Kakembo’s 25 years of Maths

Kakembo consults with a colleague at work. PHOTO | DEUS BUGEMBE

What you need to know:

  •  A boy from Masaka District fell in love with Maths and his passion grew as he advanced in education. Ronald Kakembo later taught Maths and he has  since written more than 30 Maths textbooks.

If you attended school in Uganda from mid-90s, you  might have  come across the name Ronald Kakembo, on Maths pamphlets and textbooks. For 25 years, he has written more than 30 titles for primary and secondary school. His books are read in Rwanda, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia and are available physically, or electronically through the MK Publishers e-learning platform.

“I am not about to stop writing math books. Why would I? Unless my hands or body have had enough. I am still energetic and I have achieved a lot from it,” says Kakembo. 

He believes God blest him with a gift  which he uses to serve others.

 “My focus keeps me going and doing this job keeps my mind engaged,” he says adding that the Bible story of David and how he overcame obstacles keeps him on track.

Kakembo, head of the maths department at MK Publishers has been at it for  25 years and has on a number of occasions been recognised by the Book Forum of Uganda, an entity that governs authors in the country. In 2017, his book P7 Mathematics emerged best book of the year in the category of primary school textbooks.

In 2018, another Primary Mathematics Pupil’s Book 7 won the award of best book of the year in the category of primary maths. 

“Receiving awards feels more satisfying than getting money. It is encouraging to have your title on top of the list,” he says.  Writing maths books is what he revels in.

Had he not been doing maths, he says “Perhaps I would be a bishop or church leader somewhere”. He is known as ‘Bishop’ at his workplace for his endless involvement in church activities at St John’s Church of  U,ganda, Kirinya.

How did it start?

Raised in Masaka District, Kakembo loved  Maths. 

“I enjoyed maths and scored good grades in school even when I had exam fever. They used to announce me among the top scorers,” he recalls. 

This encouraged him to keep it up with maths  and he got better  in Kibuli Secondary School, then Kibuli Teacher Training College and Kyambogo University where he pursued a Bachelor’s in Education.

His first stop after university was Buganda Road Primary School in the mid-90s, where he taught Maths in primary six and seven. It was from there that he discovered his potential as author. 

“I started writing and producing pamphlets, they would be sold in big numbers to different schools and students,” he says. As his pamphlets made rounds, Samuel Musoke Majwega who was then just venturing into publishing with MK Publishers saw  the work. Majwega was impressed by Kakembo’s work and headhunted him, he wanted him on his team.

 “One day as I was teaching, a man approached me asking to have a word with me,” says Kakembo.

 The interaction lasted long enough that Kakembo had a big decision to take which would change the course of his life. Majwega told Kakembo of how he had come across his works and that he thought they would do a better job together. Majwega’s newly born project excited Kakembo who agreed without second thoughts. Majwega had taken it upon himself to put together a team that would transform the publishing industry in the country. He had pursuaded Kakembo to the core. 

“It was easy for me to accept because, it was in the line of maths, and I had time on my hands as Buganda Road did not keep me very busy,” he recollects, and he has since never looked back.

The publishing offices were then on Jinja Road which was a walkable from Buganda Road Primary School and to his residence in Nakasero. Even when he switched schools to Lohana Academy, he kept  up until years later when the establishment got its current permanent address in Kibuye. When Kakembo looks back, it has been a competitive space and  has only made him better at his craft. 

“The first mathematics book I produced at MK Publishers did well and that made me feel at home. The royalties I received were also worth it,” Kakembo who just recently stopped teaching shares.

 Challenges

Kakembo has mastered his way around getting a maths textbook ready but he would be telling lies if he claimed it’s a walk in the park. The process is tedious and demanding. 

“They give you a curriculum, a framework of what school or government expects of you. Sometimes interpreting the curriculum is complex yet you have to meet the required standards,” he explains. Each country comes with its demands which calls for versatility, sometimes, one has to travel to a specific country to get in on the act. There is also competition in the industry.

 “It is never just me writing but a number of authors yet, only one book has to be approved. That comes with some pressure because you have to come out on top. Kakembo has also endured staying up late in the night to deal with the heavy workload plus, the pressure to beat deadlines.

For someone born in the early 60s, Kakembo has worked with different generations and seen it all. He believes he still has many years to live. He advises the younger generation to focus on whatever they do,  stick to it and never give up even when things look tough, there is always  light at the end of the tunnel.

Family  man

Kakembo is married with seven children. He also fends for a number of others and everyone in his homestead is good at maths. 

“My wife teaches and writes maths books with me. It feels like a family business,” he says with a grin. 

The teacher met his wife at Buganda Road Primary School, he would later move to Lohana Academy as it was not advisable back then to work in the same environment with your wife.  His children also perform best in maths but he is not about to force them his way as he believes there is a lot out there for them than teaching and writing maths books.

 “We no longer teach the old school way, these days we teach for one to attain  a skill such as baking, bricklaying, and tailoring,” says the teacher.

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