New curriculum helps Busoga College to re-invent

Some of the structures at Busoga College Mwiri that still have asbestos roofing which is considered hazardous. PHOTOS/GEORGE KATONGOLE.

What you need to know:

  • Mwiri is on a journey to rebuild itself after years of slump that saw the education giant drop to as low as 300 students about three years ago. With a Shs5b drive combined with the new curriculum, the school is staggering to its former glory.

In 2019, Busoga College Mwiri had sunk to probably its lowest! The school population was worryingly just over 300 and the school’s 110-year history was under threat. For a school that is endowed with more than 567 acres of land and 55-teaching staff, the student population was like a drop in the ocean.
The school was kept alive by its strong cricket and rugby teams. In fact, the rugby and cricket spirit is one that has failed to die in Mwiri. The school cricket team have been dominant winning the schools title 19 times in the league’s history while the rugby team remains bullish.

The situation was alarming that in 2006, a former student Kevin Kabutembe penned a letter indicating some of the challenges after the school admitted just three students on government scholarship at university with the best arts student scoring 22 points.
For a school that gave Uganda her motto, the situation was worrying.
Arthur Mbalule, the school headmaster recalls that the school was a centre of excellence across the country.
“Whatever starts in Mwiri is felt across the country,” Mbalule points out Mwiri’s legacy in Uganda.
He is quick to point out that Uganda borrows the national motto of  “For God and My Country” from Mwiri’s Kulwa Katonda n’ensi yange”.
He says Mwiri, an all-boys boarding school, had vibrant metal and wood workshops that handed learners vital skills. But over the years, these structures have gone to waste.

 Game changer
Mbalule, who was deployed at the school in 2019 explains that the school is moving steadily to the direction where he wants. One of the positives he picks out is the student population which has more than doubled over three years, two of which were challenging Covid-19 years.

But with the introduction of the new lower secondary curriculum which was rolled out in a phased approach that  started in February 2020, the school is gaining some of the lost ground.
“The new curriculum is in favour of the traditional schools. We had lost touch with liberalisation as some schools had a very aggressive marketing approach government schools could not match.

 But the new Competency-based Curriculum helps us to address the demands related to unemployment, patriotism, skills and knowledge. As such, we are happy because we have the facilities to offer the new curriculum. By 2024 we shall not be talking about which school has the most distinctions because the scoring has totally changed but the one that has added more value on students and one that can apply the curriculum,” Mbalule says.

A garden of cabbages. 

He adds that it will also go a long way in solving examination malpractices and reduce cutthroat competition in schools.
He explains that liberalisation of education in the early 1990s undermined the quality of education as private schools gave government-funded schools cutthroat competition.

Businessmen found it easier to establish schools so long as they fulfilled the minimum requirements demanded by the Ministry of Education and Sports. The requirements include tenancy agreements (implying that even without ample space of land one could start a school), initial capital of not less than Shs10m, a bank statement, memorandum of understanding or partnership deed if it is a joint venture, recommendation letters from local council authorities, and at least nine qualified teachers, five of whom must be permanent staff.
Mbalule explains that the school has already embarked on five projects including beekeeping, poultry, fish farming, piggery and mushroom growing while the bakery will be added this year.
“Mwiri was a comprehensive school now we want to add other vocations,” he says. 

Under the new curriculum, teachers will compile the learners’ achievements under the Formative Assessment in the four-year cycle, find an aver­age score and submit it to the Uganda National Examinations Board to contribute at least 20 percent in the final national examinations grading.
“I think this is the ideal way to do things rather than churning out grad­uates who lack practical skills to meet the demands in the labour market. This is the reason why we have some parents who know our values bringing their children to us once again,” he says.

Enjoying the wave
Now Mwiri has something else to boast about beyond the cricket oval. In 2021, the promise by prominent old boy Ruhakana Rugunda, who is also the Prime Minister, came to fruition when the school had its road upgraded to tarmac in 2022.
Mbalule notes that there is an urgent need to refurbish the school so as to reclaim its former glory.
A 500-seater library in the academic quadrangle is already in place with a beautiful scenic view of Lake Victoria and an agroforestry programme aimed at solving fuel challenges. There is also wireless connection and a newly-renovated dining hall.
The plan is to have the 3km road network inside the school paved while plans are underway for water reconnection, sustainable power generation, removing asbestos from 32-teacher residences.

The latter is particularly urgent according to Mbalule.
Asbestos roof tiles were widely used by builders throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s because it was extremely resistant to fire and heat until it was found to be a leading cause of many lung and pulmonary diseases due to prolonged exposure.

With an estimated Shs5b budget to renovate the school, there is also an urgent need to give some buildings a new layer of paint.
Recently, Kansai Plascon, the leading paint manufacturers in Uganda, donated paint worth Shs50m to help in the painting work and Mbalule announced that all the paint job will be done by students as a means of equipping them with skills under the supervision of teachers.
Santosh Gumte, the Managing Director Kansai Plascon was overjoyed with the school’s approach.

“I understand that the school curriculum has been modified to include more practical or vocational skills training for students. This is a very welcome progression and one that the labour market desperately needs. These skills will ensure students not only leave school with a good education but also the capacity to start income generating activities,” said Gumte.
Annually, Plascon trains and certifies painters and Gumte is hopeful some of the students who show interest in the painting job can be trained further.

“Through the training workshops we have seen many painters hone their craft and take on large contracts and painting projects that have transformed their lives significantly. By joining Mwiri to start teaching students painting skills, I know we are going to transform these boys into responsible men, able to contribute to our society and country,” he adds.
The plan now is to reinstate the school in its league of what Mbalule calls elite schools.
“We need to organise ourselves more. When the boys are in a good environment, we are sure they can learn everything they need to learn.

Arthur Mbalule, the Head Master of Mwiri takes the MD of Kansai Plascon on a school tour recently.

History of the School
Busoga College Mwiri, simply known as Mwiri, is the sixth oldest school in Uganda after Mengo SS (1895), Namilyango College (1902), Gayaza High (1905), Kings College Buddo (1906) and St Mary’s College Kisubi (1906).

It was founded by Basoga princes who went to Kings College Buddo and Church Missionary Society, a group of Anglican Missionaries, in January 1911. The princes wanted to have their own school in Busoga. Yosiya Nadiope, outstanding among them, gave land to the Anglican missionaries in present-day Kamuli on which the school they named Balangira High School was constructed. Nadiope is believed to be the first Christian convert in Busoga. Unfortunately, he died two years after the establishment of the school in 1913 at the age of 23. Rev W. B. Gill, became the first Headmaster of the school up to 1920.

In 1920, Rev Harry A. Brewer became the second Headmaster for 10 years up to 1930. He laboured hard to promote a move from Kamuli site, that was swampy, to a healthier site on Mwiri hill overlooking Lake Victoria. Unfortunately, he died of black water fever before he could realise it. Under his headship, the school was opened to commoners and it was named Busoga High School in the 1930’s.

In 1930, Charles Girling led a group of 400 men to clear Mwiri hill. The name Mwiri is a corrupted version of “Muyiri”, the name Basoga refer to the hill.

Busoga College Mwiri was temporarily housed at Kings College Buddo between 1930 and 1933 as construction of the current school structure on the hill was ongoing.