Guard secures first class degree

Benedict Ocaka with his mother Polline Angeyo at Bishop Stuart Univertsity recently. PHOTO | FELIX AINEBYOONA

Benedict Ocaka, 25, was awarded a first class bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and Community Development at Bishop Stuart University (BSU) in Mbarara District at their recent graduation. He was among the 1,773 students the institution awarded degrees, diplomas, and certificates in different disciplines.

Born in Ayuulupur Village, Lamwo District, he is the third of eight  children. He attended Kitgum Prison Nursery and Primary School in Kitgum District before joining Kitgum Comprehensive College for his O-Level. There, he scored aggregate 37, but his parents wanted him to attain vocational training against his desire  to join A-Level.

“My parents  had relocated from Kitgum Town  to their  village in Lamwo District to do farming. My mother used to brew lumukug, local liquor  and my father was a cleaner at an organisation that had closed,” he recalls.

However, Ocaka badly wanted to join A-Level.

Raising fees

His elder brother Geoffrey Komakech who had completed Senior Six  suggested that they lay bricks in their village. They made 12,000 bricks which they sold and gave Ocaka earned Shs100,000 of their profit. he paid his school fees for Senior Five, first term at Kitgum Comprehensive College in 2014. He read Biology, Agriculture, and Geography (BAG).

“The school fees was Shs 82,000 but did not have scholastic materials. One of my in-laws offered me five books,” he explains .

Also, as a day scholar  Ocaka  started selling roasted meat by the roadside after classes because he had to take care of  his siblings.

“Classes  stopped at 3pm and I roast ed meat at Wangle-Engo Quarters in Kitgum Town,” he says.

During holidays, he burnt charcoal in the village and sold a bag between Shs 80,000 and 90,000 which he used to clear his school dues.

“Every Friday, I would ride a bicycle for 42km from Kitgum Town to the village in Lamwo to collect charcoal  and food items such as sorghum and millet. I also cultivated with my parents at the weekend and miss weekend lessons such as Biology practicals,” he recalls.

In his Senior Six, they had to study full time. 

“I no longer had income but I studied up to term three without paying fees because the head teacher sympathised with me. I only registered for exams because government had paid for us,” he says.

“I used to borrow some of the requirements from friends. But for final exams, I was barred for 20 minutes from sitting for exams by the school administration until a senior invigilator intervened and I was cleared,” Ocaka notes.

Ocaka scored nine points at A-Level but he could not join University. He opted for Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) but was only denied a chance after failing a medical test  because of a liver problem in 2016.

“I went to Kitgum hospital where I was cautioned against alcohol and my condition stabilised,” he explains.

One man advised him to join a private security company in Kampala and earn.

“I met a man from  Securex Security Company at Centenary Bank Kitgum who told me to prepare my documents for recruitment but I could not afford fare  to Kampala. He suggested  that I find two more recruits and he pay our fare.  I obliged. We trained in January 2017,” he says.

A month later, they were passed to start work and he opted for Mbarara City because of an affordable cost of living.

Back to school

He then scouted for a university and his first choice was Mbarara University but, tuition was high and a friend advised him to check out BSU. There, he was given a Bachelor of Agriculture and Community Development  but he had insufficient funds . 

“My salary was Shs 150,000 and I first saved Shs 1.3m.  I re-applied for another  intake in 2018,” he recalls.

His schedule from 5.30pm to 7.30am allowed him to join the regular programme. 

“I only spent Shs30,000 on meals every month as I saved for tuition. My meal comprised mukene and posh,” Ocaka notes.

During the course of the semester, a friend advised him to apply to the students’ loan scheme which he did and qualified. This allowed  him  to concentrate on his studies.  Ocaka was  the second student in the history of BSU to score a CGPA of 4.42 in Agriculture and Community Development.

Ocaka resigned from his job after graduation and he is currently looking for a new Job. He dreams of becoming one of the greatest scientists, academician and researcher in Uganda. He plans to pursue a Master’s  in Crop Science.

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