The year is 1993. The holy cross congregation decide it is time to start a school in the mighty Wanyange village that can offer quality and affordable secondary school education to the mostly impoverished young people of Wanyange and the neighbouring villages.
Sister Mary Louis Wahler, offers to become the head of that imaginary school. She identifies an abandoned room covered by bushes in the same compound of the then Wambuuza primary school and decides that room will host the secondary school.
She finds a beautiful and highly inspired young lady - Jennifer Bakibinga Bateeze - who has just completed her diploma from a national teacher training college. She shows her the bushy structure, convinces her to be one of the teachers and verbally appoints her the deputy headmistress of the imaginary school.
The name of that school would later be Lake View Secondary School Wanyange, which later changed to Holy Cross Lake View Senior Secondary School. During its inception, Holy Cross Lake View SS was a school for students who either did not get enough grades from their primary leaving exams to qualify for the highly competitive schools, or did not have enough financial resources to afford the schools they wanted.
Also, those whose parents were too attached to the Catholic Church felt compelled to support a school they called their own. The school was, therefore, initially for what I usually refer to jokingly as ‘rejects’ or a last-resort school for students who could not be admitted in the regional elite schools. It was little wonder, therefore, that some of the pioneer students showed up in slippers and others in dirty and torn pairs of shorts to start their secondary education.
When filling in the forms for choices of schools to join after primary school, I remember my classmates bursting into a loud and prolonged laughter when I innocently joked that I did not have to fill in the forms since I was planning to join Lake View.
Before the Uneb results of the pioneer class came out, it seemed such a big joke and a sign of lacking sufficient inspiration to consider pursuing secondary education through Holy Cross Lake View.
Not many took the school very seriously until 1997 when the UCE results came out and Lake View emerged 50th in the nationwide performance rankings.
Since then, the school that was once conceived to provide affordable secondary school education to the local community would become very competitive to the extent of regularly dwarfing the historical schools in the region such as Busoga College Mwiri, Jinja College, Kiira College Butiki, Wanyange Girls, M.M Wairaka College and Jinja SS. To-date, any listing of the best five schools in Busoga region that does not include Holy Cross Lake View is an invalid one.
Suddenly, we are in 2021 and Sister Mary will be returning to the USA in a few weeks - most likely for good - after 54 years of dedicated service. Journey mercies and best of luck in all her future endavours.
While playing a central role in founding Holy Cross Lake View will remain the biggest highlight of her committed services, she touched many people’s lives in special ways. In addition to being a very hardworking headmistress, she was a caring and loving parent to many.
Sr. Mary was always patient to students who struggled to pay school fees. She started a program whereby the students who could not afford to pay the full amount had their school fees significantly subsidised in exchange for part-time work during the weekend and school holidays.
Many students - including yours truly - would never have completed secondary school without her initiative. Perhaps, the best way to sum up her kindness to poor students is through a Facebook post by one of the pioneer students - Ali Steven Mukwaya - who confessed that if it were not for Sister Mary’s kindness, he would now be selling bathing sponges in his hometown.
In addition to her commitment to ensuring quality education, Sr. Mary paid a lot of attention to discipline. She created a culture of discipline at school that whether you joined as a new student or teacher, you immediately soaked into the culture by default.
Both on and off campus, Sr. Mary always encouraged students to behave in a way that best represented the values of Holy Cross Lake View. It is little wonder that we were always the subject of scorn by students from other schools that referred to us as priests and nuns.
The author is a social worker.