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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