What you need to know:
- Kamonkoli College is one of the oldest schools in Budaka District and it is struggling as a shadow of its old self.
- The head teacher says they are on the road to regaining their past glory.
On Mbale-Pallisa road in Eastern Uganda, is Kamonkoli Trading Centre.On the same route about 2km along Kamonkoli-Kabwangasi road are old structures some with rusty iron sheets, others without roofs. Welcome to Kamonkoli College, Budaka District.
Then, known as Kamonkoli Girl’s Primary Boarding School, school started as a community school in 1940 on five acres of land which was donated by the church.
In 1980, with the help of the late Byakika [former area MP] they converted the school into a secondary school which became the pride and dream school in Bugwere- Eastern Uganda. Unfortunately, the story has taken a twist and enrollment dwindled from more than 1,400 students a decade ago to 612 students in 2022.
The school has had a number of head teachers since its inception with the longest serving one being Ms Ruth Engoru. Ms Engoru headed the school for 17 years until her retirement. Five head teachers have been posted to this school which has been in existence for nearly 35 years.
The school had always been considered as a community school until 2014 when the Church of Uganda reclaimed its position in the school as the founding body. Thereafter, getting a replacement for the head teacher in 2014 seemed to brew chaos. There were disagreements among the staff, and community members gradually withdrew their children from the school.
The new head teacher posted in 2015 found the school in disarray, the community had lost trust in the school and the staff seemed discontent. It has since been a long journey to rebuild the trust and confidence of the parents, students and the community.
Currently, the school has a population of 612 students and we are optimistic that the enrollment will increase day by day given the prevailing stability.
“This term, the school has admitted more than 40 students. This implies that parents have started building trust in the school and hope more will be admitted,” Ms Charity Arinaitwe, the head teacher said.
On academics, Ms Arinaitwe said, the college is taking baby steps to become great again. In 2019, the school registered 14 in Division One, 58 Division Two and 32 in Division Three. In 2020, the school registered 13 in Division One, 42 Division two, and 48 Division Three.
“Our prime target to eliminate failures and have most of the students in Division one and two. We have also improvised with external examiners to improve on our results,”Ms Arinaitwe said
As a new head teacher, she adds that her efforts are aimed at making a remarkable improvement which has already been seen in enrollment from 400 to 612 students. She is confident that with new mobilisation strategies by the concerned and her charisma, the glory days may not be far.
“We are looking towards increasing mobilisation for school enrollment and better academic performance since we have all it takes to realise our dreams,” she said.
Among other key steps being taken, the school and its governing body is having class days where they interface with parents, hold seminars and also involve students in co-curricular activities.
Ms Arinaitwe explained that the school has also strengthened the alumni association who act as role models to the students and persuade others students to join Kamonkoli College.
“Kamonkoli College gives the best opportunity for co-education given its affordable fees structure, human resource and available facilities. We are aware of the economic struggles in our communities, but we also want to educate our children,” she explained.
The school head also decried that the school physical structures are in deplorable state with most of the roofs and some structures dilapidated because ever since the school was established it has had major renovations.
“The physical structures have developed cracks. We call upon the government to reconsider this school among the traditional schools in order be supported,” she noted, adding: “The secondary school inherited from the already dilapidated structures [primary] which are nearly 70 years are still being used because the school lacks financial support. We do not have an administration block, computer lab and library.”
She also said since the iron sheets need to be replaced some classes cannot use their respective blocks. For instance, Senior One pupil share the main hall.
“We request that the government categorises Kamonkoli College among the tradition schools so that it benefits directly from various grants towards infrastructural development,” she appealed.
The fees structures are friendly because boarding scholars pay Shs 550,000 for all classes while the day scholars pay Shs290,000. The staffing levels are not motivating because, the school has 35 teachers on payroll but eight are not on that payroll.
The good and appeal
Ms Arinaitwe says not all is doom but their school administration has a cordial relationship with the community. The school exercises its corporate social responsibility.
“We do charity where students mobilise resources for the needy people. We also support them with free transport [school bus] and other general contributions for noble cause,” she said.
Mr Robert Kasolo, the Iki-Iki County MP, said there is need to support the traditional schools including Kamonkoli College because of its excellence.
“We need to uplift Kamonkoli College to its former glory. These are only existing traditional schools but have got little support from the government in terms of infrastructure development,” Mr Kasolo.
Mr Sam Mulomi, former treasurer on PTA executive, said Kamonkoli College is one of the outstanding schools in the region which made them proud in the early days.
“Despite the challenges, the school still makes us proud in the region due to its exemplary academic performance. It is one of the giant schools that has produced outstanding personalities in this region,” he said.
Mr Alex Mwayi, one of the old students of Kamonkoli College, said he does not regret having gone through this school because it has it produced people of character and wisdom as it is reflected in the motto, “Character and Wisdom”.
“We laud the administration including the teachers for their commitment to produce morally upright students who have stood out in the community for development in the area,” he said.