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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Teaching children of Uganda’s presidents

Go-getter: An outstanding educationist, loving mother and wife, Mary Mulumba has left her footprints in the lives of many in her journey of life, writes DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA

She has had the privilege of teaching the presidents’ children, but most remarkable about the life of Mary Mulumba is how she rose from being a nursery teacher to owning one of the most prominent urban primary schools in Uganda- Kampala Junior Academy (KJA).

Her big brother, Samuel Baddokwaya, believes his sister’s success has much to do with God’s favour and hard work. He still remembers a prayer she said at a Chr
Mary and her husband
istian gathering when they were still very little: “‘Me Mary, please God help me, Amen!’ And sincerely God has helped her ever since, because no one in our family has achieved as much as she has.”

Mulumba was born in Mengo Hospital, on Christmas day in 1941, the second of Rev. Canon Yakobo Gabunga Baddokwaya and Ruth Baddokwaya’s eight children. Her father was a teacher and schools inspector before he became a full-time minister serving in the Church of Uganda.

She remembers that their home in Busega was always full of born-again Christians and members of Mothers Union who often came for prayer and fellowship. She says they taught her to pray and sharpened her interpersonal relations and communication skills.

“I also learnt a lot from my father who often took me along with him to visit his friends, inspect schools and supervise some church projects. It was his way of teaching me hard-work and protecting me from bad influences by keeping an eye on me,” she says.

Attaining an education
Mulumba grew up at a time when the education of girls was not prioritised. Luckily, her father had a different perspective and educated all his children regardless of their sex. His mantra to his children was: “Get educated, work hard and look forward to a better future.”

When she joined Primary One at Buloba Primary School, she vowed never to disappoint her father. By the time Mulumba completed Primary Eight, she knew what she wanted to be. In 1957, she joined Ndejje Teacher Training College. She was impressed by how the college Principal, an English lady named Drakely, combined motherliness with toughness. This is the woman she aspired to be like when she left college in 1960 as certified primary school teacher.

Mulumba immediately got her first job at Mengo Girls School. Then something exciting quickly happened – she met the man of her dreams.

The love of her life
Daniel Mulumba had just returned from UK with a degree in Accounting. He was a tall, handsome man. At 25 then, he was suave, collected and a proud owner of a white VW car to complete his stature as the most eligible bachelor then.

At the time, it was prestigious for a young man of Daniel’s age to own a car. So when his mother asked him to drive her to Lweza on Entebbe Road to attend a meeting for born-again Christians, he agreed out of the love and respect for his mother, but also to show off his prized car! This turned out to be one of his best decisions because it is at that meeting that he met Mary, a dazzling 19-year-old beauty fresh from college.
Mary weds Dan in December 1960
A leaf from her journal of the time reads: “In 1960, I met a wonderful, educated, simple and quiet man called Dan Mulumba. We fell in love straight away!” They were married the same year, on December 17, 1960, at Namirembe Cathedral.

After the wedding, the couple moved to Mugongo, near Kyengera on Masaka Road. Four months after their wedding, Dan was offered a job in the Ministry of Finance and moved to Entebbe. Mary had to move back to her parents’ home at Busega in order to keep her job at Mengo Girls School. Later, she joined Daniel in Entebbe and got a job there at Namate Primary School where she taught for three years.

A great opportunity
In 1964, Mulumba was offered a scholarship by the Uganda government to pursue further studies at Stranmillis College in Northern Ireland. She was a young wife of 24 with a husband and three little children, but at the urging of her husband, she accepted the scholarship, and for three years, specialised in Infant Methods.

“Children found me so strange because they were not used to seeing black people,” she recalls. “One child wetted her finger and rubbed it on my arm to see if my skin was made of soil.”

When she returned in 1967, she got a job at Lake Victoria Primary School in Entebbe, as the head of its nursery section. This was a prominent school of mostly expatriate children. Mulumba became its first and only African teacher.

After three years, she was posted to Nakasero Primary School, where she stayed for a year before being appointed the first African Headmistress of Kampala Kindergarten in 1970. This was a school for diplomats and upper class families of the time. The school was located near State House. In the 23 years Mulumba worked there, she taught the presidents’ children from Obote, Amin to Museveni.

She managed to go through the volatile 1970s unscathed, considering many professionals fled the terror and dictatorship of Amin. Mulumba avoided politics. This and prayers, she believes, is what saved her and kept the school operating throughout those perilous times. She had learnt from her father that in life, if one is to make a difference, they must be willing to take risks and make tough sacrifices.

Life begins at 52
Mulumba’s success at Kampala Kindergarten attracted criticism from individuals who started making slighting remarks about her age and how it was time she moved on. She pondered the situation, and in 1993 decided to resign. She was 52 years with no idea that her life would never be the same again.

After combining her savings with her husband’s, Mulumba hired an old building on Clement Hill Road from which she started Kampala Junior Academy. Mulumba believes in the success formula of ‘Think Big, Start Small and Grow Big’ which enabled her to avoid loans and move forward patiently. She started with only nine children, but before a year elapsed, the number had risen to 200, thanks to her credibility.

Herbert Kijjagulwe who has been the Principal of KJA since 1997, says the current location of the school at Yusuf Lule Road was bushy with no clear road. Whenever it rained, muddy puddles would form and cause cars to get stuck. But this did not discourage the parents; they kept bringing their children. Today the road to the school is tarmac, the school has modern storeyed structures,more than 1,000 pupils and employs more than 150 staff. It has grown so that a kindergarten branch has been opened in Ntinda to absorb children from the age of one to four.

Mulumba says: “Three quarters of the pupils in my school are the children of the children I taught in school way back. I’m teaching ‘my’ grand children.”

By 7am, she is already at school, shaking the hand of each of her pupils, greeting each by name and speaking words of affirmation to them. At break-time, they gather around her like bees around nectar, freely playing on her laps, asking questions and telling stories. The warmth on Mulumba’s face says this is a company she would not exchange for anything.

“She is a mother to us teachers too,” Robert Kimuli Kaweesa, a teacher at KJA says of Mulumba’s heart of gold. “On top of ensuring that we get our salaries on time, she is helping us with school fees. We have our children in this school and we pay subsidized fees in small installments. Ms Mulumba is really an angel to us.”

As an educationist of excellence, Mary has won several awards from reputable organisations like Rotary Clubs, Nile Breweries and the Nabaggeka Trust among others. Her biography titled; Woman of Action was launched on December 14, 2013, by Her Royal Highness Sylvia Nagginda, the Nnabagereka of Buganda.

