Trial of building for the future

Author: Joseph Ochieno. 

What you need to know:

  • Never did I see the kind of school that did the rounds on social media recently, that school in Sheema District.   

On Thursday, January 13, John Odoi Ojaala-Opel, a fantastic economist and liberator against Idi Amin, was laid to rest on the rocks of Nagongera hill adjacent to Rock Hill Primary School in Tororo District. These rocks and hill are part of the original foundation of the early Christian settlements, both Catholic and Protestant that happen to constitute Nagongera, the small town. That’s my home. 

Mark and Ms Owor (read Prof Charles Olweny), Paul Jamwa (RIP), Vincent Olowo (my late godfather and P1 teacher), Okello and Odongo Miron (RIP), Ochulu Odwera (RIP), Yowana Obanda (RIP), Othieno Sore, Santhi Gangaram, Okoth-Othieno Mtoto (RIP), Noah Buler, the late father of my late HM Vincent Oboth, Fr Okoth (RIP), my grandfather Jeremiah Idonyo-Ojwang (RIP) and Victor Kobel, severally PS, now respectfully retired. These are some of the shapers of Nagongera. Because they were, as children we became; we were born, roamed Nagongera, went to school, grew and became who and what we are today.  

The charm, elegance and no-nonsense, but the community kept growing. The railway station, the trading centre turned township now. 

Yes, they were but, never did I see the kind of school that did the rounds on social media recently, that school in Sheema District. Most of you watched and if you did not, please borrow a friend’s smart phone. It is worth it; imagine I got everything only from my visionary faculties since I do not fully understand Runyankole. 

Clearly, if I recall my path through St Joseph’s Primary School Nagongera with all the support, love and stability that I had in my family; the commitments of my teachers, the collegiate friendship of fellow pupils; the scholastic materials, I doubt I would have been who I am today.

It is extremely unlikely I would have been as motivated as I was, remember I hold many records in that primary school and one of them was to never have missed school any day, any week, any term, any year from P1 until I completed my PLE. 

Of course, thank God that no tragedy occurred, that I never fell sick or certainly, not too sick to attend school. You make your own conclusions. And now I recall Miss Lucy Hagege, my P2 class teacher and the school teacher love of my life. So valued, how could I miss school or how could I dare arrive late; never! 

That’s early education, that’s foundation. I recall writing on these columns demanding that this NRA-NRM regime must end education apartheid in Uganda in part because Nagongera too (today), deserved a Harvard graduate. I repeat the same today but now wonder; that school in Sheema too deserves its pupils’ possibility of attending Mt St Mary’s Namagunga - on merit. I doubt if, under these circumstances, such a candidate can emerge. 

I know education, health services, environment and even major national infrastructure have been outsourced to private capital; that government has dismissed itself off critical roles, except existence, survival and only successfully delivering on major projects or programmes by accident. It is criminal. 

A new road (the most expensive in the world), between Kampala and Entebbe is subjected to a toll (luxury of rich economies), URA bosses boast of Shs250m pinched in fees within days yet UPC had Kampala-Entebbe and Kampala-Jinja as a strategic development conurbation backed by big transport and communication networks. Turns out even managing the toll is handed to foreign company, Egis, and worse, essential and emergency services vehicles were initially forgotten!

Then my good friend Frederick Golooba-Mutebi posted a picture of pupils having lessons in a classroom overgrown as if a cotton plantation and I wondered, is it organised theft or simply incompetence? Gates of heaven; Odoi is in but what a scramble tomorrow, you decide.

The writer is a pan-Africanist and former columnist with New African Magazine                     

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