What you need to know:
- After tumultuous years of strikes, exam malpractice and poor management; the Fort Portal-based College, powered by Old Boys and stakeholder revival efforts, is rising again.
- It ranked 51st overall and best in the Rwenzori Region in the recently released 2022 UCE examinations.
- The College also ranked 10th in chemistry countrywide.
“I couldn’t believe it. The whole family didn’t sleep,” 20-year-old Jockus Ndungo narrated the situation at his home in Kasese when they first received news that he had been admitted at St Leo’s College, Kyegobe some four years ago.
Ndungo, his voice over the phone raising with excitement, added: “Even neighbours all knew I was going to St Leo’s. I couldn’t believe it.”
He had always heard of the likes of St Leo’s, Ntare, Mbarara High, name it but never in his wildest of dreams believed he would one day study at any of the above.
O Level not guaranteed
After his Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) at Kisinga Primary School, where he got eight aggregate, there were little, if any, plans to go to any of the above schools, let alone proceed at all.
Ndungo’s mother is a housewife, while his dad, 55-year-old father of seven - Jackson Bwambale, is a domestic farmer.
“I was not sure I would even join secondary since we don’t have money,” explained Ndungo.
But the dream was real, now. And not just real, he was going to study for free because in the interviews he did to be admitted into senior one, he had emerged one of the best and qualified for St Leo’s College Old Boys Association (Sleckoba) scholarship scheme for bright but needy students.
One St Leo’s Old Boy (OB) happened to be married to a teacher of Ndungo at Kisinga Primary School, and through the couple’s son, Ndungo had been connected for these admission interviews.
The rest is history. Four years on, Ndungo was second at St Leo’s in the 2022 Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) Examinations.
Ndungo, who is pursuing BCM in A Level, posted 13 aggregate in eight subjects, only bettered by other two Sleckoba bursary scheme beneficiaries - Ronald Ahaisibwe and Simon Mulwana, who each got 12.
Actually, of the 21 students that passed in division one, 11 are all beneficiaries of the OBs bursary scheme. All 11 will continue on the same bursary scheme in A Level.
Twenty eight students overall sat the papers, with the other seven passing in division two.
Ndungo’s dad cannot thank the OBs enough.
“May God bless you. I’m not working and I would not have managed to take Jockus to St Leo’s. Thank you so much,” appreciated Bwambale, who spoke to us from his garden in Kasese on Saturday evening.
Sleck, as the College goes by its stylish moniker, was ranked 51st countrywide and the best school in the Rwenzori Region in the UCE 2022 examinations. The College’s scoring rate is 75 per cent in first grade and 25 in second.
St Leo’s also ranked 10th in Chemistry countrywide, 43rd in Physics and 59th in Mathematics, an encouraging trend for science subjects advocates.
For a traditional school so glorified in the 80s, 90s and 2000s as an academic and sports powerhouse but one that - like a pack of cards - had collapsed in the 2010s following mismanagement and student indiscipline; the latest results are a breath of fresh air.
“The latest performance of Sleck in UCE exams has a big impact on revival efforts,” said the school headteacher, Trophy Atuhairwe.
“It has perfectly restored the confidence of parents and the public in relation to the return of strong academics of the college nationally and internationally.
“It is a powerful motivator to students, staff, management, Old Boys and other stakeholders.”
St Leo’s is a Catholic-founded government school, which falls under Fort Portal Diocese. The Bishop of Fort Portal Diocese, Robert Muhirwa, echoed headteacher Atuhairwe’s sentiments.
“First,” said the Bishop, who has witnessed St Leo’s journey back from the doldrums, “I place my appreciation to you, the OBs, the staff and board management for all the efforts to revive the college.
“And I also appeal to the public to consider bringing their children back to St Leo’s because clearly the efforts are now bearing fruits. But also, there is a need for more publicity because many of our OBs are not aware of what is happening at the school.”
Background & way back
Both academic and sporting standards started declining at St. Leo’s in the second part of the 2000s following a spate of strikes and shutdowns, student indiscipline, exam malpractices and mismanagement.
It was so bad that the government threatened to permanently close the school. Exam malpractice became so rampant that some of the 2014 results were cancelled by Uneb, forcing parents to withdraw their children from the school.
That above saw a drastic fall in student numbers from about 800 down to under 200. The College also found itself in debts of Shs200m and dormitories became dilapidated. It was almost a white elephant.
But rather than watch their school get off the face of earth, the OBs embarked on a mission to revive the college to its past glory in April 2015.
Eight years on, over Shs500m has been injected into renovation of dormitories, sports facilities like basketball and handball courts, sponsorship of bright but needy students and facilitation of teachers among others.
This has seen the passing rate gradually increase from zero per cent in 2015 to 100 percent in 2022, and enrollment increase from 250 students to about 600 over the same period.
Emmex Turyatunga, the Principal Engineer at the Ministry of Water and Environment, is the chairman of the OBs association.
“We the Old Boys and stakeholders of the College,” Turyatunga shared with the Daily Monitor, “now have the strategies right and are on a mission to revive the College to the level of top Schools in the country such as St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Kings College Buddo and Ntare School by 2025.
“This will,” added Turyatunga, an OB of the College from 1990 to 1995 - who hails from Rwimi Town Council in Bunyangabu District, “reduce the current scramble for Kampala top schools by parents following the general decline of upcountry traditional top government schools countrywide.”
That is the hope of everyone associated with the great College.
Some of the notable OBs that have been part of the revival efforts include Ministers Tom Butime of Tourism and Godfrey Kabyanga (State) of ICT and National Guidance.
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Telecom engineer Kanji Patel in the UK, Umeme boss Selestino Babungi and National Water Managing Director Silver Mugisha have been and remain great resources to the cause.
Former Minister of Karamoja affairs Engineer John Byabagambi and Col Stephen Basaliza are among several other OBs holding the redemption lamp.