On January 14, Sarah Namayengo, 22, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Conservation Forestry & Products Technology from Makerere University. Namayengo walked away with Shs1m and an ornamental tablet for emerging as this year’s best science student.
One might think that Namayengo was the typical book worm who buried her head in books in order to excel. However, this is not the case.
“I did not find the course overwhelming,” she says. “In fact, I was more focused on getting a first class degree rather than becoming the best overall science student. I think if my priority had initially been to become the best science student, my performance would have definitely been better.”
A first class (honours) degree is often classified using a CGPA of 4.40 to 5.00. So even as Namayengo prioritised on mostly getting a first class, she still needed to put in the work.
Her first days
The four-year course included modules such as biometrics, biochemistry, economics, engineering, mechanics, basic mathematics, among others, which Namayengo says all required a lot of reading and research.
On what her days were like, Namayengo says on many occasions, she would wake up at around 3am and read up to 5am. Her residence was Mary Stuart Hall located within the premises of the university. Once she was done with her early morning reading, she would then go and jog from about 5.30am to around 6.30am. Afterwards, she would rush back to the hall, prepare herself, have breakfast and then head out for lectures.
“Then, between 4pm and 7pm, I would take part in group discussions,” she says.
After 7pm, she would either indulge in doing a pending assignment or read. From time to time, Namayengo also consulted her lecturers, especially when she was failing to fully understand particular topics.
This was not her first choice…
Before enrolling for university in 2015, Namayengo was a student at Bulo Parents’ Secondary School in Butambala District. This was the school where she completed both her Senior Four (2012) and Senior Six (2014). And right before completing Senior Six, Namayengo together with her classmates were asked to fill in forms where they were required to write down the four academic programme choices they wanted to study at the university.
“All I wanted was to undertake a Bachelor of Pharmacy and it’s what I wrote down for all my three first choices,” she says, adding, “Meanwhile, the Bachelor of Science in Conservation Forestry & Products Technology was my fourth choice and guess what? This was the academic programme the government ended up giving me on a sponsorship scheme.”
“I was not really enthuastic about this course in the beginning but I eventually came to realise I had no choice. Besides, the course had been given to me on government sponsorship, so, what more could I ask for?” she says. “The only option I was left with was to embrace the course.” Overtime, Namayengo slowly accepted her academic fate after receiving advice and guidance from family members, friends and mentors.
What next after graduation?
At the moment, Namayengo says she is still figuring out her life after campus. She is, however, looking towards upgrading her studies.
“I am looking around for admissions, scholarships and universities where to enroll for a Masters programme. I am thinking of perhaps studying a Masters in Molecular Biology and genetics or a Master of Biostatistics or a Master of Science in Bioinformatics,” she says, adding, “In case I get an opportunity to study in any of the mentioned fields, I will take it up.”
Also, she is looking forward to putting her recently acquired graduate skills into use by perhaps working in any environmental based organisation or any other tackling the aspect of nature or forestry.
To other youth, especially those still studying at the university, Namayengo advises them to utilise their time at campus by studying hard.
“If you are lucky to be in school, do not waste the opportunity,” she says.
Namayengo has three siblings, sisters. She is the second born. Namayengo completed Primary Seven at Kyaggwe Road Primary School in 2008. Then, she completed Senior Four (2012) and Senior Six (2014) at Bulo Parents Secondary School, Butambala District. In 2015, she enrolled for Bachelor of Science in Conservation Forestry & Products Technology at Makerere University and graduated on January 14.
What they say
Agatha Syofuna, assistant lecturer
“She was a go-getter, a girl who never gave up easily. Whenever she was facing some challenges in life or academics, Namayengo would come to me from time to time seeking advice. Then, in terms of personality, Namayengo is an introvert (reserved). In fact, I noticed that a number of her friends at the university are also introverts.”
Edward Nector Mwavu, associate professor
“I first met Namayengo during her first year. She seemed shy. Regardless, I always encouraged her to open up during lectures. Overtime, she became more active and engaged in class. Undoubtedly, she is a brilliant girl and others should emulate her.”
Dr Grace Nakabonge, senior lecturer
“Namayengo was a disciplined and humble student. In addition, she was very focused and self-driven. Each time I gave her an assignment, she would do the work and deliver it immediately. She was an outstanding student who also went through years of mentorship.”