--Saturday Monitor, December 14, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fathers, don’t abandon your responsibilities


 The recent sex-tape scandals featuring university students left many parents wondering what they must do to stop the bug of promiscuity and shamelessness from sucking their children. Stephen Langa of Family Life Network, says the antidote is in parents, particularly fathers taking up their positions to train their children in the right path and they will not depart from it when they grow up.

Mr Stephen Langa and his wife
The family life counsellor and sexual-purity crusader was the key speaker at a recent Men’s Convention organised by the Men’s Ministry of Makerere Full Gospel Church. Langa says immorality and general corruption is linked to the absence of mentors and true fathers in our society. Materialism has led fathers to relegate the role of parenting to househelps in a bid to make more money.

 “Expensive toys and flat TV screens beaming Cartoon Network 24/7 make children rootless and weak,” Langa said, adding that the role of a father is to raise God-fearing, autonomous, responsible and productive children.

He proceeds to give essentials of true fatherhood that will help the nation to raise responsible children who will protect the moral fibre of the nation. Fathers need to create time from their business and ‘busyness’ for their family. Most of them leave early and return late all week through. And on weekends they are busy talking and watching soccer, and squandering time in bars. Long gone are the days when parents and children used to enjoy the closeness at the dining table as they had supper together. Such days must resurrect. As someone said on Facebook, “If you can find time to make children, you should find time to spend with them.”

Attend visiting days at school, celebrate your children’s birthdays, call a photographer and pose for pictures together and have one-on-one time with each of your children at least thrice a week. And then they will not grow up seeking attention and love which makes them susceptible to wrong elements.

Langa also advises fathers to make conscious decisions to be good fathers.

“It will cost you a lot; it involves self-sacrifice but it is worthwhile,” he says, “It’s the pride of every parent when children grow into responsible citizens who cannot get easily compromised, and with integrity love to play their role in building the nation.”

Fathers, teach children the right path and when they grow up they won't depart from it
He adds that fathers need to discover themselves; know their strengths and resolve weaknesses. This tip is essential to prospective husbands and fathers particularly those who were brought up in broken homes. They don’t want to make the mistake of carrying the baggage of the past into their marriages and loading it onto their wives and children. Part of discovering yourself, says Langa, is accepting who you are, which will give you the confidence to face the responsibilities and challenges that come with fatherhood.

“Do yourself and your children a favour by loving their mother,” Langa advises, adding that when your children know that you love their mother, it gives them inner stability, security, confidence and joy essential for them to perform well in everything they do. A good father should have the discernment to understand the emotional needs of his children.

Langa says some fathers make the common mistake of discriminating against their children depending on their talents and intelligence.

“Children need unconditional love. Speak words of affirmation and always encourage them to give their best because children need a sense of self-worth that comes from seeing you value them.” 

Moreover, 80 per cent of what children know is learnt through observation and imitation. If you curse and handle people roughly and disrespectfully and tell lies, be sure your children are bound to emulate you. Therefore, be everything you want your children to be: honest, hardworking, generous, kind, and all those ideals, well knowing that tough lectures are not effective compared to demonstration.

It is also essential for fathers to get equipped with good parenting tips by attending men’s conventions. Iron sharpens iron, so it takes a man to build another. By learning from each other, they can go a long way. There is also a lot to learn from books on fatherhood and from the internet.

Felix Laiti, father of six confesses that he does his best to talk to his children:  “Whenever I am home, we talk and they have a myriad questions whose answers are not as easy but I answer,” he says. “Talk with rather than talk at or down your children.”

Langa agrees as he advises men to be approachable: “Do not be the type of fathers whose children run away when they enter the sitting room. Hold a conversation with your children, be a good listener and know what their little fears and triumphs are. They love it.” 

Great fathers run their homes using Biblical values and principles. These include love, kindness, honesty, hard work, generosity, patience, forgiveness and related virtues.

“If you apply the positive values given in God’s word,” concludes Langa, “fatherhood will be a blessing.”

--Sunday Monitor, November 24, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cashing in on arts, cultural opportunities

House of Talent East Africa’s chief executive officer is a performing arts entrepreneur who is making money by nurturing creativity to preserve Uganda’s cultural heritage. He also wants to ensure the transfer of cultural assets and values from one generation to another through expressive cultural arts such as storytelling, writes DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA.

For many would-be entrepreneurs, finding the true profession occurs in the hour of need.
Andrew Lwanga Ssebaggala had never appreciated those words until December 2008 when the donor-funded projects he had been managing under the Uganda Theatre Network (UTN) ended their lifecycle.

Ssebaggala shows off the Award he scooped after his business proposal was voted the best business plan by Private Sector Foundation. Photo by Rachel Mabala.
Instead of pushing the panic button, Ssebaggala established House of Talent East Africa (HOT)—a cultural and performing arts company to create employment and enhance the appreciation of the role of culture in national development.

“I started in January 2009 with about Shs1.2 million which was part of my savings. I used this to hire working space, and buy cultural instruments like a set of drums, xylophone, shakers and a few costumes,” he says.

Ssebaggala then combed for multitalented youths: actors, dancers, instrumentalists, singers, writers, poets, producers and motivational speakers because he was determined to make HOT a one-stop shop for all live arts with tailor-made services where a client would walk in and have all their entertainment needs met. This quickly gave HOT an edge over the competition.

The 33-year-old who holds a Makerere University diploma in Music, Dance and Drama, and a Human Resource Management degree from Makerere University Business School (MUBS) is a city-born whose first job was a bar attendant.

While at Makerere University, he worked as a freelance reporter for Sanyu FM and Radio Maria. He also worked as a general manager for Kingdom FM. He also performed with Abu Kawenja’s Adzido Performers, and taught music, dance and drama in primary and secondary schools during his vacations – which all combined to refine his management and communication skills, giving him vast knowledge of the arts and culture sector.

With that diverse experience and professional expertise, it did not take long for Ssebaggala to win credibility as an arts manager and entrepreneur. He was the manager of this year’s arts projects UMOJA Cultural Flying Carpet Uganda, NUVO Arts Festival and Alfajiri Productions’ Silent Voices.

HOT employs 34 artists who have performed at State, corporate and private functions. This year, the ensemble was the key performer at the National Heroes celebrations in Nakaseke. This elicited a standing ovation, handshake and an ‘envelope’ from President Yoweri Museveni. The group has also performed at local and foreign festivals alongside live bands and world music artistes like Ndere Troupe and Joel Sebunjo, hypnotising foreign and local audiences with live cultural music played on traditional instruments, accompanied by the dances and songs.

