (1988), her husband (1992), her mother (1999), her youngest daughter (2002) and her brothers Thompson (1983), Justin (2004) and Godfrey (2014) pained her deeply. However, she always rallied and soldiered on with great courage.
Her annual visits to Canada were always a treat for us, her love and humour a balm to my wife and I, and her surgical observations about Uganda a great source of education. Her last visit to us was in August 2013, aged 75. She was a picture of health, as energetic as ever, with a body that looked twenty years younger and a mind that was still seeking opportunities and ideas for her beloved school.
Her sudden death in Mburara on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 was devastating to her children and to all of us who loved her. Enid Kanyangyeyo, popularly known as Mrs. K., our hardworking, disciplined, focused, honest, selfless and very loving friend, with that awesome laughter, was gone forever. Just like that.
Her body was buried on Sunday, July 27, 2014, but her story continued. Her daughters – Nankunda and Kyokusinga - took charge of the school and carried their mother’s flag with a commitment that would have made her very proud.
Six years after her death, Mburara International School continues the mission that Enid set in motion two decades ago. It is part of a rich legacy that is the logical fruit of her faith and determination to make a difference in other people’s lives.
A street in Mburara ought to be named after her. Better still, the government of Uganda and the community of Mburara, would do well to invest in Kanyangyeyo’s school, through a substantial annual grant, to ensure that the seed that this great woman sowed continues to bear fruit.