Namilyango at 121: What serious Old Boys can do to their school

Author: Gawaya Tegulle. PHOTO/NMG

What you need to know:

  • ‘‘The moment students  enter Namilyango College, they become brothers for life” 

Even though it is many years since most of them left Namilyango College, looks like the Old Boys have never forgiven a certain Dr Peregrine Kibuuka for what he did to them; neither have they forgotten him. They still hold a grudge against him, which is probably why they are firmly branding him on just about everything they do. 

When the big bully, non-apologetically flaunting tough love, loudly and proudly swaggered into Namilyango College in 1986, he surely had no idea how lasting an impression he would make on his boys – who initially had reservations about him because of his no-holds-barred approach to management. 
He entrenched himself as the unmistakable authority on the legendary hill and he imposed his new style on Uganda’s oldest secondary school. But behind his iron fist, was a fatherly figure who spoke into his boys’ lives all the time and pushed them to succeed. 

Even though he is now gone, bless his soul, “the Kibuuka show” is still on: the latest instalment is a scholarship fund by the old students in his honour. 
“The Peregrine Kibuuka Endowment Foundation” is a fully incorporated entity, owned by both the college and the NACOBA – the old boys association – and seeks to ensure that no kid who goes to Namilyango ever suffers the misfortune of dropping out because of school fees.
Namilyango is a school that takes up only the crème de la crème of the nation, so it is doubly tragic when a bright kid has to leave a good school because his brains took him where his parents’ monies could not keep him.  Over the last few years the tendency has been to appeal to individual OBs in NACOBA to help under-privileged kids. 

But as the college celebrated its 121st anniversary, NACOBA and the college board agreed to setting up an endowment fund, similar to what the top universities have globally so that it can raise Shs1b to sustain this great initiative. That billion will be invested and proceeds used to fund deserving children.
A billion is big money in any language and might seem a difficult task, but we are talking about an old boys association that is unrivalled by any other in the country. Namilyango grooms its students into thinking as family, the moment they enter the college; and they become brothers for life. NACOBA is, therefore, a very tight brotherhood.

Over the last decade alone, NACOBA has worked to support different college initiatives aimed at improving the living conditions of the students. The dispensary is far better than most health centres in Uganda. The school dining was expanded, the dormitories are all renovated and tiled, a new college gate was built and the internal roads tarmacked, among other things.
A Sacco for the old boys was set up and has grown to assets of more than Shs4 billions to Shs5 billion in the last 10 years, with a membership of about 400 members. Health insurance packages have been developed for the OBs. Every last Friday of every month, the OBs meet in Kampala for a social evening and hold, once a year, the NACOBA sports gala, which is the biggest social event for the alumni. 

And while the anniversary celebrations on March 23 every year always gather hundreds of OBs back home, they are also preceded by the OBs spending quality time with the current students, days before, to speak into their lives.
The success of Namilyango Old Boys – as a family – can be a super case study for other schools to emulate: old students, properly socialised and mobilised, can be a huge asset to their alma mater. It also shows that when a school handles its students well, it is actually investing in its own future, because grateful students will always give back. 

And for parents, look carefully where you take your kids, because certain schools will always have the added value of huge social capital that your child taps into for the rest of their lives. Namilyango College is one such example. A lot of this has to do with what our patriarch Kibuuka infused into his boys. 

Mr Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda     [email protected]