Alongside the provision of a complete cultural package from all regions of Uganda, HOT also offers short training in music, dance, drama to individuals, organisations and schools. It has public address/music systems for hire and offers audio and video production services that continue to attract clients in entertainment circles.

 “Today, our business is worth more than Shs300 million as per our latest balanced sheet. Talking of the balance sheet may sound surprising in the arts business, but we audit our books to be professional in all we do,” says Ssebaggala.

Turning point
Ssebaggala’s dictum is ‘Good art makes good money and good money makes good art.’

“So, I always encourage my team to be innovative but remain true to our cultural expectation and authenticity. Quality matters in this business as in any other. We package our artistic products professionally,”
Ssebaggala says. It is no wonder that organisations such as the Certified Public Accountants of Uganda, ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, State House, Office of the President, Lions Club International, the Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda, and the Uganda Coffee Federation, among others, have engaged their services for more than three times because they get value for money.

Ssebaggala’s real turning point was when he won the 2010 Start-Your-Business competition organised by the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda. His business proposal was voted the Best Business Plan and won him about Shs126 million ($50,000) which he injected back into HOT.

A year later, HOT got another award during a cultural gala organised by the Uganda National Cultural Centre as the best performing group and the best arts and culture service provider.

Future prospects
Determined to avoid the fate of business founders whose businesses die with them, Ssebaggala sold some shares in his company, but retains the title of chairman and executive director of HOT. He says, “HOT is not a one-man show like other arts organisations, but has shareholders who are directors.”

He shares the model that his company has adopted, “We have devised a robust system and management to operationalise the strategic and business plan of the company. We have a formidable system and clarity of where we want HOT to be and who is responsible for what.”

He is optimistic that in the next seven years (2014 to 2020), the company will have an “artistic centre with professional facilities including a 2,500-seater auditorium, dance studio, art gallery, audio-visual studio, cultural arts library, training rooms, gym, open-air theatre, and housing for resident performers and staff.”
The company will also have the capacity to fully employ at least 50 artistically talented youth as full arts professionals with salaries and not just allowances, well trained in both technical aspects of the arts and business operations.

“We shall also start the plan of opening HOT Centres in the Northern, Eastern, Western and South western parts of Uganda, and finally be among the top 100 tax payers – which will be a wake-up call to government to prioritise arts and culture and invest in it.”

The potential of Uganda’s arts and cultural industry
According to the Ugandan Constitution, the country has 65 tribes to draw from yet Ssebaggala says not even an eighth of these have been tapped. The industry has more than 100 cultural troupes and drama groups, each comprising more than 20 artists, more than 50 direct cultural institutions, many musicians, bands, events companies, production studios, fine artists and craft makers, music, dance and drama teachers.

“This is a big constituency that one cannot take for granted. Cultural industries have the potential to greatly reduce the unemployment problem in Uganda, and improve the livelihood of the marginalised, the poor and the vulnerable,” Ssebaggala says. “Cultural artists also promote all the aspects of our cultural heritage that attract tourists and widen our revenue base. They also play the educational and sensitisation role as they facilitate community action against practices that impinge on human dignity.”

Yet the industry is still beset by insufficient skills especially in management and marketing of artistic and entertainment services; lack of all required music equipment, training facilities and transport means plus limited exchange with other professional entertainment groups outside Uganda.

Others include limited access to professional venues for artistic performances; many unregulated entertainment groups; little interest from private business sector; limited access to information on the industry; few theatre schools for further training; non-operational cultural policy and copyright law; insufficient funds allocated for the arts and culture sector all compounded by the poor perceptions on arts and entertainment as a profession.

But who is to blame for the industry’s negative perception? “All the unprofessional acts are rooted in the fact that there is nobody setting the standard for us to follow, strategise and plan for the industry to become robust with well-trained and disciplined artists who respect professional ethics and earn well from the industry,” says Ssebaggala. “We need to know the exact number of the players so that the relevant bodies can plan for the industry.”

Ssebaggala is already setting the precedent for professionalism at HOT by implementing what he describes as “Continuous Professional Development – an important concept in the arts and culture realm.”

It is because of his faith in Uganda’s arts and culture industry and the lack of professional arts managers that Ssebaggala is pursuing a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA), positioning himself as a professional arts manager.

“I also do a lot of self-education with the bias in the arts and culture since I am now confident that this is my calling and purpose for living,” he says. “All our efforts should revolve around the need to have a higher rank for culture on the national agenda."

--Daily Monitor, Tuesday, November 12, 2013 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Writivism: Meet the finalists

Writivism sought for unpublished fictional works from young writers aged between 15 and 25 years on topical issues of concern to society, stories able to inspire positive change in our communities. Forty-three entries were received for the inaugural young Writivism writers’ competition with only 23 making it to the final shortlist. DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA brings you reviews of the top 5 stories which will be made available on the Daily Monitor website, and Facebook page, next week. To vote for the top three, go to

“Together” by Kathryn Kazibwe
An older sister, driven by the jealousy of not being as much loved as her young sister, abandons her dying mother and returns two years later after losing her own child. In a society where the older are expected to take care of the younger, there is an interesting twist as little sister is forced by circumstances to forgive and forget the pain of abandonment and console her now remorseful big sister. When they finally embrace, they realise how much they have needed each other, and they know nothing can part them again.
On being a finalist Kazibwe says, “It feels surreal! It has been a lot of hard work; writing and rewriting with the help of my mentor Beatrice Lamwaka. That I’ve come this far is pretty satisfying. However greater things lie ahead; I’ll keep writing and have a ball while at it.”

“Picture Frames” by Anthea Paelo
This is not just a story about a mourning mother but also about a father who is embittered more by his dead son’s sexual orientation than his death. The fact that Okello is a homosexual who has committed suicide does not change his mother’s love for him. She clings to everything that reminds her of him, including the cot he slept in as a baby. But her husband, Daudi, is fed up and wants her to get rid of those things because keeping them is like “living with his ghost”.
“He was a homosexual. We are better off without him,” he tells her. Will Rose ever forgive him for saying that? Even more, will she overcome her grief and find herself again? A powerful, subject-driven story that leaves you torn on who to empathize with between Rose and Daudi. Anthea says, “It’s a great feeling being a finalist. It’s one thing to think you are a storyteller, it’s another thing when someone else tells you you can be really good at this. It’s a validation of sorts, and I’m grateful to the judges.”

