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100 years on, Mwiri ‘mourns’ lost glory

Like many government schools upcountry, Busoga College Mwiri in Jinja district, continues to descend into oblivion in terms of academics and infrastructure.

The walls of the once grand buildings are peeling off, while most of the roofs are rusty. Paul Etyang who studied at Mwiri in the 1950s is very unhappy about the school’s status. “When I recall the glorious days of Mwiri, I feel like tears running down my face,” Etyang says.

Etyang, who hails from Tororo and was once the deputy Prime Minister, says Mwiri was the school every student yearned to attend.

“During my days in Mwiri, going to Makerere for what was known as higher school certificate was after O-level. You studied for two years at Makerere before doing preliminary exams where the university decided who would go for degree courses,” Etyang said. “But in the case of Mwiri, those who went for preliminary exams, all ended up doing degree courses.”

 

In his year, 1958, Etyang says, there were five students from Mwiri who sat the exams and all were given degree courses.

“That tells you how good Mwiri was. Gayaza had twelve students, only three ended up doing degrees; Kisubi sent 25 students, but only eight went to do degree work,” he recalls.

Royal and prestigious

Founded in 1911 by the Church Missionary Society under the name Balangira High School, in Kamuli, the school was meant for the sons of kings and chiefs. This later changed to include the sons of all Ugandans when the school shifted base to Mwiri hill where it stands today.

Many prominent Ugandans, including former president Milton Obote, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, Kirunda Kivejinja, retired Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze, Makerere University’s former vice chancellors Prof George B. Kirya and Prof Asavia Wandira, and justices Samwiri Wako Wambuzi and Dr George Kanyeihamba, among others, went through the school.

“In spite of the name Busoga College Mwiri, the school was then as it is now the most nationalistic school in Uganda. When I was in Mwiri, every single tribe, except the Karimojong, was represented and it helped to inculcate a spirit of national unity.

“This explains why, since independence, Mwiri has always been represented in the Uganda cabinet. Mwiri did not only give the motto to Uganda but the nationalistic appeal too,” Etyang notes.

Mwiri’s motto,  “Kulwa Katonda N’egwanga Lyaffe (For God and our country) was in 1962 modified into the national motto “For God and my country” when Uganda became independent.

Eng James Zikusoka, 84, who studied with Obote in Mwiri between 1942 and 1948, remembers Mwiri at the time as “a practical school, a school of workers, not kings and a school that was not selfish.”

Decline

The school’s decline started in the late 1970s following the turbulent days of President Idi Amin. George Ndiko joined the school in senior one in 1980 when “most of the school property had been destroyed” in the war to remove Amin.

“The general disorder in the country took over the school as older students started bullying the young ones. And, of course, when the young ones realized they were being bullied, they had to fight back. There was an air of anarchy as we fought the big boys,” Ndiko recalls.

Soon, the academic standards degenerated and discipline went down. This, coupled with successive head teachers who did not stay at the school long enough to implement strong policies, worsened the situation.

Student numbers soared from 650 in the 1980s to 1,200 yet the facilities remained the same. The school turned buildings such as the junior laboratories into classrooms to accommodate the growing student population, affecting the performance in sciences.

Dormitories are too crowded for the students to comfortably sleep in — with only one dormitory, Coates House, added to the school since it started.

Justin N. Kiyimba, a student from 1959 to 1964 and a former Parents and Teachers Association chairman in 2008, says if Mwiri is to reclaim its place, it has to restore discipline among the students.

“One thing I remember about Mwiri is the discipline, which was built on church foundation. That kind of discipline is not there today,” he laments.

“You were supposed to be on time for everything. When it came to cleanliness, we were very neat. With the white uniform, we used to change clothes every Wednesday,” Kiyimba says.
Mwiri Old Boys Association (MOBA) is on a quest to reclaim the school’s former glory.

On September 23, some old boys met at Hotel Africana, Kampala, and laid plans to mark the school’s centenary next year. They pledged Shs 26m to be used for renovating the dormitories ahead of the celebrations.

On the academic front, the school needs an overhaul if it is to compete with schools in Kampala and Wakiso. These new private schools perform so well that parents are reluctant to have their students at far schools like Mwiri.

“Mwiri no longer gets the kind of students it used to get. Back then, all the best students in the eastern region would put their first choice at Mwiri. Today, it’s a different story,” Ndiko says.

Prominent old boys (OBs)

Politicians

  • Dr Apollo Milton Obote
  • Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda
  • Kirunda Kivejinja
  • Henry Kyemba
  • Ben Wacha
  • Dr. Ekulo Epak
  • James Mwandha
  • Abdu Katuntu
  • Dr Frank Nabwiso
  • Igeme Nabeta
  • Martin Wandera
  • Avitus Tabarimbasa
  • David Wakudumira
  • Gaggawala Wambuzi.

Religious leaders

  • Bishop Misaeri Kawuma (RIP)
  • Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze
  • Bishop Jerome Bamunoba
  • Rev Canon James Zikusoka
  • Rev Canon Dr Tom Tuma

Educationists

  • Prof Asavia Wandira
  • Prof A. J. Lutalo Bossa
  • Prof F. Tusubira
  • Prof George B. Kirya
  • Prof. Livingstone Walusimbi
  • Prof Sam Turyamuhika
  • Prof Patrick Muzale
  • Prof John Rwomushana
  • Prof. James Ntozi
  • Dr Abbas Kiyimba
  • Austin Ejiet (RIP)

Business executives

  • Gustav Bwoch
  • Henry Lwetabe
  • Perez Bukumunhe
  • Silver Abwooli

Legal professionals

  • Justice Samwiri Wako Wambuzi
  • Justice Dr. George Kanyeihamba
  • Justice Fred Egonda Ntende
  • Francis Ayume
  • Alex Waibale
  • Chris Ayena Odong
  • Charles Opwonya
  • Daniel Ruhweza

Scientists

  • Dr David Kitimbo
  • Dr Fred Kigozi
  • Dr James Rwanyarare
  • Dr Richard Ogutu Ohwayo
  • Dr Daudi Muduuli
  • Architect Tom Kajumba
  • Architect Chris Mutalya
  • Eng D.P. Babinga
  • Eng Dan Wamuzibira
  • Eng James N. Zikusoka
  • Dr J. Batwala
  • Dr D. K. Kazungu.

Media

  • John Nagenda
  • Andrew Mwenda Mujuni
  • Daniel K. Kalinaki
  • lStephen Asiimwe
  • Fred Kyazze Simwogerere
  • Joseph Basoga
  • Henry Ochieng
  • Magemeso Namungalu
  • Alex Jakana
  • Eric Ogoso Opolot
  • Paul Waibale Senior
  • Simon Musasizi
  • John Vianney Nsimbe
  • Hussein Bogere

Once a Mwirian, always Mwirian

smusasizi@observer.ug

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