George William Nsamba: An Education Icon

Although George William Nsamba spent 31 years in active service in the education sector, he has now retired to concentrate on his farm (top).
PHOTOs BY Michael J. Ssali

What you need to know:

When he started a school in 1983, George William Nsamba had no idea how far it would go, and how it would impact not only on him but also on the lives of several children

Mr George William Nsamba, formerly district education officer of Mpigi, Mukono, and Masaka districts and founding headmaster of Masaka Diocese’s prestigious Bishop Ddungu Boarding Primary School, Kyamaganda, retired from his teaching career on March 9, 2014.

Now aged 81, Mr Nsamba plans to spend the rest of his life at his farm located at Kaboyo, near Kinoni Town in Lwengo District.

“I believe I will have enough time to rest, and to spend my time as I want to, doing a bit of work on the farm, walking around and looking at the animals and the crops growing,” he says.

His retirement marks the end of a long career that began way back in 1958 when he was appointed a teacher at Villa Maria Junior Secondary School in present day Kalungu District.

A man respected and admired
Many of those present at his retirement party heaped praise on him. “Mr Nsamba, you have been an exemplary leader not only as headmaster of this school but also in the entire diocese of Masaka, and in various other aspects,” said the Vicar General of Masaka Diocese, Monsignor Joseph Kato Ssempungu, who presided over the activities to mark Mr Nsamba’s retirement.

Former diplomat, Vincent Mayiga, now the Pokino (traditional chief) of Masaka region, said, the full account of Nsamba’s life and work were significant in the education sector in Uganda. “The Catholic Church and our society, parents, and old boys and girls of Bishop Ddungu Boarding Primary School are indebted to you. Most pupils who have studied under him are blossoming today here in Uganda and all over the world.”

Father John Fisher Kiyimba, the Diocesan education secretary, stressed the patience and the determination that Mr Nsamba demonstrated as the founding headmaster of Bishop Ddungu Boarding Primary School 31 years ago until he brought it to its present status as one of the best primary schools in Masaka.

Back in 1955, the late Reverend Father Clement Mukasa, then Diocesan Education Secretary, advised Nsamba to choose teaching as a profession as he (Nsamba) had completed his secondary education at St Henry’s College Kitovu. He then joined the government Teachers College Kyambogo in 1956 where he qualified as a Grade 3 teacher in 1957.

How it all started
“My first experience as a teacher under Mr Benedict Bwanika as my headmaster at Villa Maria Junior Secondary School introduced me to new challenges and new leadership skills,” he told this newspaper at his home recently. “However, little did I know back then that it was also the springboard for my future appointments in many other positions of leadership.”

About a year later, he was asked to take over as headmaster of Villa Maria Junior Secondary School, when Bwanika left for a course overseas. It was during the time he served as headmaster at the school that he married a fellow teacher, Mary Magdalene Balinenjogera with whom he had children (sadly she passed away on June 23, 2012).

In 1963, Nsamba became Supervisor of Schools, working as the link between the Masaka Diocesan Education Office and the district education office. Later he was appointed assistant district education officer in Mukono.

In 1970, he won a scholarship to study School Administration and Planning at Oxford University. He was then promoted, upon his return from the UK, to district education officer. (DEO) in Mpigi before being transferred to Masaka as DEO where he retired from government service in 1982.

It was around that time that the idea of starting a model primary school crossed his mind and he went ahead to discuss it with like-minded colleagues in Masaka region, all of whom approached the late Bishop Adrian K. Ddungu who granted its formation as a diocesan school and allocated the land on which Bishop Ddungu Boarding Primary School was built.

The school, which was named after the late Bishop Adrian K. Ddungu of Masaka Diocese, who was also closely associated with its founding, was opened on January 23, 1983 in rented buildings at Nkoni about nine miles from its current location. With just one pupil by 10am, it was officially declared open by the then Diocesan Education Secretary, Father Mark Ssemutikke.

Today it has a pupil population of about 800, its own buildings, school trucks, piped water, and a well-stocked library complete with a computer laboratory.

Despite his strong dedication to work, Nsamba has lived a good social life, once in a while finding time to hang out in a pub to enjoy his trademark bottle of Bell Beer. His sense of humour is remarkable.

When this writer once asked him why he kept two cars he replied, “But it is unwise to own just one car, really! People come to associate you with just that single vehicle. Wise people keep more than one car to avoid being easily tracked.” And so, according to him, owning a fleet of cars is a matter of wisdom.

The children at the school often referred to him as uncle, which must be the reason they never feared him. They would often be seen standing around him on the school compound at break time or on weekends chatting with him.

“When you get close to them, you get to understand them better and you gain their trust,” he explained. “Then it becomes easier for you to help them because you are their friend.

Such interactions are opportunities to teach the children what the books and the school syllabus don’t teach; it is a chance for imparting real life experience lessons to the young.
His modesty was one of the things a couple of people praised him for at his retirement party.

The Masaka Diocesan Pastoral Coordinator, Father John Baptist Kintu, said: “I admired your humility every time you came to me for advice about issues you felt you could not solve by yourself. I admired your transparency and honesty, your patience, politeness, and calmness.”

Mr Vincent Kiguli who has served under Nsamba as deputy headmaster at the school, said: “He has generously and lovingly shared his experience as a classroom teacher, headmaster, schools inspector, and education officer with all categories of people he has worked with. He is admired for his sense of humour, discipline, punctuality, charisma, transparency, and professionalism.”

The life and legacy of Nsamba as an education icon is difficult to summarise in just a few words but he will be remembered by many as a man who has made a tremendous contribution to society in many other fields, as chairman or member of various management boards.

“I admired your humility every time you came to me for advice about issues you felt you could not solve by yourself. I admired your transparency and honesty, your patience, politeness, and calmness.” Father John Baptist Kintu, Masaka Diocesan Pastoral Coordinator