“Emotional Rollercoaster” by Paul Kisakye
Another story on homosexuality. When a battered woman, Sanyu, comes to seek solace from her homosexual friend David, they end up dancing to Maurice Kirya’s music: “…I wrapped my arms around her and we swayed to the smooth ballad. We continued dancing to four or five other songs until Sanyu asked me a question that caused my heart to stop beating: “Why can’t you be straight, just for me?”
Sanyu then undresses David and they kiss. By the time David gets his senses back, this reality confronts him: “I was naked. I was not alone in bed. And the person on the other side of the bed was not Joel. It was a girl. A stunningly beautiful girl with lips slightly curved in a dreamy smile.” Call it a story of a homosexual who is compelled to question his sexual identity. “It is a privilege being a finalist,” says Kisakye. “It has confirmed to me that I’ve potential as a writer. Get ready to read more of my writing in the near future”

“The Shadow” by Emmeline Bisiikwa
A First-Person narrative on the familiar theme of love, betrayal and revenge. Jess pours everything into her marriage to Danny but he still leaves her, saying his mistress is “ten times the woman” she shall ever be. It transpires Danny wants a son yet all Jess has given him are daughters.
The words “hell has no fury like a woman scorned” are lived out as Jess sets her husband’s house on fire and leaves. The power of this story is in the perfect use of verbs, making it rhythmic and enjoyable to read.
“It’s delightful being a finalist,” says Bisiikwa. “Working on this story was a challenge but my mentor, Ukamaka Olisakwe was a genius and together we managed to make the story work. The competition and mentoring process has helped me grow as a writer, so I intend to keep getting more stories out there.”

Side Walk” by Nassanga Rashidah Sarah
Life on the streets is brought to life in this story. It reveals what drives people to the streets. For example, Kama, an albino and her little brother Timmy had no option after their parents were lynched on orders of a witchdoctor because “in a backwater village of perfectly black people, two children with rare health conditions equalled sorcery.” Then there is Mamadou, a perfectly healthy mother of twins who goes to the streets because it is the easiest way of earning quick bucks. In fact she hates that she has competitors in Kama and her brother. What follows is a power struggle; one party must liquidate the other to enjoy the monopoly of beggary.
A memorable story with all the earmarks of great story-telling; fast-paced, twists and turns, tangible conflict all convincingly bringing out the idea of survival for the fittest, or the smartest – if you want! “I’m humbled being a finalist,” says Rashidah. “It was my first competition and I entered solely for the experience and skills. I never expected to get this far, at all. Whether I win or not, I’m definitely going to write some more because writing is such good therapy; I want everyone to experience it.”

--Saturday Monitor, August 10, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Planting seeds of ambition


The story of Alice Nkole suitably captures the common expression that what does not kill you makes you stronger. As she traverses Ugandan schools spurring young people to higher purposes, it is difficult to accept that at the age of 14, she was falsely accused of something that nearly shattered her life.

It started with rumour spreading wildly through the school that little Alice, at 14, was HIV/Aids positive. This was in 1993 when the stigma surrounding the infected was extreme. How was a Senior Two teenager supposed to defend herself?
Alice Nkole in Dallas
Nkole decided that silence was going to be her defense. For eight years, she kept quiet while the countdown (to her death) was on: “To make matters worse, every little sickness put me down because of the emotional drain. By the time I completed high school in 1997 at Immaculate Heart Girls Secondary School Nyakibaale in Rukungiri, I looked like a typical HIV/Aids patient. The only thing I did not display was mental sickness.”

Finding herself
It is this mental strength that kept her in school despite the resentment, stigma and rejection. Night after night, tears drenched Nkole’s pillow. She prayed for death that never came, but later realised God knew she was innocent and intended to use her experience to help others discover their true worth in spite of the debilitating circumstances they might have encountered.

The empowerment of others however did not begin immediately. Nkole went to Makerere University to study Social Sciences, graduated in 2000 and could not find a job until 2002. For three eyes, she toiled away in an Indian shop for a salary that could barely meet her basic needs.

With mounting frustration, she decided she was better off suffering in a foreign country where no one knew her than staying in Uganda. She filed an application to the University of Dallas in Texas for a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Luckily, her expansively-hearted brothers and sisters chipped in and got her a ticket and part of the tuition.

Thus one day in 2007, she found herself on a plane for the first ever time, with only Shs60,000 in her purse, and an incomparable excitement, for she knew that somehow things would work out for good.

Taking a leap of faith
In Dallas, her first mission was to find a job, but heard that international students were not being hired anymore. “But I believed in exceptions, so I confidently approached Melissa Ellis who was in charge of Graduate Assistantships and told her I badly needed the job otherwise I would die.”

To Nkole’s delight, she was granted an interview. The first question was if she had a car. Texas has no walk-ways. Everyone owns a car. The panel was worried how she would be getting to work. She told them her strong legs were her best car, and reassured them to sack her the day she reported to work late.

“What had began as a laughing matter at a Ugandan girl who walked to work ended up being the inspiration as other students began to believe in their ability to walk too,” she says mirthfully. “The 30-minute walk became a treasure that I would forever cherish as it turned out to be my refilling moment; the only personal time with God I ever had off the busy schedule.”

A job in Disney World
After her Masters, she landed an intern position at Walt Disney World in Florida: “This is the largest single site employer in North America with more than 70,000 employees. So I gave it my best. In addition to getting valuable experience in business management, I wanted to paint a new picture with a pleasant colour that black people are not lazy, but that we are in fact very hardworking, professional and honest even in small things. I wanted to show everyone that we have goals and dreams to achieve just like everybody else.”

For her outstanding performance, Nkole was within three months promoted and appointed to handle one of Disney’s entities: the Disney Publishing Worldwide where the girl all the way from Bugangari in Rukungiri had great experiences competing with the cream of America’s professionals.

Arousing abilities
The four challenging albeit rewarding years of her life abroad were all she needed to fully discover her purpose in life. In 2011, she returned and founded the Sense of Value and Purpose International Network, to help those who have lost their sense of value and purpose get it back. With the ability to identify with all kinds of people and backgrounds, nothing was going to stop her.

“We are busy arousing people’s abilities and planting new seeds of ambition to a twakowa (tired) generation,” she says. The Network has so far been to 18 schools including Gayaza High School, Comboni College Kambuga in Kanungu and to Makerere University among others, where she has been shocked by the fears and insecurities of the unloved.

Alice inspiring students of comprehensive college
“Many youth have been left to figure out life on their own; they are not told what to expect or how to face this challenging life optimistically,” she says. “The youth are not getting inspiration and the emotional support to believe in themselves, be positive about life and understand that making mistakes is not the end. And that is the gap I’m trying to close with the little that I am doing.

