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I also witnessed something memorable about the Mwiri prefects evident in their unique election process. Houses were sort of electoral colleges - house members elected their prefects and the chief house prefect was known as Head of House. A Head of House would apply to be Head Prefect  but then  had to be vetted by assembly  of outgoing and incoming prefects' body and " opinion leaders" among students before whom he outlined his policies and programmes for the school. Thereafter, he engaged with them  through a barrage of questions and comments from the  august body. On satisfying them (the body), he was forwarded to staffroom to be screened by teachers who then clear him to campaign in the houses. The Head Prefect-elect then appoints his cabinet from houses (constituencies) prefects. The teachers' only duty was to vet Head Prefects but the election of other prefects was left to students. Thus the prefects were empowered to manage their elective process and discipline of students independently through the Prefects Discipline Committee (PDC)."


In the past, P7 candidates were strongly cautioned against applying for a place at Busoga College Mwiri and a couple of other popular schools.  Only exceptionally brilliant students were encouraged to place first choice in these elite schools because of stiff competition.  This however impelled me to consider Mwiri as my first choice because I naturally like challenging academic environment.  I was also desirous of meeting the cream of the country and true to it only students on the selected computer list were admitted. There never used to be a crowd of vacancy seekers at the Headmaster's office on release of examination results. 
New Experience
I climbed Mwiri hill from the Nabikamba House 'salvo' in 1976 laden with my box and mattress. From the foothills, I doubted whether I would ever reach the hilltop because it looked too high for a little boy. But I was spurred on by the alluring and sprawling School Mess – a semi-storied complex sitting on the edge of the hill like a quaint castle. Climbing the hill was in itself an experience because it was a kind of ritualistic moment of reflection and spiritual renewal. 
 I was directed to Willis House built under a USAID project  and looked  more grand than Nabikamba. Willis House was an artifact  of sorts of  modern bathrooms with mirrors in each compartment and state- of -the -art lavatory. The cubicles were designed for each  S6 student equipped with a banco bed and two special banco chairs with a dressing mirror and reading lamp with shades hanging over reading desk; and a beautiful wardrobe.  I  was equally impressed by the system of each house carrying out its own orientation programme for  new members to promote and sustain their own subculture, but under the umbrella of Mwiri tradition. The older students talked to us about the house system; Mwiri's cosmopolitan and plural culture; and the school's elitist status we later learnt was adopted from Eton described as the most famous UK boys' boarding school in the world. It was renowned for producing statesmen - a model Church Missionary Society which produced Mwiri's Headmasters for almost fifty years, designed for the school. 

