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Kigezi High, The School That Was, The Challenge For The Future

Kigezi High School alumni descend the hills of Kabale this Saturday as the school marks its 100th anniversary.

While it may appear like another day of hugs, cheers, laughter, and bull-roasting the alumni members are using the occasion to rebuild the school so that it reclaims its lost glory.

Like the likes of Busoga College Mwiri, Nabumali High School, St. Peters College Tororo, St. Leo’s College Kyegobe, St. Joseph’s College Ombachi in the West Nile, St. Joseph College Layibi in Gulu or generally traditional schools, Kigezi High School suffered from years neglect right from the seventies.

Most of its dormitories were dilapidated and the academic performance was greatly affected. The school’s culture hinged on discipline, morality, and service as per its motto was a treasure destroyed over the last 61 years of independent Uganda.

The School boasts such prominent names as former Premiers Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda and Amama Mbabazi; and Justice George Kanyehamba. Makerere University Chancellors, Dr. Ezra Suruma, Professor, George  Mondo Kagonyera. Professor Augustus Nuwagaba, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, Major Generals, Jim Muhwezi , Henry Matsiko  Dr. Abed Bwanika, Munini Mulera among others in politics, business, civil service, and religion.

When old-timers and newcomers gather to celebrate the 100th birthday, old-timers will reflect on and remember the good Kigezi High School days and its culture that they, like historians, are trying to preserve for coming generations to enjoy.

Professor Mondo Kagonyera is one of those who have fond memories of Kigezi High School. He was at Kigezi High School Between 1953 and 1955.

He remembers that throughout that period, the Headmaster of the school was John Bikangaga, the man who chaired the committee that drafted the Church of Uganda constitution in 1972. Bikangaga died in 2006.

Bikangaga was the first black headmaster of a Secondary School in Uganda when he was appointed to Makerere College School. He was a top civil servant in the country.

Kagonyera remembers that John Bikangaga was the first Mukiga to get a University degree in 1952. Kigezi High School was founded by the Church Missionary Society.

It was based on fundamental Christian values so all the leaders of the school were Christians. Some of the prominent teachers at the School include the Zabuloni Kabaza who many older-timers at the school remember was strict, time-conscious, disciplinarian, and a man of integrity.

Kagonyera remembers that the Church had a strong influence on the School. “Therefore you had prayers every night before you went to bed. You would have prayers every night,” said Professor Mondo Kagonyera who served as Rubabo MP, Minister in the Museveni government, and Chancellor of Makerere University.

He remembers that the school had a very strong supervisory unit headed by Ms Hornby whom Hornby Girls School in Kabale is named after. “And all the teachers were qualified teachers. All the teachers had their houses on campus. Therefore the church made sure that everybody behaved themselves. You wouldn’t be allowed to bring alcohol on Rugrama Hill,” Kagonyera shared with URN.

“No smoking on the hill if you were a smoker you don’t teach at a church-based school” he added Asked whether the Kigezi High School and others in that category should go back to those levels of strictness in schools, Kagonyera said he doesn’t think we should necessarily be conservative.

“But I think it is essential to have discipline. Children if they are not brought up in a disciplined manner, cannot make good leaders. Hard skills are okay but hard skills without good skills are not good enough”

Reflecting on what may have befallen Kigezi High School leading to a drop in performance, and the breakdown in discipline among others, Professor Mondo Kagonyera said the foundation bodies especially the churches are partly to blame.

“I think the churches did not do what they were supposed to do. In my opinion. That is why you see in some instances schools that are associated with the Catholic Church in Uganda perform generally well. Is that true or false? I may be biased. Those associated with the church I belong to don’t do so well, at least in the region I come from. Therefore the churches have lost some ground in making sure that standards of discipline most important,” he said.

He is of the view that with soft skills, people should know that something is good or bad. “You should be honest, you should be hard-working and you should be prepared to serve other people. So that you would do to others as you would have them do you,” he said.

Sharing his observation of what is happening today where fresh graduates wish to amass wealth with few years of service, where corruption is the order of the day, Kagonyera said

“That is terrible. There should be a process in anybody’s growth. To jump from a schoolboy to a mansion owner in Kololo is not tenable. And that is what brings out corruption. For example in my public life, I have never asked anybody to give me a bribe,”

It’s not enough to be a leader if you have no moral authority.

Descendants of some of the schools’ earliest attendants and future students should know that if you have power, you should have moral authority.

Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the former Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, and Diplomat is one of the alumni and the patron of Kigezi High School. He was at Kigezi High before joining Mwiri in Busoga. He remembers that in the past you could easily go to any part of Uganda to study after studying at any upcountry school be it in Kigezi or elsewhere.

“Even today that should be the case. However, there are many schools. Therefore the urgency to leave Kabale and go to Pakwach to look for school is no longer the case. But I would strongly encourage Ugandans to expose themselves to the entire country,” he said.” Kigezi High School has produced people like David Bahati, Amama Mbabazi. Mondo Kagonyera. But its also produced like ndugu Kiiza Besigye. In this, this may reflect a very well-balanced education at that tender age. And then as they move on, people choose their direction,” added Dr. Rugunda

Across the country, there is a feeling that Kigezi High School was partly a victim of the policies of the NRM including the one that allowed the liberalization of the education sector to allow private schools whose owners have tended to outcompete the traditional schools.

Dr. Rugunda agrees that that may be so but in a liberalized society, both the private and public sectors should continue playing their role in education. “And to ensure that there adequate inspection and monitoring so that the education sector does not suffer because of this competition,”

AlfredKabuchu, the Chairperson of Kigezi High SchoolOld Students AssociationKHOSA said that apart from the infrastructure projects that the alumni have contributed to, the association has participated in mentorship and career guidance of the new-timers.

“We still have a lot to do where we interact with those who are unemployed. But we realize that it is an area that needs to be emphasized because when you provide guidance, you impact the young person’s life” he said.

Several members of the association spoke to URN that the most important values that Kigezi High has instilled in them are serving and giving.


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