To reach out to as many people as she can, Nkole recently released a book titled Seeds of Ambition rallying all to rise above life’s obstacles and refuse to be entangled in the rat race of meaningless, superficial, empty living, but rather to quickly find the authenticity, determination and enterprise that distinguishes the great.

“Work like you are the top-paid person in the organization; work like you earn USD 100,000 a month; work like a manager of your own enterprise – giving it the best you can,” she advises fervently, “and never even ever think of quitting because quitters are never winners!”

--Sunday Monitor, July 21, 2013

Literature icon gone


On the morning of July 20, the literature fraternity woke up to the heartrending news of the death of Victor Amos Byabamazima, 71, a man whose contribution to the education sector and publishing industry in East Africa was outstanding.

The late Victor Amos Byabamazima
An affable and loving man with a subtle sense of humour and quick wit that captivated those with whom he interacted, Byabamazima taught English and Literature in Ugandan and Kenyan schools before distinguishing himself as an author and publisher.

“The sun has set over one of the finest minds of his generation. Victor was a teacher and educationist by profession, but over the years, his search for intellect turned him into many other disciplines. “He became an administrator, a novelist, playwright, a literary critic, editor, publisher and consultant. So intellectually active was he that even a few days before he was admitted into the hospital, he was in the final stages of editing a new play, and polishing up a manuscript of Rukiga proverbs and idioms,” said retired ambassador and novelist, Godfrey Mwene Kalimugogo who was a close friend of the deceased. “He was also a man whose deep and penetrative intellect ranged freely over many academic disciplines, thus he was at home discussing philosophy, politics, metaphysics, history or literature. He will be greatly missed.”

His contributions
Byabamazima’s writings include English Primer for Beginners (2000) and English: Vital Elements and Skills (2002) – text books for upper primary and secondary school levels respectively, a novel, Shadows of Time ((1999) and three plays: The Interview in Afrikatauni (2001), Roadblock (2006) and The School (1991), a satirical comedy listed in the Heinemann Drama series that enjoyed acclaim and stage performances in Kenya and was reprinted by the East African Educational Publishers in 2011.

“He was one of the pillars responsible for developing the culture of reading, writing and publishing in Uganda. He truly believed in the ideal that for Uganda’s cultural sector to thrive, it was best to create opportunities for indigenous authors and publishers to grow,” said Charles Batambuze, from the National Book Trust of Uganda (Nabotu), an organisation that Byabamazima helped found in 1997. Nabotu is instrumental in inspiring quality through its annual literary awards.
FROM LEFT: The late Victor Byabamazima, myself and Ambassodor Godfrey Mwene Kalimugogo
Byabamazima’s publishing firm, VB Services, focused on works of fiction and talent development. Its latest publication is Kalimugogo’s 2012 novel, Escape from Shadows. 

“He introduced me to the world of book publishing and spurred me to aim higher,” said Taddeo Bwambale whose short-story Die, Dear Tofa, won the 2008 Commonwealth Short Story Competition for Africa Region, while journalist and poet Lindah Niwenyesiga who worked under Byabamazima when he was the Publishing Manager at Baroqu
e Publishers (2008-2010) said:  “He was always there to guide me when I was still a novice in editing, and would also encourage young professionals to grow by sending us to attend enriching training outside the company.”

The deceased’s life motto was, “Always learn ahead.” According his brother Prof. Sam Turyamuhika, he even planned ahead his departure from this world by making peace with God.

Accepting Christ
Two years ago, Byabamazima gathered his entire family and told them he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. 

“All of us are in transit and each one of us needs salvation,” Rev. Canon Ben Mugarura, a childhood friend of the late told mourners during the requiem service at All Saints Cathedral, Nakasero. “Victor got it. He has even been having a fellowship in his home. We celebrate the fact that Jesus’ invitation to him was accepted and now he is with the Lord.”

When his prostate cancer took a turn for the worst, Byabamazima told his wife that he had reached the end of his short story. But to his five children, the gentle soul will always be remembered as a doting father, and his name will always be valued in East Africa’s education and literature.

--Saturday Monitor, July 27, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Poetry shines at NuVo Arts


It was a night of unity and diversity in the appreciation of artistic expression. The emotional performances and responses told of shared experiences - making the NuVo Poetry Night the highlight of the NuVo Arts Festival which debuted in Kampala on July 1.

Just why the festival organiser Coutinho Kemiyondo chose the theme “No Statistics Allowed” is intriguing, given the world’s obsession with “statistics.” Was it a veiled swipe at the “experts” to stop brainwashing us with “statistics” and confront the real issues affecting humanity?
Kenya's Checkmate Mido performing at NuVo Poetry Night in Kampala
 Whatever the case, the main performers that Thursday night, the Lantern Meet of Poets, were true to the theme. Founder member Raymond Ojakol told Saturday Monitor, “We were looking for poetry with fewer facts but with an emotional message that people can relate to, something that would cause them to think but mostly feel.”

The performances
That is how six of the 10 performances ended up tackling HIV/Aids; the confusion resulting from society’s perceptions, myths and their demystification, and tales of people who are living positive but can hold up their heads amidst the stigma.

Winnie Apio’s poem about a 16-year-old girl who was born with HIV/Aids and is struggling to find acceptance was moving.

“Sounds of hate” echo in her world as she drags “her loneliness like a tail misplaced at birth/not understanding why” she is so despised for a predicament she played no part in bringing about. Even Juliet Kaboneire’s dramatisation of For Seasons and Droughts, rich with imagery and colourful symbolism was memorable.

The poem is about knowing who you are and what you are and has this inspirational climax: “Wake up and live/Be that loud roar/ Of a never-ending wave/ That brave new voice/ You know what you have to do/Just be patient and wait/For good things come to those who wait.”

But it is Norah Namara’s poignant performance that drew rivulets of tears from the audience.
The monologue is about a 15-year-old whose gullibility makes her easy prey; she gets infected from her first sexual encounter and lives to regret it: “Society has deemed me worthless, serving as an example of what should not be... Though I must submit to the punishment, I will not allow to be counted among the statistics. With my scars, I will tread this earth with my head held high...With each tear that falls, I will tell that little girl in the mirror that is all going to be okay.”

So penetrative was Norah’s performance it ceased to be a stage-act and became real.
Yet it was a new experience to her: “I’ve not always been a performer in regards to poetry and drama. I had even planned on cancelling the writing and presentation because I felt I wasn’t ready; I thought it would be quite draining emotionally and I thought I would not pull it off as desired, but my friends from the Lantern Meet pushed me.”

Well, Norah’s perfect enunciation, timing and the ability to bring such affecting emotion to her performance could land her a major role on the small screen.

