Bisaso bows out after 30 years

Ms Bisaso, who officially retired on April 21, 2024, has seen enrollment at Balibaseka SS grow from 705 students in 2019 to 1,130 students currently.   PHOTO | OWEN WAGABAZA

What you need to know:

  • Rebecca Bisaso’s teaching career started immediately after university in 1993 at Bugema SDA Secondary School. For 18 years of the 31, she has been head teacher, enabling her to bring her unique management skills to the fore, effectively leaving a transformation trail in all the schools she has led.

On April 21,  Ms Rebecca Bisaso retired from education service after 31 years, having clocked the mandatory retirement age of 60 years. 

Of the 31 years, 18 of these were as head teacher, enabling her to bring her unique management skills to the fore, effectively leaving a transformation trail in all the schools she has led.

In her colourful and illustrious teaching career, which includes stints abroad, Bisaso says she leaves happy and satisfied. 

“I gave it my all, sacrificed where necessary, taught with passion and commitment and achieved all that could possibly be achieved. I leave without regrets,” says Bisaso who until retirement was the head teacher of Balibaseka SS, in Wakiso District. 

Bisaso’s teaching career started immediately after university in 1993 at Bugema SDA Secondary School, having declined an earlier posting to a school in Mubende district, on the basis that it was far. 

“Unfortunately Bugema was paying us very little money, Shs40,000 a month,” Bisaso remembers.

And it was this little pay that prompted Bisaso to go for greener pastures in Zambia after only three years at Bugema SDA. 

At the time, many Ugandan teachers were working in Zambia courtesy of then President Kenneth Kaunda’s policy of hiring expatriate teachers to improve on his country’s education sector.

While in Zambia, Bisaso taught at Evelyn Home College of Applied Arts and Commerce in Lusaka, where she headed the Fine Art department. 

At Evelyn Home College, Bisaso came up with a number of innovations to improve learning, among which included mobilising and taking her Fine Art students for a field work study tour, a first of its kind in the school.

“When we returned, I wrote a well detailed report and shared with the principal. This greatly impressed him that he wrote back thanking me for the initiative. Soon, all departmental heads bought the idea and started organising field works,” says Bisaso.

Returns to Uganda

In January 1999, after three years in Zambia, Bisaso opted to come back and serve her motherland.

“I felt it was time I came back and share my knowledge with fellow countrymen,” says Bisaso.

In the same year, Bisaso was taken on by the Ministry of Education and Sports and posted to Mpenja SS in Gomba District, where other than the head teacher; she was the only other degree holder. 

“The entire staff including the deputy where diploma holders,” she remembers. 

Months after her posting to Mpenja SS, the Association of Secondary School Head teachers (ASSHU) organised a workshop for all head teachers in the country. Her head teacher was however unable to attend and instead sent her to represent him.

“When I came back from the workshop, I wrote a well detailed report which I gave the head teacher. This somehow impressed him and he appointed me a deputy head teacher. But I think he had earlier seen my potential, because by choosing me to represent him ahead of the deputy and DOS, when I was even new, spoke volumes” she says.

Having served for four years as a deputy appointed by the school, the Ministry of Education advertised vacancies for deputy headteachership in 2003. Her head teacher encouraged her to apply.

She applied, did the interviews, passed and was appointed a substantive deputy head teacher and posted to Jungo SS in Wakiso District.

At Jungo, she found the then head teacher doing his masters degree which kept him busy, and somehow she found herself doing a lot of administrative work, enabling her to attain the much needed experience.

“Together with my team, we emphasised discipline at the school and encouraged quality teaching leading to improved academic performance,” says Bisaso. 

Starts seed school

In 2006, the government came up with a policy of setting up a seed school in every sub-county to ease access to secondary education especially the rural poor. And here, deputy head teachers were given the opportunity to kick-start the process. Bisaso applied for this opportunity and passed and was posted to Namasale Seed SS in Amolator district.  

“When I reached Amolator, I went to the District Education Officer who drove me to the school. Reaching the place, I realized it was still a construction site and not a school yet. Buildings were still at the window level and there were neither students nor staff. It was quite heart wrenching, but with support from the area leaders, I gave it a go,” says Bisaso. 

With guidance from the Ministry, she recruited teachers and worked hand in hand with the area LC3 chairperson to come up with the Board of Governors. 

She also mobilised elders and  they started moving around, telling people that the school had opened. Because construction was ongoing, they started with one class for Senior One under a tree. Whenever it rained, a nearby primary school accommodated them.   

“In January 2007, construction was completed and a block comprising offices and two classrooms was handed to us. We continued lobbying and the government gave us funds for the construction of a two classroom block. With support from parents, we also set up a computer lab as well as science laboratory. We also expanded the school by purchasing more land on which a state of the art girls’ dormitory was constructed,” Bisaso explains. 

“I lobbied the Japanese government to fund the construction of a girls’ dormitory and they bought the idea.”

Because it was a landing site, each year they lost tens of girls to prostitution and even those who remained in school were constantly having distractions from fishermen.

“We had to put a stop to this,” she says. 

In partnership with parents, Bisaso was also able to build more classrooms, as well as a teacher’s quarters. From 60 students, enrollment grew to over 500 students in 2019. And through continuous lobbying of the ministry, the teaching staff grew from 13 to 30 teachers. 

Balibaseka SS

In May 2019, Bisaso was transferred to Balibaseka SS in Wakiso District. And here, Bisaso says she found the school with systems and moving in the right direction.  

Nevertheless, her impact is loud and clear. 

According to Mr Henry Male, the Director of Studies, Bisaso greatly improved on the school through team work, support supervision, appraisals, workshops with teachers, and continuous benchmarking. 

In 2023, Balibaseka registered 23 first grades from the seven she found in 2019.

“She has good working relations, she is good at giving tasks and delegates completely, and a very good advisor especially when you deviate or lack knowledge of what you are doing,” Male says.

According to Mr Kasenge Mugalu, the chairperson Parents and Teachers Association, Bisaso’s impact on Balibaseka has been tremendous. 

“Under Bisaso, the school has been able to grow in all its spheres. She has been strict on discipline and cleanliness and academic performance has greatly improved,” says Kasenge. 

Ms Rose Nanyondo, the deputy head teacher says Bisaso turned around the infrastructure of the school. 

“She beautified the school compound by redesigning it and planting flowers and fruit trees. She has also set up a modern girls’ dormitory that accommodates up to 300 students, a waterborne toilet for teachers as well as tackling the water challenge in the school by purchasing more water tanks to harvest water.  She also set up a three block staff quarters to improve on teachers accommodation,” says Nanyondo.

As a result of Bisaso’s interventions, enrollment grew from 705 students in 2019 to 1,130 students currently, while the teaching staff grew from 35 to 47 teachers and five non-teaching staff. 

“She is transparent and frugal and very respectful of everyone. She looks very soft yet a tough administrator, and keen follower of policies to the latter. We are proud of the time she served us and wish her the best,” says Dr Eria Paul Njuki, the chairperson Board of Governors.  

Bisaso next plan of action is ensuring that children from unprivileged communities finish the learning cycle.

“We work with quite a number of NGOs that sponsor students here, but pay for them only up to S.6, leaving them without the much needed professional training that can take them out of poverty. I am expecting to write quite a number of proposals to these organisations to see that children can finish school with professional certificates,” says Bisaso.