Ibrahim Matovu gave his best to education values

Education legacy. Ibrahim Matovu rose through the education system from a primary school teacher to a secondary school head teacher. He retired in 2019 after stints at Nabisunsa Girl’s School, Kawempe Muslim SSS, Kibuli SSS and Kampala High School. PHOTO | EDGAR R BATTE.

What you need to know:

  • Ibrahim Matovu, worked tooth and nail to bring back the glory of Kibuli Secondary School. This, however was riddled with numerous challenges which he is proud to have overcome with tough measures in place. 

Hajji Ibrahim Matovu is a fulfilled man because he believes he has done and given all his best to the education sector. 

Matovu comes off as calm, strongheaded and decisive. He  is a seasoned educationist who has served as a head teacher at Kawempe Muslim Secondary School, Kibuli Secondary School and Kampala High School.

He rose from a Grade Two teacher to PhD holder. Part of his legacy is anchored on encouraging teachers to upgrade their education level so that they are highly competitive on the job market. 

“After teaching for 13 years, I realised that if you want teachers to perform well, they need to be motivated by giving them monetary incentives as well as allowing them to upgrade. If you allow teachers to go and study (and you do not disturb them), they will teach your students better,” he explains.

Let them upgrade

When he became head teacher at Kawempe Muslim Secondary School, most of the teachers were diploma holders but he encouraged and allowed them to go and upgrade at Makerere and Kyambogo universities. 

They returned satisfied and taught. He also solicited for teachers from other schools and parted with money to have them join the schools he headed.

“In fact, there are subjects which were not completed by teachers in other schools, but we were among those that started a culture of competing the syllabus. I introduced teaching on Saturday, and here we were, with a new syllabus as teachers appreciated the need to complete it on time,” he explains. 

Matovu is proud that because of pushing teachers to better themselves, the schools he has headed have produced students who include prominent lawyers, journalists, engineers, doctors, and teachers.

Painful measures

The academic says he has shared with a journalist in an interview that he is not apologetic to his former students for caning them. He explains that this was done with  good intention of  making them focus on the bigger picture of securing a future where they would find a job and live a befitting life.

“It is now their pride. They are happy because we put some painful measures, but they are happy and enjoying life. They are making money. If we had not been strict on them, they would not have got where they are,” he argues.

In 2000, he was posted to Kibuli Secondary School where he had studied and later served as a teacher.

“The situation was not good. I learnt that what glitters, is not gold. We knew Kibuli Secondary School as one of the best but what I discovered in there was a different story. The students were undisciplined and I had to put that right. The performance was also not good. Once students are undisciplined, the performance goes down,” the Kibuli former head teacher recounts.

Rebuilding the facilities

He adds that the facilities were not in the best shape.

 “They were old facilities. When I joined the school as head teacher, I did not want to repair what was there. When you go to a place and begin repairing, people do not acknowledge what you have done. So, I decided to build. I completed a classroom block which had stalled. The school had two toilets serving 80 teachers. I had to construct more,” he says.

He also embarked on building a mosque.

“When I was still a student, we had a small mosque in a quadrangle. I constructed a storeyed one where girls pray from upstairs while boys pray from downstairs. I then constructed staff quarters of 18 units and made a parking yard and tarmacked part of the school, constructed a girls’ hostel called Ssangalyambogo. In fact, it was Ssabasajja Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II who dug the foundation. Ssangalyambogo was there, so the school board named it after her (the princess),” he explains.

The educationist expanded the school’s A- Level wing and fenced it.

Not all rosy

But not all efforts were positively received. His tenure as head teacher of the school, faced two strikes by students, something he claims was engineered by teachers who knew he was going to make them work extra hard.

“The students burnt the school, twice but I did not suspend the school activities. I told students to continue studying.  The first time they burnt it, they destroyed the Senior One  dormitory, I bought mattresses and I sent the students to sleep in the main hall until we reconstructed the part they had burnt,” the academic says.