Peter Kagayi’s protest poem, Mr. Foreign Aid excited the audience. It is a personification of foreign aid as the evil, racist “Africa’s new Mr King Leopold” bent on exterminating Africans.

Identifying with the audience
Another ‘outburst’ came in from Kenyan writer and performer Ogutu Muraya. His charged presentation of Life Sucks got the audience up and echoing how life sucks indeed, because of the poem’s wordplay and how it captures issues that affect us all, from the hypocritical leader, to the fake education system and the unfairness of it all.

It was overall a night to vent, release pent-up emotions, and purge the souls of the impurities and frustrations this unfair world brings. Only art forms like these provide catharsis just as Kenyan musician cum poet, Checkmate Mido told me after his stirring performance of Tabasam, a song about a girl, a friend of his, whose artistic ambitions came crushing down when she got raped.

Even the veins on Ife Piankhi’s neck stood out as she moved about the room, accompanied by guitar strings, singing from the heart, begging her audience to “come, come closer” and “feel” the passions reverberating inside of her.

The showcases and the strong reception proved there is an unstoppable hunger; this new breed will not brook anymore about the things that affect them, but will through such art forms continue to speak out and spread awareness till they are heard and attended to.

This is what NuVo, which is an acronym for “New Voices” is all about -- it is about voices in the struggle for social justice.

--Saturday Monitor, July 13, 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013

How Ngugi wa thiongo awed Uganda's literature greats

On his visit to the Literature Department of Makerere University, Ngugi wa Thiongo left lecturers, poets and novelists awestruck, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

It can be overwhelming to be in the presence of a man you are deeply in awe of. But when the overawed are men of letters and professors, you cannot help rolling your eyes.

Ngugi in Lecture Room 4
Last Saturday was tranquil like it had sensed the significance of that day, but not even that calmed a party of writers and scholars that sat in Lecture Room 4 in the Department of Literature at Makerere University, fidgeting in their seats, chatting meekly and laughing nervously as they awaited for their distinguished guest.
When Prof Abasi Kiyimba stroked his greying goatee and wondered what one can say to a man of distinction such as the one they were awaiting for, Prof Arthur Gakwandi felt safer revealing he had just finished reading the man’s biggest and finest work, The Wizard of the Crow (2006).

“It is polemic. Ngugi has always been a polemicist,” said the author of Kosiya Kifefe (1997).
The door then creaked, and all eyes swung to the entrance. Yes! It was the renowned novelist, dramatist and social-activist Ngugi wa Thiong’o, right on time: 11a.m. The hosts stood up, clapped, bowed in obeisance and brazenly gaped—all at once.

Down-to-earth author
Ngugi has a peaceful demeanour and a saintly gait. He was clad in a collarless button-down white shirt with long sleeves slightly rolled back, grey trousers and black sneakers. Grey strands colour his receding hair and give him a sagely look. He is physically robust, with a bit of a paunch. Still, it is amazing that at 75, he had no walking stick. Is it because he is “down-to-earth”, as comedian Pablo humorously describes short men? Though the shortest man in the room, his intellectual height reaches the heavens!

That is why many were helplessly effusive in their praise. The first said he was unfit to untie Ngugi’s shoelaces, another said he could not believe the author was human while Audace Mbonyingingo, whose undergraduate dissertation was on Ngugi’s Penguin Modern Classic, Petals of Blood (1977), was overcome with emotion.

“With Ngugi’s fiction, there’s nothing to dislike,” he told Daily Monitor. “Everything is profoundly tremendous. When you read one, you must read the other because all his books advance each other. So when I heard he would be here, I could not sleep till I saw the writer.”

Even Prof Timothy Wangusa, the jocular author of Upon This Mountain (1989) was wistful when he talked about having joined Makerere University in the year Ngugi was leaving (1963): “I just saw the back of you,” he said of his misfortune, throwing the room into laughter.

Novelist Regina Amollo of A Season of Mirth (1999) was breathless about how she “came running from the village (Kaberamaido) after hearing Ngugi was in town.”

Dr Susan Kiguli who delivered a welcome message, was close to tears of delight as she gushed about how the Literature Department felt privileged to host their outstanding alumnus: “What is more thrilling is that we can lay claim to you and can associate you with this room in which we are and even more, request you to point your favourite spot or any fond memories of this room.”
Prof. Ngugi with the learned folks he wowed
With a boyish smile, Ngugi pointed at a seat in the centre of the room and said it is where he sat when first began crafting his first novel, Weep Not, Child (1964). The room shook with applause. His presence in the very room he sat as an undergraduate student in the early 1960s activated fond memories of what an intellectual and literary hub Makerere University was back then. There was a powerful literary magazine called "Dhana" that whetted his writing skills. The illustrious author recalled the Makerere Writers Club, the book exchanges, the impassioned discussions, creative thinking and the short stories and poems they wrote most of which were read and discussed on the BBC and Radio Uganda.

These were also the days of the Makerere Travelling Theatre, for which he wrote his play The Black Hermit, which was produced and performed on Independence Day celebrations in Kampala in 1962. In the same year, Makerere hosted a literature conference that was attended by Wole Soyinka, Langston Hughes and Chinua Achebe among other luminaries that provided him an unquenchable spark. At the time Ngugi was living in the “revolutionary” Northcote Hall (now Nsibirwa Hall) and was so active in many student activities which one of his former lecturers, David Cook later blamed for his favourite student’s failure to get a first class degree. He got an upper second.

Makerere runs in his blood
That explains Ngugi’s deep-rooted connection with Makerere. Moreover, his works are widely read and studied in Uganda that there is probably no former or current literature student unfamiliar with The River Between (1965), A Grain of Wheat (1967), Devil on the Cross (1982) and the play I Will Marry When I Want (1982).

At the Literature Department where he met the staff in the morning before his 2pm presentation in the Main Hall, Dr Kiguli disclosed that one of their colleagues, Aloysius Kwitonda, is often teased for printing out every little piece of information that comes out on Prof Ngugi.

“And those of us who were here as undergraduates in the late 80s and early 90s know that Dr Katebalirwe Amooti made all Ngugi books required reading, and how “Decolonising the Mind” [1986 essay] became a little bible of sorts particularly the chapter titled “The Language of African Literature,” she said nostalgically. “We all recall the labels our tutors gave you…although I am more fascinated by a label given to you by yourself in your article “The Myth of Tribe in African Politics”: as a literary humanist, and hope to hear from you…what it chiefly signifies.”

