A school living up to the might of its name

Monday May 12 2014

Uganda Martyrs’ SS Namugongo students walk back

Uganda Martyrs’ SS Namugongo students walk back to their classrooms after a function  

By Gloria Haguma

Over the years, Uganda Martyrs Senior Secondary School Namugongo, which got its name from the Uganda Martyrs, has managed to establish itself, as one of the leading providers of quality secondary education in the country. The mixed school, located in Namugongo, recently marked its 45th Founder’s Day, in a ceremony held at the school. In attendance was the school’s only surviving founder, Hellen Namazzi, together with her family.

Strong Christian values
The staunch Christian foundation of this school is evident right from the moment you set foot on its campus. Aside from a large board of the 24 martyrs at the school’s main hall, there are numerous monuments at different points in the school.

On the left side right in front of the school’s main hall, is a monument of the Virgin Mary, a strong symbol in the Catholic Church. On either sides of the Virgin Mary are monuments of St. Charles Lwanga and St Mathias Kalemba in kneeling postures.
Humble beginning
Uganda Martyrs Namugongo opened its doors to the public in 1967. Four close friends, Monsignor Lawrence Mbwega, Jeremiah Munyigwa, Joseph Mugerwa, and Hellen Namazzi started the school. Namazzi is the only one still alive among the four.

The 90-year-old woman, who lives in Namugongo explains that the Catholic-founded school was started to act as a placement for children that graduated from the primary sections of Uganda Martyrs Primary for the boys and girls.

“Many times, when our pupils would finish Primary Seven, they would end up in other schools. So that is why we decided to start up the secondary section,” the elderly woman says in a rather strong tone, given the fact that she is more than 90 years old.

She adds that the school began with 20 students, and two structures, and that is why she is grateful to the Lord for having enabled the school get to where it is today.

“The students perform well, and the school is always among the top performing schools. The teachers also do a good job,” Namazzi , who is also a former teacher at the school, says.

The school that sits on six acres, has more than 1,000 students.
The exterior of the main hall is donned with different portraits of the founders, and several distinguished leaders in the Catholic Church, including Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, Cardinal Wamala and many others.
The other block is a classroom block that was built in commemoration of the school’s 40-year anniversary. The four-floor building houses classrooms, a computer laboratory, physics laboratory, and a second main hall.

Our tour of the school takes us to the boys’ wing next. The area has two storeyed buildings, each housing the different levels; the O-Level students share the old wing, and the A-Level ones stay in the newly-constructed building that was named after one of the school’s longest serving head teachers John Chrysostom Muyingo, who served between 1992 and 2010.

He is also credited for having played a great part in helping the school attain the academic glory it now enjoys. Extracts obtained from his profile indicate that the year before he took on its leadership, the school had registered five first grades at O-Level. In 1992, the number rose to 32, then 58 in 1993, 64 in 1994 and 90 in 1995. Henceforth, the numbers steadily rose, with some years registering a 100 per cent pass rate.

The dormitory blocks also have a sick bay, and a laundry area for the students.
We then move to the school’s kitchen area, and our host cannot help but brag about the school’s hygienic and economical, smoke-free cooking stoves. The area is kept very clean, and so are the cooks, in their blue uniforms.

The other monumental building in the school is another classroom block that is named after Fr Charles Sekiyonga, who once served as the chairman of the school’s board, and this one houses the Senior One, Senior Two, and Senior Three classrooms.

In the quadrangle surrounded by the staff room, and the kitchen, there is another monument of Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga, who was the first Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kampala from 1966 to 1990.

Daily school routine
The day begins with a compulsory morning briefing that happens on Mondays, where the week’s teacher on duty is briefed on what to take note of.
A similar gathering is held after the junior night preps that end at 9.30pm. The students are given the night’s blessings by the school’s headmaster, Fr Henry Kasasa. Thereafter, the senior night preps for the Senior Four, Senior Five, and Senior Six students begin, and these go up to 11pm.

The school boasts of a swimming pool that is shared by both the male and female students in turns. There is also a basketball court.
The school also has annual music, dance and drama competitions. During the second term, there is a sports tournament, that has not only the students, but also parents and teachers participating.

Divine intervention
Michael Wafana, the teacher on duty when we visited, attributes the school’s great education heights not only to the hard work by both teachers and students, but also to prayer.

“Prayers move everything, and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Lord’s mercy. We constantly appeal to the Martyrs for their blessings. The students on the other hand work hard, and have developed in themselves the fear of failing,” he explains.

According to the school’s education system, the pre-mocks and pre-Uneb exams are graded differently from the Uneb setting. “A distinction one is at 90 per cent. This means the students get used to the hard stuff, and they are even motivated to work harder, so when Uneb comes, it’s just a walk over,” he explains.

The school has developed from what Namazzi and her friends envisioned but one thing remains — the Christian values on which it was built.