Unsung hero of Uganda Martyrs s.s Namugongo

Monday March 19 2012

The man in charge of academics at Uganda

The man in charge of academics at Uganda Martyrs SSS Namugongo, is feared and revered by his students. Photo by Ian Ortega 

By Ian Ortega

To students who have walked through the academic giant in the last couple of decades, Rex Regis Ssemulya is the man to heap praises upon for his role in the school’s academics and discipline.

The deputy in charge of academics at Namugongo is passionate about his work. From making great results a normal feat at Namugongo to churning out great students, one cannot help being curious about this man and how he achieves this.

Born 54 years back in Namugongo to Ms Hellen Namazzi, a woman whose name is in rhyme with the foundation of the school and Mr Serwango, a father whom he says rejected them in their childhood. In fact, due to the rejection Ssemulya and the siblings suffered from their father, he says this drew them close to their mother and created an unbreakable bond among them.

You cannot but notice the sadness in his voice as he narrates more about this. “Having been rejected by our father during my childhood, we grew stronger as a family, everything we did together, we ate dust together, toiled together, everything was about the family as a whole,” Rex expounds with a thick voice.

A mind of his own
Ssemulya went through Nagongera Seminary where he was training to be a priest, a vocation he never attained. He blames this on his opinionated nature. He was shown the exit at the seminary because he showed tell-tale signs of becoming another Martin Luther in the church, by questioning everything he was taught.

Yet the exit, in one way or another, drew him more to Catholicism since he had a chance to look at it in his own way. From Nagongera Seminary, he joined Caltec Academy which was being run by Brothers of Christian Instruction before completing his degree in Industrial and Fine Art at Makerere University in the late 1980s.

Ssemulya is a proclaimed fighter, aggressive and open in demanding for results. Having worked at African Ceramics as an interior designer for his first job, it was again his personality that conflicted with the General Manager. He tended his resignation because he was made to work on Boxing Day.

Uganda Martrys beckons
He went on to Nana Ceramics, and is was there that Dr. J.C Muyingo spotted him through a one Haji Katumba. It has been an evolution for him at Namugongo having come simply to train the school choir. But perhaps this was Muyingo’s way of luring a man for whom music is close to the heart.

Not long after that Muyingo was at it again, asking Ssemulya to do some sculptures for his compound, work he did to perfection. Seeing potential, Muyingo finally asked him to be a fine art teacher, a job he took on with some reservation.

The same year saw this fast paced former seminarian land a teaching opportunity at Kenyatta University. However, Muyingo was not a person to be caught off-guard, he asked Ssemulya to be the deputy in charge of academics. It is a role Ssemulya rejected but perhaps Muyingo knew the way to Rex’s heart, he convinced him using the help of his mother and siblings.

“I designed my own terms and conditions and regulated my hours of work to which Muyingo agreed, on the condition that I produced results which indeed I undertook,” Ssemulya narrates with fond memories of the time.

In his first year at Namugongo, it was 100 per cent first grades, a feat he is proud to share with great personalities like Mr John Sekanaabi, the deputy in charge of discipline and administration.

Sekanaabi describes Ssemulya as a man who is aggressive in pursuing his vision, tells it like it is, and is a team worker. But above all Sekanaabi notes that Ssemulya works at a fast pace and is result oriented.

Rev. Fr Henry Kasasa, the current headteacher Uganda Martyrs, describes him as a man who is cordial to work with, cooperative and has a great sense of responsibility. But he is a man who believes in the use of the rod, a strict disciplinarian and a man all students love to hate while at Namugongo, but after enjoying the results of his strictness cannot help but heap praises on him.

An austere loner by nature, he considers students a wonder to behold with humilty. To him all students are innocent , and just need guidance. while presenting a paper in Butaleja District, Ssemulya defined a good teacher as one who takes a bath in every morning.

To explain his theory, he says a teacher should come to class devoid of any hate, grumbles and annoyances from home, administration and work mates. To him students are innocent and this explains why he is a favourite among many, if not all, students at Namugongo.

Beyond Namugongo
Ssemulya plans to retire in four years’ time to his own school which will be affiliated to Namugongo. He says plans are underway to build it and hopefully later in the year he will be embarking on his doctorate in Philosophy of Art; the theory of beauty.

It is time for him to shout, “In books”, his famous quote as he tells students to get back to class, and concludes the interview with an Irish proverb, “plaster thick, some will stick.”

It is clear that time management, a self-styled approach to work and aggressiveness is what has made the unsung hero of Namugongo to propel the school to greatness of no limit.

Utility: “Having been rejected by our father during my childhood, we grew stronger as a family, everything we did together, we ate dust together, toiled together, everything was about the family as a whole,”
Rex Regis Semulya, Deputy Academics, UM S.S Namugongo