So do tell, why would the Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and English at the University of California, Irvine, not snatch every chance to return “home”? He was last here in 2004, and even on Saturday returned to his favourite topic of finding empowerment through a firm grasp of our mother tongues, and the language of the culture of our communities. He compared a person uninterested in mastering his mother tongue to an athlete who cuts off his leg before he competes in a race.

Ngugi was once described by a journalist as a “colossal storyteller with a resonant development message.” Indeed. He has suffered incarceration for his fierce criticism of bad leaders and social injustice. And in 2010, he was the bookmaker’s favourite to win a Nobel Prize for literature before he lost out to Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa (or was he cheated out for his revulsion of neo-colonialism?).

Anyway, this all is part of the inexhaustible legacy of a man persuaded that “literature is the honey of a nation’s soul”. It also explains why his contemporary and friend, Prof Austin “Mwalimu” Bukenya blushed when Ngugi praised him for “coming up with the concept of ‘Orature’ – now a critical term used by scholars who don’t even know its origin.” In turn, a beaming Bukenya presented him a “special gift” on behalf of the Department, honouring him thus: “You inspire, we aspire.”

--Daily Monitor,  July 5, 2013

Right on the mark but running ahead of times

Literature: With faith as his guide, Hillary Turyagyenda wrote 16 books in three years, something not many authors can boast of, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza

April 6, 2013, was the launch, in Kampala, of 16 books —a function codenamed “4x4” because the books were divided into four packs, each pack containing four books with interesting titles like God’s Economics, The Grand Scheme of Things, Miracles Don’t Just Happen, Days are Daisies, to mention but a few.

It is the first time this many books, by the same author, have been launched together in Uganda by a young man of 31 years. And these are not works patched together by the Nkrumah road printers. They are works of quality, published by the US-based company Createspace, and are available on in paperback at the average price of $12.

The author
Writer and Pastor, Hillary Turyagyenda
The inspired author is Hillary Turyagyenda, also a musician who plays the keyboard dexterously and has written more than 1,000 songs in the praise and worship category, and recorded four albums with 15 tracks on each. Little wonder that some of the guest speakers at the launch described him as “a man who is running ahead of times but right on the mark” – the spur to young people to tap into that dimension of doing things astronomically.

Dr Albert Rugumayo, who taught Turyagyenda at Makerere University in the Civil Engineering class, said, “he was always a top guy, always very cheerful and modest. To write 16 books of this quality in three years shows you what capacity he has – it really is phenomenal!” He compared Turyagyenda to the man in the parable of talents who maximised his talents and was praised and rewarded by his master (Matthew 25:14-30).

“He is highly motivated, disciplined and does everything with excellence and integrity. He has defined his purpose and is fulfilling it by engineering people’s hearts,” Dr Rugumayo added.

On top of his books and the music, Turyagyenda is a panelist on the radio talkshow, Concerning Spiritual Things, that airs on 96.6 Spirit Fm on Tuesdays at 8pm. He is also an associate pastor at Spirit and Word Church, YWCA, George Street, Kampala.

His life
The ambidextrous man was born in Entebbe to Sam Turyagyenda, an airforce pilot and Anne Kyomugisha, an electrical technician. As the first of five children, Hillary needed no prompting to grow up with a sense of responsibility. But like any child, he had his naughtiness playing out at Lake Victoria Primary School where he even joined Scripture Union to be near the beautiful girls therein.

But his true spiritual metamorphosis began in 1996 in Senior Two at Kako Secondary School in Masaka. There was a born-again crew in the school known as the “Upper Room People.” He was inspired by their knowledge of the Bible and unflagging belief that those who are in the Lord do “mighty exploits.” Turyagyenda got hooked, got saved and was soon filled with the Holy Spirit complete with the gift of speaking in tongues.

In A-Level at Makerere College School, Turyagyenda excelled and made it on government sponsorship for Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. It was in his first year at Makerere University that he first felt deeply within that he was going to become a minister of the gospel. True to his intuition, he resigned his professional job after five years to join full-time Christian service. The story of a young man of great promise quitting a coveted profession and a lucrative job at Shell Uganda Ltd, to preach the gospel dumbfounded most of his colleagues, relatives and friends.

“They saw it as signing up for poverty. But it is their insecurities that made them think so. Maybe they thought I would be bothering them, asking for money,” he says retrospectively, “But to me engineering was not it, and it’s very hard to go against your heart.”

His inspiration
It is also by heeding his heart that his writing began taking shape. It was during a university fellowship in 2001 that he felt driven to write devotionals and share them with brethren. He kept getting new insights and revelations as if God was telling him “write about this”, “write it this way.”

“There were bursts of inspiration reverberating inside of me —this fire that could not be quenched,” he says fervently. He found escape by spurting these inspirations on paper.

Today, he admits all the books and music have had a toll on him but whenever he sees the results, he rests and rejoices in what the Lord can do through an individual surrendered to Him. Turyagyenda recalls how he used to devour the works of American thriller authors Sidney Sheldon and Robert Ludlum of the famed Bourne trio.

Not wanting to embark on his writing technically unprepared, he read Plain English by Harry Blamires, which taught him the art of conveying his messages with powerful simplicity so that the principles of life he explores in his literature can be understood by everybody who can read English.

He attributes his success to “six faith-builders” headed by his close friend Ronald Niyonshima that provided an environment in which he flourished: “They are big thinkers, great believers and people of limitless possibilities that nurtured by faith, sparked my love for the Word.

“Niyonshima tended to see the unusual elements in me, and would prophesy over my destiny, saying, ‘I see your ministry growing exponentially. You can hardly shrink from any challenges when you are surrounded by people like these. They have been the greatest spiritual catalysts in my life and continue to be the source of the drive to excel and achieve more.”

His purpose
Everything he does, he concludes, is designed to inspire people’s faith toward receiving from God: “The Lord is putting us to saturate the market with these things which will build His people. I encourage people to support the ministry financially and spiritually so that they, too, can be part of changing and transforming lives.”

--Saturday Monitor, April 27, 2013

Caine prize anthology launched

By Dennis D. Muhumuza

For a true story lover, it is a great feeling being so near writers of fine fiction; listening to their diction and vocal modulations as they read from their works, watching their facial expressions, and wondering what notions rotate in their ever creative minds.

For that, Uganda’s literati could miss anything but not last Tuesday’s launch by the British High Commissioner in Uganda, Alison Blackburne, of African Violet and Other Stories, an anthology of 15 stories including the five short-listed for the 2012 Caine Prize, published by the Uganda Women Writers Association (Femrite), one of the eight co-publishers of the Caine Prize anthologies.

