If its alumni have their way, Bukedi College Kachonga could be on the way back to its lost glory.
This was after the alumni joined some of the school management for a fundraising dinner at Imperial Royale hotel in Kampala, last week.
The dinner was called to raise Shs 150m to rehabilitate some of the school’s infrastructure and the academic performance.
Started as a single-sex school for boys in 1958, Bukedi College Kachonga was a parents’ effort. According to one of the pioneer teachers of the school, Enock Otukol, it was first opened to educate the children in the area.
“It was constructed using funds gathered by the locals and opened on January 28, 1958 as Kachonga Junior Secondary School. It served 71 students with three teachers,” the retired Otukol recalled.
According to the current head teacher, Sarah Okumu, the school is now struggling with a miserly enrolment of 168 students, from over 3,000 at the height of its performance in 1999.
“The school’s funding is low and maintenance is hard; so, we appeal to former students of Bukedi College Kachonga to come to our rescue,” she said.
Okumu, who has been head teacher at this school for one year, told the audience that they had plans to return the school to its glory days in five years. She explained that many of the teachers, who had overstayed in the school, had become a menace.
“They lack discipline, spend most of their time in bars where they discourage parents from sending their children to the school,” Okumu revealed.
“We have been told by parents to send these teachers away before they can bring the children back.”
She explained that the school would appeal to the education ministry to recall and transfer these teachers elsewhere.
Concerned about this development, the chairperson of the alumni association, Prof David Kabasa of Makerere University pledged to work to restore the school’s pride.
“This is my old school. I was there from senior one to senior six, and I owe most of what I have become to Bukedi College Kachonga,” he said.
Prof Kabasa is also principal of Makerere's college of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-Security. The school also boasts former leader of opposition in parliament Wafula Oguttu as another of its leading alumni.
In 1965, Bukedi College Kachonga was one of the 25 junior schools selected to be supported by the government. Under the Africanisation programme, the government invited indigenous Africans to head the school, which is how Nicholas Buyanda became the first such head teacher.
It was Buyanda who successfully applied for a change of the school name to Bukedi College Kachonga. During this time, the school’s fortunes improved tremendously.
Ben Francis Okello, who was a Mathematics and Technical Drawing teacher between 1976 and 1996, attributed this success to the hard work of teachers.
However, over time, the school’s academic performance deteriorated. By the 1990’s, the unending demonstrations and strikes affected the school.
Today, the school lies in ruins and is calling for support from alumni and friends. Alumni at the dinner raised Shs 17.5m in cash and Shs 20m in pledges.