He further narrates that eventually a meeting was called by Hajji Moses Kigongo to find out the cause of the problem. 

“Hajji Kigongo realised that some of the school board members had a hand in this mess. I asked them not to fight me because it was not a solution. From that meeting, things started normalising,” Matovu further recounts.

 “Some people say there was a decline in school sports performance, but I can explain that. When Kibuli was performing well in sports, the management of sports in this country was under the teachers of Kibuli Secondary School - my former teacher: Badru Nsubuga, former games master: Mirundi, so they knew how to manoeuvre. I let students to manage the sports.”

The transfer

He cannot forget when he received his transfer from Kawempe Muslim SSS by phone.

“Hajji,pick your transfer letter.  

Where  am I going to? 

To Kibuli Secondary School. 

 Then, at Kibuli, a friend called him saying he had  read in the newspapers that he had been transferred to Kampala High School.

Matovu left Kibuli Secondary School after 11 years, having served from 2003 to 2014. He was transferred to Kampala High School, as head teacher, where he spent four of his last active years as an educationist.  Kampala High School is  under the Universal Secondary Education government programme. 

“I improved the discipline because when I got there, the teachers realised that I was going to make them work hard, so they improved. Students too improved,” he says.

Just before he retired a friend who had heard of his retirement came by his office and requested him to ask the ministry to extend his contract, at least by two years.

“When I  am transferred , I have no tender there to manipulate the system,,” he cautions.


Matovu is now in retirement. He volunteers as head of education department at House of Zakat and Waqf, in Old Kampala- Uganda. This is a non-denominational and not for profit organisation set up to manage and administer Zakat (obligatory dues) and preservation of Waqf (endowment) in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Koran, Hadith, consensus and analogy for the social wellbeing of Muslims and development of Islam. 

He is an active member at the Equator University of Science and Technology (EQUSaT), Masaka. EQUSaT is a private-not-for- profit higher education institution which offers a wide range of academic programmes accredited by the National Council for Higher Education and other appropriate professional and regulatory bodies in Uganda and the region at large. 

The institution was founded under an agreement between the government of  Uganda through the Ministry of Health and the University of Lahore, Pakistan.

But who is Matovu?

Ibarhim Matovu was born on February 15, in 1959 to Zaina Nakanyike and Sulaiman Matovu. Matovu hails from Mukono District. He started school at Bamusuuta Church of Uganda Primary School where he served as head prefect and sat Primary Leaving Examinations.

He then joined Kibuli  Core Primary Teacher’s College for four years, as a student from where he joined Kibuli Demonstration School. 

Matovu’s parents were not well-to-do, so when he joined college, Hajji Hussein Male, the principal became a father figure. 

“My parents were poor and the people who paid my school fees were my uncles; Muhammad Nsubuga, Paulo Kasasa, Ali Kiviiri, and Swaliki Katerenge. My father was a driver and did not earn enough. That is why I want to serve orphans and the underprivileged. That is why I head the department of education at House of Zakat. Had I been abandoned, I would not have been useful to this country,” Matovu says.

With the encouragement of his elder brother, Ishak Mugerwa and the late Muhammad Mayanja, Matovu who was a teacher at Kibuli Demonstration School joined Kibuli Secondary School as an adult. 

It is while at the demonstration school that Mayanja identified him as a teacher who, if he completed his upgrade, could do even better at secondary schools.

 “I had already started earning  as a teacher of primary school. He told me he would speak to the principal, and before long I became a salaried learner,” Matovu further narrates.

While studying, he was elected head prefect at Kibuli Secondary School. For his exemplary character, when he went to pick results and clear his school dues, the then head teacher, Hajji Twaha Kawaase told him not to pay any money, as a reward.

Mayanja and other elders who had closely seen Matovu’s impact later recommended  and got placement at Kawempe Muslim Secondary School in 1989 and he served there for 13 years.