Mr. Keith Mutengu, an astute administrator, was Headmaster at the time and an Old Boy. He used to drive a cream Mercedes Benz and occasionally he (Mr. Mutengu) and the academic staff would address general assembly clad in full academic regalia. We used to marvel at designs and colours of various regalia won by some staff reflecting national and international colleges and universities from where staff had acquired their degrees and diplomas. 
At assembly, the Headmaster would tell us the story of Tom Brown's School Days, a novel by Thomas Hughes.  When years later I read this book with a critical turn of the mind, I saw in Mr. Mutengu a close parallel to Dr. Thomas Arnold, the fictional Headmaster of a Rugby School for boys, in his upholding traditions to help boys develop fighting spirit, Christian morality and idealism. The character of a  Mwiri gentleman, we were counselled, was reflected in saying daily prayer, observing honesty and playing  cricket.  Whereas much was done in development of character, the structure of the college was also discreetly constructed. The whole college plant was well planned which Mr. G.W. Semivule- Headmaster that was posted to Mwiri in 1998 from Ndejje Senior Secondary School in an interview with   The New Vision highlighted Vision 2000 for the college, acknowledging that  Mwiri in his view, was the best planned school in Uganda but needed conscious effort to  reconstruct it to face challenges of the new millennium.
Academic Staff
The school reflected a national character in all respects because of its meritocratic selection process which included the teaching staff. This provided an environment where every denomination or ethnicity was respected and integrated - be they teachers or administrators. 
The first class I attended was by Mr. Kirunda- an ebullient and bespectacled teacher of  English and well-read too. One evening, I called  at his  house adjacent  to Wako House on the western flank of the hill. I was struck by books on his shelf stacked with numerous titles of African Writers' Series and other  classics. He spoke with a drawling accent which amazed us the S1.  Mr. Kirunda was later to teach us again in S3 and brought  to class old and dusty copies of Shakespeare's  Romeo and Juliet which became a compulsory component of our English class. Years later, this was to become  an incentive in cultivating our academic sensibilities and  perceptions. 
Another wonder in S1 was Mr. Tanaguza, the French master. I used to spend whole lesson watching his goatee and lips as he articulated intricate French phonemes I hardly understood. And then comes Mr. Waibi Walubi, an industrious and benign Literature teacher. (He later relocated to Makerere University where he was a senior lecturer at the School of Education, Language Education Department). Mr. Waibi had quite a passion for Literature and the rest of us were caught in his charm. He loved Mwiri and worked tirelessly for the school.  Included on our O' Level Literature syllabus was Miguel Street which introduced me to V.S. Naipaul.  In my postgraduate studies decades later, this book became an influence on my MA dissertation whose focus was on effects of cultural transplantation. (I passed my MA in Literature with CGA of 4.30.)
 In HSC, I met Mr. Saturday, a rather introspective guy, and he used to drink a bit, but one of the sharpest brains I have ever met.  Years after I had left Mwiri, I ran into Mr. Saturday again in Kampala in the 80s.  He fondly, though patronisingly, called me "my boy" - reliving the old Mwiri nostalgia.
Father Mbotana, strict and uncompromisingly principled, also taught us Literature at HSC. Fr. Mbotana occasionally invited me for tea at their house near the Madhvani library, overlooking Lake Victoria and the scenic expanse of Madhvani sugar plantations. The grapevine had it that Fr. Mbotana had just walked out on the church and came to  Mwiri hill with his wife said to have been a nun. He taught us The Road by Wole Soyinka and his psychoanalytical approach though sometimes disturbingly philosophical appeared to be drawn from his theology background. The foundation he laid  cultured our thinking and generally oriented our philosophy in life. 
 Mr. Ndiwalana, Deputy Headmaster, taught us History in S2. I remember one time he asked us "What are types of government?"  My hand shot up and I blurted: "totalitarianism, authoritarianism, fascism..." The whole class had exploded into laughter and I was cut short. Mr. Ndiwalana was amused but polite in guiding the class that these were not types of government but systems. I bet the class laughed not because they knew better  but because of the windy and fanciful terms reeling off  my mouth flawlessly. 
Other teachers still  fresh in my memory were Mr. Kiwazi  and Mr. Mwesigwa (Chemistry), Mrs. Waibi (Geography), Mr. Serunjogi (CRE), Mr. Isabirye (Art), Mr. Ssali (Mathematics); Mr. Dibya (Physics). I will not forget Mr. Dibya. He was my Physics teacher in S3Y in 1978. I was from start Arts-oriented and science teachers were finding it difficult to motivate me.
One day, Mr. Dibya asked me to explain mechanical advantage in Physics.  I kept quiet for fear of embarrassing myself by giving a wrong answer. He had raised his voice and ordered me out of class. As I walked out of class, a sharp and painful slap exploded on my back. The class, again like in S2, shook with a thunderous laughter. (One thing needs to be noted: it was Mr. Dibya who foiled my bid for Headprefectship two years later when I appeared before the staff.  He sat in a sofa directly where I stood and asked "Are strikes in schools justified?" It was a puzzling question, which made me think Mr. Dibya had taken me for a rebellious person.  Perhaps that was why he had chosen the seat right in front of me. I failed to navigate around the question to the satisfaction of the staff and I was disqualified! 
Another teacher I remember was Mr. B.F. Kaggwa (Chemistry) a bit reclusive and not the ambitious type always jockeying for positions in school.  I was however pleasantly surprised when I returned to Mwiri as teacher in 1996 to find Mr. Kaggwa, the Headmaster of Mwiri! He told me that he was rewarded for his patience to remain on the hill when his colleagues went away in search of green pastures.

Mwiri teachers in the 70s and 80s were in character  were mentors, pacesetters,  role models  and professional. All the teachers were honest in their respect for the country's diversity reflected in their students. Again what struck me about  Mwiri teachers was their understanding of the liberal tradition that Mwiri fostered and never once did I see any teacher employ coercive tactic to prevail over the students.  Indeed, we learnt  at the time that to qualify to teach at Mwiri one would be closely vetted. Bishop Bamwoze (retired Bishop of Busoga) then Chair of the Board said: not every Tom, Dick and Harry could teach at Mwiri. In 1977, we used to interact occasionally with the retired Bishop, himself an Old Boy who kept reminding us that: Mwiri produces men; other schools produce results. With time, we had come to understand that in producing men Mwiri produced wholesome individual of intellectual promise and responsibility to his God first and foremost and the country. This was evident  in some of the distinguished OBs namely Professor George Kirya, Professor Asavia Wandira  both  Vice Chancellors of Makerere University,  and Professor Lutalo Bbosa who later became Vice Chancellor of Kyambogo. (Can it be sheer coincidence that a school can produce three vice chancellors of top-notch universities in an era?)
Another Old Boy was Wako Wambuzi, a long-serving Chief Justice in Uganda.  I remember him occasionally driving up to the hill in his official Mercedes Benz flying CJ flag; and when he stepped out of his Benz his dignified humility overwhelmed us.  Another noted OB Professor George Kanyeihamba came to  Mwiri in 2000  for Mwiri Old Students Association (MOBA) homecoming commemorating 89th anniversary of the school.  His lecture to the Old Boys described his Mwiri days and that of prominent Universities he had attended in the Diaspora; and his stint as government Minister and judge of the Supreme Court. These gentlemen among many others, drawn from all corners of Uganda, held their portfolios with dignity and integrity (true to the ideals of Mwiri) and we were proud that no whiff of ethical impropriety was ever heard about them in discharge of their duty

