A 13-year-old pupil of Uganda Martyrs Namilyango Junior Boys School, Ethan Charles Mufuma who became the first African to win Junior Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition (QCEC) since 1883 is demanding state recognition.
Nathan Mckenzie, the chief operating officer of the Royal Commonwealth Society officially announced Mufuma as the winner of this year's competition on September 28.
Mufuma's poem, Okware Our Pandemic Epic beat 13,050 other junior category entries received from children across the Commonwealth countries.
During the virtual declaration by the Commonwealth essay writing committee in London, Mckenzie noted that Mufuma's piece was unanimously chosen by the panel of judges ahead of the others because of its perfect storyline, natural taste, and exceptional facts presented in poetry under the theme 'Community in the Commonwealth.'
Now, Mufuma says President Museveni should not only stop at awarding sports gold medalists but also him because he also raised the Ugandan flag high.
"We see so many of these people; the Cheptegei, the Chemutai, Kiprotich, who have done it and have even come back with gold medals, so I also want to have that dinner with the president. I also want to be appreciated by the president or even his wife the minister of Education Hon. Janet Kataha such that they may also appreciate me for this unusual thing I have done. I have broken a record for my country, Uganda. Being the best in the junior country in Africa, and being the very first African child to win the junior category is something outstanding. So I feel I should be appreciated by the government especially the president because it will bring history in my life," said Mufuma.
Mufuma says when meets the president, he will ask him for a scholarship that will help him become a cardiologist. He wants to save the parents of children born with heart complications from the hustle of flying to India for surgeries because he believes he will be able to do what the cardiologists in India do, here in Uganda.
Sr. Immaculate Nabukalu, Mufuma’s headteacher, says it has taken 138 years for the first African to win QCEC. She says it’s worthy for this continental success to be celebrated.
"He's the first African child to win this competition started in 1883 but since that time, no African child has ever shown or proved that he has the skills of writing. It is 138 years, and our child of Uganda has won the competition. So we want to congratulate our country Uganda because when the results were being read, they didn't say Mufuma of Namilyango Junior Boys, the message was sent to the embassy, the high commission here in Uganda to say; 'Uganda has won.' So this achievement is for this great country Uganda, this achievement is for the continent that we must celebrate," said Sr. Nabukalu.
She says schools must stop putting emphasis only on seeing pupils and students pass with distinctions, but focus on developing all the children’s skills that will help them stand out whenever they go.
Moses Kibuuka, Mufuuma’s teacher says English language teachers must also help their learners to speak, write and compete. He says learners should also be made to love the language.
"If you trace the history of language, language is supposed to be trained and written. It is only that in Uganda, we limit ourselves to passing exams, and then that is the end of the success. So, this victory is telling the rest of the world that when you're training children language, let them speak and let them write and let them compete. Because when you weigh yourself on a competiting scale is when you can tell this is where I stand. So it is not a one-day thing that you come and bump into things and the victory is upon you. No, it is something you do with children. It is building, it is not like you complete the syllabus and then you bring exams. This is an art," said Kibuuka.
Mufuma says it took him over a month developing his award-winning piece 'Okware Our Pandemic Epic'. under the topic 'Tell a story of how you or someone you know helped others during the pandemic.'
The Queen's Commonwealth Essay writing competition is the oldest essay writing competition for schools in the world. Every year, participants from all Commonwealth countries and beyond, take part in both the junior category which has participants below 14 years, and the senior category of 14-18 years. Submissions are made by 30th June and the results take about three months to be released.
The winner and runners-up in each category win a trip to London where they spend a week touring different sites before gathering for the prize-giving ceremony. In Uganda, only 48 learners participated in the 2021 edition.
Sr. Nabukalu says other recognized writers from Namilyango Junior Boys are; Michael Victor Mugerwa, Verity Muwanguzi and Emran Mulindwa who are silver award winners. Hillary Ssekiranda he won a Bronze award and Humphrey Muwanga a certificate of participation.