All eyes were on last year’s winner, Rotimi Babatunde, as he read an excerpt from his winning entry, Bombay’s Republic, a hilarious, albeit poignant account of a Nigerian soldier whose heroic exploits in World War II gets into his head so much that upon return he forms his own republic.

Uganda’s only flag bearer in the anthology, Beatrice Lamwaka also read from her story, Pillar of Love, about a lesbian who seeks to divorce her spouse because she wants to have children, but changes her mind when a date with the only man she has some interest in goes wrong.

The book launch was part of annual Caine Prize workshop – the first of its kind in Uganda – that took place from April 16 until April 25. It brought together 12 writers from seven African countries, with Uganda represented by upcoming writers: Lillian Aujo, Davina Kawuma, Hellen Nyana and Daily Monitor’s Harriet Anena who earned applause after reading from her work-in-progress, The Small World of His Highness, an exposé of the intrigues and sexual politics in Uganda’s corporate world.

“We believe in the intrinsic value of artistic interaction,” the Administrator of the Caine Prize for African Writing, Dr Lizzy Attree, said of the importance of the workshop. She meant a comprehensive interaction that involved serious writing, critiquing each other’s works and learning from the more experienced writer Veronique Tadjo and animator Pam Nichols – brought to sharpen the participants each who at the end of the nine-day workshop were expected to have completed writing a story for inclusion in the 2013 Caine Prize anthology to be published on July 1, 2013.

These stories are automatically entered in the 2013 competition. Hopefully one of Uganda’s four, will swing us back to the front page and save Monica Arac de Nyeko from the ‘lonesomeness’ of being the only Ugandan Caine Prize winner for her story Jambula Tree in 2007.

Not that we are doing that badly. Dilman Dila is on this year’s 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlist just a couple of months after Angella Emurwon won the 2013 BBC World Service International Playwriting Competition. It is clearly not by accident that Uganda was chosen to host the 2013 Caine Prize Workshop. Our literary stature is considerably growing from glory to glory, thanks largely to the consistent efforts of Femrite.

Although no male Ugandan writer participated, Femrite in collaboration with British Council, took the participants early on the day of the book launch, to St Mary’s College Kisubi to “highlight the importance of creative writing and literature to people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Femrite Coordinator Hilda Twongyeirwe, and “inspire the next generation of writers.”

The launch also coincided with the International Book and Copyright Day, which celebrates the role of books in civilisation and promotes copyright. Charles Batambuze, the Executive Secretary of Uganda Reproduction Rights Organisation (URRO) discussed the copyright question, urging all to respect the intellectual property of others by not pirating or even photocopying for personal benefit without seeking permission from the rights owner.

The combination of literature, at the launch, with other art forms like music and poetry performances is an acknowledgement that literature cannot flourish in isolation and that interdependence is important for the industry to develop. Spoken Truth freak and culturalist Nakisanze Segawa put up a rhythmic and forceful performance in Luganda, of a political poem about corruption and selective justice that excited many.

Then Ife Pianki who describes herself as “a poet who sings” first gave the artists some advice of sheer significance and timeliness when she challenged them to always “take creative risks and try new things.” She unlocked the emotions of her audience with a moving performance of a motherly poem on how to treat and not mistreat children.

Overall, you could tell the future for Ugandan literature is more promising. African works are likely to infiltrate every part and inspire the world to look at our works with new, profound interest.

--Saturday Monitor, April 27, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Secrets of Effective Student Leaders


Some leaders stop at serving and others take to grooming as well. Ronald Bills Agaba among the latter. The former Head Prefect of Mbarara High School, former Guild Speaker at Kyambogo University, former Chairman of Inter-guild Parliaments of Uganda and now a member of Strategic Leadership Forum, after failing to find a local book on leadership with relevant tips to help student leaders serve better, decided to do something about it.

Early this year he released Secrets of Effective Student Leaders, a 92-page book of sheer simplicity but rich with 51 tangible principles and secrets that student leaders can apply to excel. The book is also a passionate challenge to school authorities to invest in developing the capacities of students in leadership at all levels, and to parents to encourage their children to take up active leadership roles as early as possible.  

“I firmly believe the cliché that today’s young people are the leaders of tomorrow,” says the graduate of Procurement and Logistics Management, “but how much are we doing in equipping these young people with the necessary skills, knowledge and insights about leadership?”

His book is part of the answer that empowers student leaders to not just leave an indelible mark in their schools but to go on and influence the course of events in their communities and contribute to national development. This is something Dr. Ruhakana Ruganda re-echoes in the Foreword: “Though the author focuses on student leadership, his work goes beyond student leadership. This is simply because leadership exists at all levels of society as a necessity for social order, social development and resource allocation.”

Agaba’s book is different from most motivational books because he draws largely from his leadership experiences and what he learned from the challenges. He begins each secret with a motivational quote from an acclaimed leader or achiever around which he builds his ideas. For example while tackling the importance of good time management, he starts by quoting David Norris: “How you spend your time is more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can be corrected, but time is gone forever.”  

Like in any other field, those who excel at leadership are those who are deeply interested, he writes, “Student leadership is not about doing but being.” That without deep personal interest, one cannot serve the students’ cause effectively because he/she might bow out during tough times or make terrible mistakes.  “So before you think of entering this endeavour, hold a meeting with your conscience and ensure that your interest is the basis of your enthusiasm to serve fellow students…” 

The author uses hilarious anecdotes to drive some points home.  Like the story of a sub-county chief who on being served a notice of his impending transfer realised he had nothing to show for the 15 years he had served at the same station. So he hastily changed the direction of his office door as a mark of change. He uses this story to remind leaders to quit lazing and work harder for positive and meaningful change that will outlive them. 

Overall, the author gives a convincing coverage of open secrets to effective leadership such as self discipline, confidence which goes with standing for what is right, leading by example, respecting those you lead, forging unity among them and winning their allegiance, understanding your jurisdiction inside out, the beauty of delegating, the power of prayer, whetting one’s negotiation skills, how to let bureaucracy work for you, making friends and among others the importance of mastering the art of communication. He believes “failure to effectively communicate has been and continues to be the leading cause of unjustified strikes in most schools in Uganda.” 

Printed in Dubai, Secrets of Effective Student Leaders is devoid of the grammatical and factual mistakes that often saturate self-published literature. It truly is a timely and insightful work that our leaders and civil servants can learn a great deal from. But students particularly those interested in leadership will benefit more. As Gayaza High School Head Teacher Victoria Kisarale notes, “If all the students in leadership walked the talk in Agaba’s book, what a wonderful world we would have.”