I also witnessed something memorable about the Mwiri prefects evident in their unique election process. Houses were sort of electoral colleges - house members elected their prefects and the chief house prefect was known as Head of House. A Head of House would apply to be Head Prefect  but then  had to be vetted by assembly  of outgoing and incoming prefects' body and " opinion leaders" among students before whom he outlined his policies and programmes for the school. Thereafter, he engaged with them  through a barrage of questions and comments from the  august body. On satisfying them (the body), he was forwarded to staffroom to be screened by teachers who then clear him to campaign in the houses. The Head Prefect-elect then appoints his cabinet from houses (constituencies) prefects. The teachers' only duty was to vet Head Prefects but the election of other prefects was left to students. Thus the prefects were empowered to manage their elective process and discipline of students independently through the Prefects Discipline Committee (PDC).

Headprefects and Headmasters

In 1976   Mr. Crispus Ayena, (currently UPC Member of Parliament) one of the most flamboyant Head prefects I have ever seen. He used to solemnly carry a fly-whisk in the fashion of Jomo Kenyatta (RIP) President of Kenya and he would walk around the school like some emperor. We learnt that in class he would place his fly-whisk on the desk and attend lessons. An incident to recall was the 1977 UN General Assembly Mock Debate that attracted top schools in the country  -Kisubi, Gayaza, Budo, Namilyango, Namagunga, Makerere College, Ntare, etc. It was the grandest school event I have ever witnessed. Mwiri's Kiyimba was Jimmy Carter of USA and his colleague Dambishya was James Callaghan of the United Kingdom. (Dambishya is now  a Professor in South Africa and Abasi Kiyimba is PhD and Professor of Literature at Makerere University). Namagunga's   delegate represented Golda Meir of Israel, though Meir had left office in 1974.  I was highly impressed (I guess many of us were) by her poise, beauty and intellectual prowess in examining effects of shuttle diplomacy of the time.  Ayena (had handed over to Basoga) but speaking as SWAPO observer delegate he aroused the audience as he waved his fly-whisk at the assembly to emphasise a point. After the debate, several schools especially girls were scrambling for a photo opportunity with the Mwiri delegates whose knowledge about nuclear proliferation with regard to SART, SALT I and SALT II  was breathlessly classless. All Mwiri Head Prefects I had known for the six years were noted debaters because to be elected HP your academic ability and communicative competence skills were put under intense scrutiny. (Teaching staff with their families would attend some of the debates and drama.)  
Next on the heels of Crispus Ayena was Basoga Nsadhu (RIP) although less flamboyant than his predecessor, Nsadhu was too an orator and a lobbyist. (He was MP in the early NRM National Assembly where he distinguished himself as a moral crusader against corruption, and he was named Minister). I remember him reaching out to us, students in the lower school, soliciting for votes.  I enjoyed his debate and he was also an active member of the Drama Club. 

After Basoga,  Ngoma Ngime who joined Mwiri in S5 from Namasagali College was elected HP but his regime was short-lived. During this time, students' unrest began and Ngoma was accused by the Headmaster,  Mr. Mutengu of inciting students and was expelled. I remember Mr. Mutengu telling us at assembly "Gentlemen, Ngoma Ngime has left us." Isabirye filled in briefly as HP as economic conditions began to hit the school so much  that it culminated in frequent sit-down strikes in 1978.  

Another problem for Mr. Mutengu arose from a rumour that swept across the college about President Amin taking refuge in the Headmaster's house after fleeing the onslaught of the combined Tanzanian and other fighters in Kampala.  Although the HM dispelled the rumour as unfounded, we used to see heavily armed soldiers milling around the HM's residence (which was out-of-bounds). We were afraid because the Libyan-Arab bank in Jinja had lately been bombed by a rebel military aircraft.  

Another strike took place sparked by students' discontent. The students demanded for the resignation of Mr. Mutengu, the Headmaster. The Headmaster capitulated; and the students demanded that Mr. Waibi be appointed acting Headmaster which request the Board endorsed. Mr. Waibi acted till Mr. D.P. Kintu was posted as the substantive Headmaster. But he came at the time the school was almost grinding to a halt. Food shortage was rampant and students used to have one meal a day.  Water shortage was a problem too and Mr. Kintu would drive the school truck down hill full of students' jerry cans to fetch water for the students. The political and economic situations were worsening as teachers fled to Kenya for greener pastures and this affected our academic performance greatly.

