Know Uganda: Stanislaus Mugwanya: the father of formal education in Uganda

Wednesday April 18 2012

Stanislus Mugwanya and his wife. Mugwanya was

Stanislus Mugwanya and his wife. Mugwanya was one of the three regents of Kabaka Daudi Chwa.  

By Edgar R. Batte

Anyone who has visited or gone to school at Mugwanya Preparatory School, Kabojja, will remember among other tales the effigy of Stanislaus Mugwanya. It is a self-imposing fixture right at the hilltop as you ascend to the school.

But more to this artistic concrete is a rich history behind the man. Stanislaus Mugwanya was a great man of his era and his legacy still evokes great memories. The brief dose of history told in school of this legend and regent is just a bit.

I won’t settle for just a dose so out I head to Bukeerere in Kyaggwe, at his main compound. It is a royal court that sits on more than a few acres of land, at the summit of Bukerere.

And Mugwanya is a name more pronounced than many recent landlords in this area so finding his home is no hustle. His great grandson, Joseph Wamala, is the caretaker of the home, and welcomes me before telling the tales. Here, Wamala tells me and indeed history confirms that he served as one of the regents of Sekabaka Captain Sir Daudi Chwa II, Buganda’s 34th king.

At this royal court is a veranda where Mugwanya used to talk to the king and nurture him in kingly ways but without denying him a chance to taste the lay man’s world.

“If he did something unbecoming Mugwanya took him to this veranda which was not visible to many people and disciplined him but made sure the king did not cry in public so he would keep him here until he was no longer teary,” Wamala explains as he takes me around.

This caretaker shows me a room in which Kabaka Chwa used to stay and it has been kept intact with domestic regalia, like the yellow metallic basin the king used to bathe in or wash his face. There is a rosary made of wooden globules which has not survived the times and is now in tatters. A dressing mirror is affixed on the wall which was once covered in yellow paint.

The king’s bed is old and wooden and just in front of it, is a library with dusty books covered in backcloth and his seat with ornaments that carry symbols of Buganda- a spear and shield.

The old architecture still stands and it tells of an era when half bricks were a partial size of the ones you see today, and strong and double layered iron sheets.

In the compound is another house adjacent to a graveyard where his children lay in peace. Their father, one of the biggest landlords this land has seen, lies in a house where he was buried, with a big cross decoratively affixed on top of his grave.

In front of the grave, is a dais with a white cloth and some of Mugwanya’s clothes.

The pulpit is made of strong concrete and on its face is a brief history of Mugwanya who was a Katikiro (Prime Minister) during Sekabaka Daudi Chwa’s reign. He was also the head of the Butiko (mushroom) clan- whose title is Kajugujwe.

Where his memory lies
“He was known for many things he did not just for Buganda kingdom, but the Catholic Church,” Wamala adds. He is captured in the well-kept history of schools like St Mary’s College Kisubi (Smack), Mugwanya Preparatory School Kabojja, Bukeerere parish, Kyengera to mention but afew.

Like Kabojja’s, Smack’s history starts with this Buganda chief and regent who at the beginning of 1899 in a meeting of Catholic Chiefs put a question.

“1899 seems to be the year from which to start its history. It is fitting to mention, from the outset, the name of Stanislaus Mugwanya of pious memory who did much of the foundation of the college,” Brother Maurice Lambert, a former headmaster of Smack in his article in the Uganda Teachers Journal wrote.

He writes on, “This grand patriot, when addressing a meeting of the Catholic Chiefs, held at the beginning of 1899, put this question quite bluntly before them: ‘Don’t you think time has come for us to provide our young Catholics with better schooling than that which they have so far received?’”

The Chiefs delegated Mugwanya to negotiate the matter further with the Superiors of Rubaga Parish. The matter was referred to the General Chapter of the White Fathers’ Congregation in Algiers; it was thoroughly discussed and agreed upon, hence giving birth to formal education in Uganda.

He was a staunch catholic, baptised in Nalukolongo in Rubaga in 1886, at 37 years.

But this was because of the earlier Islamic infiltration thanks to the Arabs that came into Buganda as traders and later to disseminate Islam. Many chiefs, however, including Mugwanya converted to Catholicism.

“He would pray every morning and when he asked to start a church here, the Catholic Church was willing to let him have his wish,” Reverend Father Ignatius Kayita explains.

Apart from the land he gave to the catholic parish in Bukeerere, he has a church in his compound where every November, Bishop Mathias Sekamanya of Lugazi Diocese visits and says mass to commemorate the life and times of Mugwanya.

This is a man who had his balance right between the church and the kingdom he so loved. He became a judge in Buganda kingdom for a 21-year term that stretched between 1900 to 1921.

Many people of his time, and like history captures, will remember Mugwanya for his short temper, partly one of the reasons he controversially resigned as Katikiro during Chwa’s reign.

He was a welcoming man too who named his main house Munda wa Nakalama where everyone was welcome to have a meal with him once a week.

In his book titled Obulamu bwa Stanislaus Mugwanya, Joseph S. Kasirye captures Mugwanya’s history.

“By the time Mugwanya met his death in 1938, he was one of the oldest men in Buganda because he was born during the reign of Sekabaka Ssuna II in 1849,” he writes.

A knight honoured in Rome, a prime minister of his kingdom was rich and generous, his legacy is scattered in many places, including his compound and his memory is still abound.

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