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Govt appoints Bro Mpanga SMACK H/M after lengthy negotiations with church

Rev Brother Simon Mpanga has been appointed the acting headteacher of St Mary's College Kisubi (SMACK), bringing an end to a standing rift between the Education ministry and the Kampala archdiocese.

In December last year, a disagreement arose between the ministry and the archdiocese regarding the appointment of a new headteacher following the retirement of Brother Deo Aliganyira after leading the school for seven years.

The ministry had proposed Brother Augustine Mugabo, the current headteacher of St Henry College-Kitovu, which is also under the Brothers of Christian Instruction, as the ideal head for the 116-year-old school, which is ranked among the top-tier schools in the country. However, the archdiocese rejected Mugabo's appointment, claiming that the ministry had not consulted them. Kampala Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere wrote to the ministry to express the church's preference for Mpanga.

The archbishop cited Section 8 of the Education Act, which outlines the government's obligations towards grant-aided educational institutions, including the appointment and deployment of heads such as headteachers and deputies. The section specifies that this must be done in consultation with the foundation bodies, in this particular case, Kampala archdiocese. 

Since then, the Education ministry and Kampala archdiocese have been holding meetings to resolve the disagreement. Dr Denis Mugimba, the spokesperson for the Education ministry confirmed that in a recent meeting under the leadership of Janet Kataha Museveni, the ministry accepted the appointment of Mpanga as the acting headteacher at SMACK.

“To clarify, Brother Simon Mpanga has not been appointed as the substantive headteacher at St. Mary's College Kisubi (SMACK). Instead, the first lady (Ms Museveni - who is also the Education minister), has advised that he serves as the acting headteacher while the matter is being handled,” Dr Mugimba noted.

According to other sources familiar with the matter, while Mpanga has been appointed as the acting headteacher for the time being, there are expectations that he will be confirmed as the substantive headteacher in the near future. These sources suggest that Mpanga's appointment as the acting headteacher is merely a procedural matter and that negotiations between the Education ministry and the Kampala archdiocese have already concluded in his favour.

Our reporters reached out to several school board members for their input on the matter, and they provided similar accounts. The ministry was opposed to Mpanga's appointment as the headteacher due to the requirement that the individual appointed for such a position should already have experience as a substantive headteacher. 

Currently, Mpanga is serving as “deputy headteacher”. The ministry also has other requirements that any nominee fronted by the church must possess. The PS says these are the ministry's standards for any person to head a traditional school at the level of St Mary’s. Other conditions are that the applicant must be under 57 years of age, have a spotless work history, and lead a school of comparable size in terms of enrollment, academic performance, staffing, budget, and infrastructure.  

But, sources indicate that the church showed some resistance towards the ministry's recommendation, insisting on their preferred candidate to lead the school until the last minute. As Mpanga assumes the position of headteacher, there is growing concern over the recurring issue of foundation bodies, school boards, and alumni rejecting headteachers appointed by the ministry of Education.

A similar incident is playing out at Kiira College Butiki (KCB) where former students have rejected the newly appointed headteacher citing his lack of experience and not being an old student of the institution. Mugimba says that this trend is causing concern at the ministry headquarters. However, the ministry has stated that they will be handling each school on a case-by-case basis.

"This is a critical matter. For now, the ministry will be handling such cases on a one-by-one basis whenever they arise. However, some arguments, such as the posting of a headteacher who is not an alumnus of the school, cannot be tolerated. Appointments should not be based on this factor," the spokesperson noted.    

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