Keisharis give girls conducive study environment in Ntungamo

Justus and Constance Keishari at the main building of Ntungamo Girl’s High School. Keishari (inset) founded a girls’ -only school. PHOTO/PEREZ RUMANZI


What you need to know:

  • The Keisharis did not have girls from their marriage but they started a girls’-only school because they felt the need to protect them.

Constance Nayebare and Justus Gumisiriza, alias, Keishari have been married for more than 20 years and from their union, they have four boys. The couple says they tried all means to have girls but failed.

After  illustrious education careers in government and private schools, wishing to nurture responsible girls for their boys and desiring to have girls they care for, the two started Ntungamo Girls’ High School in Ntungamo District. 

The couple says they wanted to develop a faith-based school (with non-religious alignment), affordable for low income earners while enforcing the right discipline. 

Gumisiriza was nicknamed Keishari (read Caesar) for his strictness as teacher and head teacher in different schools, he and his wife started a school of their own after more than 20 years of teaching.

“We realised a gap, especially in girls’ education. Girls are dropping out of school because of many factors including, the schools they join, diverse parenting methods and essentials that lack in schools. Many parents cannot afford the available single-sex schools because of the distance and tuition fees and some girls fail to study when they join mixed schools,” says Keishari. He adds that the  most outstanding of these factors is, “we are parents to only boys who failed to have girls so, we started a school to compensate for what we missed.”  

Background
The two graduate teachers met at Bishop Laki High School Bujaga in Rwampara District in 1996 where they were teaching. Ms Keishari taught History and Religious Studies while her then colleague, taught Economics. The two got married. Constance who had attained her diploma from Kabale NTC,  later upgraded from Ndejje University and Justus attained his from Makerere University. 

They were both on government payroll until Keishari resigned  to found Rwentobo High School in 2001. He wife was transferred to Rubaare Secondary School where she served until she voluntarily retired in 2011. 

From a conviction of nurturing girls to their amassed teaching experience, the two started a school that they manage on strict regulations and a mantra ‘never put yourself in a situation to explain’ which teachers and students live by. This makes the school, one of the best performers in Ntungamo District. 

 “I taught in many schools, but you would not have much input in design and implementation of rules. In case, things got messed up, you would not do much. When schools bent rules for girls they just got destructed. If the students are at school to learn, what is the essence of watching football or films, why not do exercises to keep their minds refreshed,” he opines. 

Later, Keishari sold his shares in Rwentobo High School and Rwentobo Preparatory to pursue their dream.
“When my wife came up with this great idea of a girls-only school, I dropped all the businesses I had with schools. I was head teacher at Rwentobo High School, one of the directors at Rwentobo Preparatory and I was on government payroll. I resigned my jobs to make her vision a family one because of her passion,” he recounts. 

With strict regulations, the two enforce a multi-religious dimensional approach to education that hosts different religious affiliations. 

“We have a chapel that caters to all religions. For example, every Friday we invite an Imam to the school, on Saturday, we give a chance to the Seventh Day Adventists and Sunday is for the Christians. We cannot trust the students with these, we invite external preachers from well-known prayer places not anywhere else,” says Ms Keishari.

This, in her view, aids in exposure of students as well as improves morality. 
It has also grown the numbers with the school getting trust from parents from across the country and the rural areas. 
“What I treasure most is seeing girls progress. For example, we once admitted an orphan who had many challenges. She had aggregate 31 at primary leaving examinations but,  at the end of Senior Four she scored aggregate 30 to our satisfaction,” says the co-director adding that children call her mum and they call her husband dad, “What more do we want?” 

Determination
Starting with only 218 girls 10 years ago, the school currently boasts of  875 students. 
“If we wanted 2,000 students we would get them, but we cannot accommodate them, we want to have a few and give them the best services,  and make sure they pass to our expectations. When we started we never expected the numbers that came, now we don’t have to be excited or greedy to have so many,” Ms Keishari says. 

Fred Bahati, the Ntungamo  District education officer, says most schools only think about performance without putting into consideration the future of learners which the Kaisharis have prioritised.

“Many private schools are about numbers and grades in exams, my interaction with the directors at Ntungamo Girls has showed me they are beyond this. The future of learners must be a priority, and this can only be achieved through discipline.” He says. 

Indeed, there has been growth in performance since 2011 when the school began. From one Grade One student in 2013 when they sat their first UCE exams, then, the school was ranked fifth in 48 schools in Ntungamo District in 2018 with 26 students in Grade One of the 72 students who sat for O-Level. 

Then, they were ranked best in the 2020 UCE. That year six of the 12 students under the district quota system on government sponsorship were from Ntungamo Girl’s School while the other 15 went for government sponsorship.

They were ranked best in Ntungamo and 10th in the country on average principle passes per student. 
Phionah Nahabwe a former head teacher at the school describes the two school proprietors as strong willed disciplinarians with a sense of excellence.

“I believe whoever has studied, taught or been a parent at that school knows their stand on discipline, this makes the school what it is. If they keep up the spirit, I believe they have a chance to top the country,”  Nahabwe notes.

2013
The year in which Ntungamo Girl’s High School sat their first Uganda Certificate of Education exams. 
Mutoni Ayebare, a parent believes the school proprietors stand on discipline favors parents and students who wish to learn. 

”There are no male visitors allowed at the school, even brothers can’t be allowed to visit their sisters without their parents. My daughter is safe, I believe this is the school where I need my daughter to be,” Mutoni says.

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