If there is one school that mirrors Uganda’s turbulent 50 year post independence history and finds itself at same crossroads—of how to confront the next 50 years, then that school is Kigezi College Butobere, in the heartland of Kabale.
A casual survey of key decision making figures in both government and the private sector in today’s Uganda would reveal a number of 50 to 60 year olds whose foundation was set by the school.
But if you take a look at the crop of the current student pack, one wonders whether they would reproduce the same 50 years from now.
The school is crying out to those same Old Boys to remember their past and save it from ruin in as much the same as the country is looking to the same group to step up to the occasion and guarantee that the country witnesses a peaceful change of political leadership.
When in recent years the country suffered political turbulence, Butobere re-enacted the scenes with violent student strikes.
When the country fought for liberation, Abasiniya again stood strong proclaiming pan Africanist ideals ideals.
Butobere witnessed the bloodletting of the 1970’s first hand, it’s students being no ordinary boys who chose to concentrate on their studies when the country burnt in flames, some chose active participation and paid a heavy price.
But when areas like the Luwero triangle look to the blood soaked backyards now over grown with poverty and empty kraals and forward to the people it hid, fed and prepared for national leadership, Butobere equally looks to its past and finds a glorious past, the present and finds uncertainty and again to those it helped nurture and wonders when they will remember where they came from.
The nature of its foundation has been a source of contention in terms of identification of school tradition and culture down the generations since its founding in 1957.
Kigezi College Butobere or Butobere School as it was originally called was one of a chain of secondary schools founded through the drive of Governor Andrew Cohen to take education to those parts of the country which hadn’t been served by missionary secondary schools.
The others were Ntare, Pongdwongo (Sir Samuel Baker), Kabalega (Masindi S.S.) and Teso College. The overriding philosophy of the founders was that these were to be government controlled institutions in which consideration of religion was not to affect admission- although religion was not excluded from the curriculum.
According to Prof Mondo Kagonyera, one of the school’s 21 pioneer students and Chancellor Makerere University there were no Catholic students admitted because their parents didn’t want them to join a school that was allegedly going to be Protestant dominated. This misconception was soon cleared by 1958 intake.
“There was a lot of religious sectarianism at that time. If you defecated in a church, you would be crowned. Out of misguided leadership, no Catholic joined the school because those misguided leaders didn’t want their children to mix with the heathens as they called Protestants. But we said no and encouraged our friends who joined us the following year,” Prof Kagonyera recalls.
If you meet a Musiniya, a local naming, as Prof Kagonyera constantly refers to himself throughout the interview, you will not fail to notice the pride that the school instilled in them even as he will later admit that the once academic giant in the region has since dwindled down the drain.
“When we would go to town, everyone would bow down for us. We were celebrities. We would wash our white shirts, put on the navy blue trousers, the spotted blue jersey and a black rain cape, this was a mark of smartness and set many young men applying to join the school in the early days,” he says but adds that the black rain cape is no more.
In the sixties, the school emblem; the sickle was used in cleaning and maintaining the school premises from which the school motto of “Progress through labour” was achieved. But with the passing of time, the sickle has been replaced and overshadowed by the pen.
The school matured in the seventies into an academic giant boasting of a long record of successful examination results that stretched for over 30 years. The candidates who passed out now represent the school in every sphere of achievement: political, academic, professional as well as private enterprise.
According to Mr Dalton Naturinda, the school deputy head teacher, the institution has “suffered extensive moral decadence and academic regression because of political influence”. He adds that the school’s physical infrastructure is deplorable, hygiene terrible, water doesn’t run and power was disconnected which makes it hard to maintain discipline.
His comment is re-echoed by Prof Kagonyera who says it was dangerous to be educated in Amin’s time. As a result, most boys from the school were persecuted including David Kangire who was executed for expressing his opinion under Amin’s orders.
“These schools have never recovered. There is need for government to put more emphasis on revamping rural schools so that you don’t have to come to Kampala schools in order to join Makerere University on government scholarship,” Prof Kagonyera says.
“As we talk now, we have Ntare School and Maryhill HS in the western region. Where have the other schools gone? In our time we would compete with the rest of the country and still make it. The genetic compatibility has not changed. The students can still study from their home areas without clogging the city for better facilities if only the environment from where they come from is improved.”
He advises government to strengthen supervision of its organs to avoid creating two worlds; one around Kampala and the other upcountry.
-John Bosco Katutsi—retired High Court judge
-Amama Mbabazi (Prime Minister)
-Dr Ben Mbonye former Defense PS and owner Nakasero Hospital
-Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile (Central Bank Givernor)
-Dr Sam Zaramba former Director General of Health Services
-Prof George Mondo Kagonyera (Chancellor Makerere University)
-Dr Ruhakana Rugunda – ICT minister
-Brig Henry Tumukunde – former army MP, ISO/CMI chief
-Avitus Tibarimbasa (former Makerere University Secretary)
-Prof Nyangababo (RIP) - former head of Chemistry Department Makerere
-Shaka Sali (Journalist , Voice of America)
-MPs Andrew Baryayanga (Kabale Central), Musasizi Henry (Rubanda West) and Shem Bageine, former Ndorwa MP