Cwinyaáy plied many teaching jobs to arrive where he is

Cwinyaáy  addresses people at  the launch of  Njogera Français at AFK on Bukoto Street in Kamapala recently.

What you need to know:

  • He has had a fair share of making ends meet through education. Karim Cwinyaay talks about a time he taught more than three classes in two schools because he needed to supplement his income. This paid off when he became the first Ugandan trainer of French examiners. Cwinyaáy talks about his life as a teacher. 

Karim Cwinyaáy is a teacher and course coordinator at Alliance Francaise Kampala (AFK). Cwinyaáy got his first teaching placement at Progressive Senior Secondary School in Bweyogerere in 1998. He introduced French at the school and three years later, he did the same at Ntinda View College. For four years, he taught Senior One to Senior Six at both schools. It was not long before that he recommended one of his former students to teach alongside him.

In 2008, Ntinda View opened a branch in Lugazi and he started part time work there too.

Cwinyaáy, a son of a Ugandan businessman and Congolese mother in Pagwata, Nebbi District, says he started school at Porombo Primary School in Nebbi, then Wiri and Pabidi primary schools in DR Congo where he completed his primary education. These schools were near the Ugandan border and he occasionally commuted. 

“Due to the nature of my father’s job, there are times my parents opted that I stay at my maternal relatives’ homes in Congo,” he says. “The language of instruction of most, if not all schools in Congo is French and they teach English as a second language.”

After A-Level in Congo, Cwinyaáy returned to Uganda and applied to Institute of Teacher Education Kyambogo (ITEK), where he was to pursue a diploma in secondary education (French double Main) in 1993.

Going French 

At A-Level, Cwinyaáy’s favourite subjects were Mathematics and Physics. He dreamt of being an electrical engineer.

“I was always fascinated by working with electricity. Always fiddling with wires and trying to fix electricity-related issues at home, I believed electrical engineering was the deal for me,” he recalls.

He applied for engineering and French. 

“I was given French on government sponsorship. Although I very much wanted engineering, I settled for French,” he says.

He gradually fell in love with French because of the admiration for French students and events they always attended.

“We went for trips to France and returned with designer briefcases that we would show off on our way to class. I became the coordinator for the French section at the institute and we always went to Francophone events and celebrations which were exciting,” he says.


Growing up, Cwinyaáy was always giving sermons in their church and many referred to him as a teacher.

Therefore, teaching was second nature to him.

He completed his course with a six-week-scholarship in France from where he applied to Mengo Senior School and later,  Old Kampala Secondary School for teaching practice. After acing the practice, Cwinyaáy applied to Progressive Senior Secondary School in Bweyogerere where he introduced French in Senior One and Two, and later to Senior Three and Senior Four. Then came a turning point.

“In 2000, Uneb called me to become an examiner of French. This took me places. We would go from Kampala to Kasese, Kabale and other regions except Karamoja because they did not teach French,” he says.

The lecturer 

Cwinyaáy joined AFK after a fiasco with lecturers at the institution and he was needed to fill-in.

Cwinyaáy (2nd Right) poses with journalists for a photo and other officials  at Alliance Francaise, Kampala on January 15. PHOTO | PROMISE TWINAMUKYE.

“I used to admire the lecturers at AFK from different avenues such as their set up of classrooms at the National Theatre. They also had the biggest library, they were very organised and had a lot of activities. Even filling-in for someone was an honour,”  he says.

Cwinyaáy feels he was recognised by AFK because he was at the time, the regional representative for Kampala (A) of the association of Teachers of French in Uganda.

When the institution normalised, some teachers returned and he also stayed on board.

“I still taught at Ntinda View College alongside Alliance Francaise until 2012, when I left secondary schools,” he says.

Teaching was not his sole source of income. When he started working at AFK, he got an offer to be a representative of a textile company from Congo. 

He would buy cotton and chemicals for the company from Uganda, China and India and send them to Kisangani, Congo.

“In 2014, I started lecturing at IUIU Kampala campus while doing an online degree at the University of Rouen Normandy in France to upgrade my qualifications,” he recounts.

Becoming a trainer

Before Cwinyaáy, Uganda had two language trainers of examiners from France. Claire Cadart, who came in 2017 and was replaced by Marie Rousse after a year.

Cwinyaáy’s predecessor, Rousse was asked to train more examiners at AFK. And, there was no Ugandan trainer at the time. The teacher then replaced her after he had undertaken training in France in 2018, making him the first Ugandan trainer for examiners and markers of Delf exams. This was after he had completed his Master’s degree. Examiners were taught how to mark Delf papers and examine oral exams. 

“After the two weeks’  training, I returned to Uganda and became the first Ugandan trainer for examiners and markers of the Diplôme elémentaire de langue Française (Delf) Exams. This entails Level A1 to B2,” he says.

He has so far trained 15 examiners and hopes to train more.

He did not stop learning. That same year, Cwinyaáy enrolled for a Master’s in French as a foreign language, French as a second language and (FOS) French for specific objectives. In 2019, he pursued his second Master’s in the same field. 

Covid-19 and more                                                                    

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Cwinyaáy, alongside other lecturers, had to go for a training for online teaching, to transition to the new normal.

First they had to always time themselves because without ZoomPro, they only had 40 minutes for class.

“As a teacher, I had to also make sure that I had a good network. So, I found a bar where I conducted my classes since the hangouts had been suspended,” he says.

The board later contacted him in June 2020 to coordinate classes at AFK because the responsible person had returned to France. After six months of acting in the role, he got permanent placement.


Cwinyaáy’s first salary was Shs70, 000 per month for all the classes he taught which could not sustain him given his welfare and utilities.

“The environment and head teacher were friendly. My students always wanted me to teach them, which heightened my motivation,” he says.

To boost his income, he did part time jobs during which he had to travel long distances from one school to another. However, he was lucky to earn from his side stint at the textile company and he bought his first car., a Toyota Corona

He suffered inferiority complex when he started lecturing at Alliance Francaise because his French was not as good as that of his peers. This gave him the zeal to read further, speak the language as much as he could and bought pay TV to watch French stations.


Back in the day, recruiting teachers started at diploma level but now a Bachelor’s is needed. Most teachers are at least on level B2. However, when you advance to at least C2, you have an added advantage.

Invite alumni to give testimonies from well-informed career guidance sessions. 

“I can also be invited to the schools if they need someone to help with disseminating career guidance in areas of French. Also, career guidance should come from people who have benefited or are well conversant with certain prospects,” he cautions.

Relying on salary alone is very risky. “Ensure you have a side income. Save some of your salary and invest in something that will boost your financial independence,” Cwinyaáy says.

Advance your career. In case you are afraid of losing your job while upgrading, look up flexible training programmes such as online classes or holiday packages. 

To students, he says, French as a foreign language is easy to learn but it requires determination. 

“Look at French as a language you learn to not only become a teacher, but also an avenue for other job opportunities,” he says.

Today, some of his former students that did not pursue French to the end, do call him seeking advice.

“There are my former students that dropped French but score jobs  that have French as a key requirement. They call me seeking advice on how to go about the opportunities and my answer always is one; “please enroll for the French classes and better your command of the language.”


Pabidi Primary School

O-Level: College Ujowaheri Bunia, Congo

A-Level: Institut Rethy, Rethy, DR Congo

Diploma in Secondary Education (French double main) – Institute of Teacher Education- Kyambogo

Bachelor of Arts in French Language - University of Rouen Normandy, France

Master 1  and 2 of (FLE, FLS, FOS) - University of Artois, France