In 1980 the bespectacled David Wakitu (RIP) of Nabikamba House became the Head Prefect.  He looked too young for the arduous office of such a powerful school like Mwiri. But he won the hearts of old and new prefects and staff and the general college community because of his academic brilliance which a Mwirian placed in the highest priority order. He was a bit reserved, a trait he carried from his O' Level days. When I was in S1 I used to visit Richard Othieno (now medical doctor living in UK)  in Nabikamba and Wakitu then  in S2 would hide behind his locker reading ceaselessly-reading was his hobby.  As HP, he occasionally addressed the school assembly and you would hear a pin drop as the diminutive HP held the whole school under his spell.  It saddened me to learn that Wakitu passed on in 2000 shortly after I had relocated to Mwiri.  I wrote a memorial  read by Mr. Kibedi Musa during his funeral in Kamuli read whohad  headed the Mwiri mourners. As we lowered Wakitu into the grave that afternoon,  we  felt Wakitu had died too young before his budding career would fully flower. He was Head Prefect when post-Amin election campaigns kicked off in the country in 1980. Mr.  D.P. Kintu had been transferred and Mr. P.J. Ndiko became  our new Headmaster. From the grapevine, we learnt that this reshuffle had a political bearing. But again Mr. D.P. Kintu bounced back as Headmaster in 2001.

Mwiri and 1980 Election Campaigns

I remember Paul Ssemogerere coming to the hill to campaign for DP in The Mess. He was followed by Milton Obote (RIP), UPC flag-bearer and an Old Boy, clad in a navy blue kaunda suit on top of a red shirt. I remember I was standing at the junction where the statue of drummer is situated, I saw Obote seated at the back seat of a Mercedes arrive, reading a newspaper. I frantically waved and he waved back. We congregated in The Mess where Obote  tried to account for his actions in 1960s and the causes of Amin's coup d'etat. 

Yoweri Museveni running as UPM candidate was the last candidate to come to Mwiri. He wore khaki trousers and a long-sleeved white shirt, and the sleeves were folded. He was accompanied by  the bearded and eloquent Ruhakana Rugunda, another Mwiri Old Boy and former Head Prefect. (Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda became Uganda's Prime Minister in 2014) I remember Rugunda - saying he would never forget to his dying day the powerful debates that used to rock the Mwiri main hall. I remember Yoweri Museveni telling us that he was on his way from Mozambique and had come to greet us. Mwiri's UPM branch chairman, Sam Ewou defended  Museveni against detractors who  described him (Museveni) as a Marxist. I remember Ewou saying "We who know what  you stand for and we dismiss the accusation as baseless and malicious propaganda." Museveni was visibly  impressed "What is your name?" he asked Ewou and invited him to his office in Kampala. After Museveni's address, his Mercedes Benz was pushed by  chanting supporters in a show of solidarity. We listened politely to all the candidates and what was interesting all the parties had vibrant branches on the hill.

Spiritual Life at Mwiri

Mwiri's approach to religion was liberal, allowing the students to be conscious of their spiritual life in a mature and responsible manner. I did not ever witness as a student and later as teacher  any invisible hand patronising students to toe a certain spiritual line. I conceived that this was a cautious approach  aimed at averting unhealthy  situations where sacred cows would emerge  in the community of  staff and students and give room to puritanical attitude.  Mwiri community coalesced around shared vision and values that had guided the founders of this great college whose major guiding principle was and still remains to bring up boys who would provide good leadership to serve both man and God as reflected in school motto: "Kulwa Katonda N'eggwanga Lyaffe" - itself discounting selfish individualism marking mottos of some schools I know.  We learnt and witnessed in practice Christian ideals such as reverence for God, justice, self-discipline and selfless service. I never witnessed in the years I was at Mwiri, as a student and teacher,  division along ethnicity and creed. To a Mwirian that was contemptible in that the boys found hope and fulfilment in each other in spite of their diverse backgrounds. When you read the list of prominent Mwiri Old Boys, you see evident diversity.  Only in sporting talents, academic prowess and debating skills were there perceptible differences but they were instead celebrated as 'Mwirism.'


So much had happened in the years I was at Mwiri as a student and teacher that space does not permit me to add more. But all in all am proud to have gone through this great college as a student. Without appearing presumptuous, I attained my full professional maturity on Mwiri hill where values were an inbred part of the system, and they were much cherished. Mwiri taught me to be an independent and liberal thinker and it was in Mwiri in S5 that I became a published author!  I owe it all to my selfless teachers many of whom I have not mentioned  here.  God bless you!


Gwokto La'Kitgum
"Even a small dog can piss on a tall building" Jim Hightower

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