Nsubuga: Value people and appreciate effort 

Ms Nsubuga has transformed Naggalama from an avarage school to one of the most popular schools in the country. Photo | Owen Wagabaza

What you need to know:

  • Agnes Nantume Nsubuga has turned St. Joseph’s SSS Naggalama into a first class, modern school with state of the art infrastructure, that she has embarked on and accomplished over the years.

While doing her school practice at Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo in 1994, her boss, the then head teacher, Dr J C Muyingo invited Ms Agnes Nantume Nsubuga and a friend (both interns) to his office. Before the duo, the legendary educationist prophesied that Nsubuga was destined to be a career teacher while her friend had slim chances of staying in the education sector for long. Indeed, three years later, Nsubuga’s friend opted out of teaching and left for the UK to pursue other interests.

After her graduation in January 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in education, Nsubuga was retained at Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo as a teacher.

Prior to getting her appointment letter, Dr Muyingo gave her the reasons why she had made the cut.

“Other than seeing a dedicated and passionate would-be career teacher, this time, he added that he had also seen some leadership qualities in me,” says Nsubuga.

Indeed, immediately after her appointment as a classroom teacher, her journey of progressive elevation from one rank to another begun steadily that within her first two years of service, she had been appointed a deputy head teacher.

“I started as a class teacher, then as a head of department, house patron, senior lady and deputy head teacher,” Nsubuga remembers.

“From the onset, Dr Muyingo groomed me into the leader I was to become, mentoring and giving me invaluable leadership lessons. I am forever grateful to him for his wonderful grooming,”  she says.

With two field years of experience and aged just 27, her meteoric rise to deputy head teacher did not excite everybody.

Nsubuga though says, this did not distract her.

“Of course I know there may have been such people, especially those who had worked longer with Dr. Muyingo, but I chose to focus on my duties as per the mandate.” 

At Namugongo, though not in her job description, Nsubuga was central in organizing functions at the school as well as coordinating board meetings, enabling her talents to be noticed by the powers that be.

“During the coordination of these functions and board meetings, I would go the extra mile in ensuring that they go on smoothly. At the time, there were no catering services, and together with my team, we would peel matooke, prepare the meals and serve. I was just versatile and quite hardworking, unknown to me, people were noticing,” she says. 

Indeed, when the diocese of Lugazi was searching for a headteacher, Nsubuga was recommended by a key member of the board and chosen ahead of experienced applicants who were already serving in the capacity of a head teacher.

Turns around Naggalama

In January 2003, after seven years of serving in Namugongo, Nsubuga joined St Joseph’s SS Naggalama as the headteacher, enabling her to bring her unique leadership and management styles to the fore.

According to Vinicious Amone, the deputy headteacher, at the time Nsubuga joined Naggalama, it was an average school with little to write about. 

“She is fully behind the St Joseph’s SS Naggalama that the world knows now. She has turned it into a first class modern school with state of the art infrastructure, that she has embarked on and accomplished over the years,” says Amone, adding that the transformation has been achieved as a result of Nsubuga’s emphasis on the development of the school in all its domains, that is academic performance, human formation, discipline, curricular and physical infrastructure.

During her reign, Nsubuga has set up a three storied administration block, two boys dormitories, a girls dormitory, 17 self-contained teachers houses, three basketball courts, a standard football pitch, and a multipurpose hall.  She has also set up a swimming pool and a modern kitchen, as well as purchasing a school bus and two lorries. 

Nsubuga has also transformed Naggalama into an academic powerhouse, by regularly producing some of the best students countrywide in the national exams.

In the  2023 Uganda Certificate of Education(UCE)  UNEB results, Naggalama registered 291(99.3 percent) first grades of whom, 21 scored eight in eight while nine scored nine in eight.

Nsubuga says, contrary to popular belief that they admit only the crème de la creme of the country, the school admits many whose performance is average.

“We turn them into better grades at O-level and A-level. We are a second chance school,” says Nsubuga.

Students during swimming competitions.  PHOTO | COURTESY | stjoseph-naggalama.sc.ug

According to Nsubuga, she has been able to achieve such milestones by creating systems that “work with or without you,” working as a team, a supportive board and fervent prayers.

“I have a very determined and hardworking teaching staff, always available to help students beyond classrooms. They are industrious, very diligent, and result oriented, always endeavoring to achieve the set targets. We are also a family. We share our sorrows and celebrate joys together,” Nsubuga explains.

Nsubuga is also grateful to the board of governors for having the school at heart. “We have a board that is decisive with impeccable integrity. They meticulously plan for the school and we implement.  But we also participate in the decision makings in that when the board set targets, we discuss how to achieve the set targets.

Nsubuga adds that for a number of years, the school has been doing benchmarking both nationally and internationally. She is currently a member of the International Confederation of Principals and whenever they congregate, she participates and copies the good practices from other schools.”

She has also ensured that the school raises God fearing Christ centered citizens. We have mass every day and even classes start with a word of prayer. It just came to our attention that people tease us that we are a mixed seminary, because of our emphasis on the need to devout everything to God.  

Nsubuga advises fellow leaders in education service to identify talent and give the identified opportunities to explore their leadership potential. “It is also important that we value people and appreciate effort. It is worth noting that contributions come in varying degrees, a cleaner for example plays a big role in the smooth running of any institution and as such, owe to be valued and appreciated.”  

A firm believer in the institution of marriage, Nsubuga is happily married to Dr. Martin Nsubuga, whose support she says, has been key in her career success. “He has been a key pillar in the growth of my career. He soothes me, encourages and is always willing to offer that much needed guidance and wisdom,” says Nsubuga.