Last week, we brought you brilliant students of the 1960s and 1970s and we promised to bring you even more. These people were not only academically sharp. They took their spirit of excellence even to the field and they did not disappoint, Carol Natukunda, Charles Etukuri and Elizabeth Namazzi write
Dr. Olara Otunnu, UPC president
A lawyer by profession, he studied under the “express system” at Kings College Budo. This was a system where brainy students did not have to hassle studying all the high school classes.
You could spend only two to three years in school depending on your abilities. Otunnu is said to have spent only three years in O’level. At A’level, he reportedly scored AAC in an arts combination.
He then joined Makerere University for law, but had to run away due to infamous regimes. He joined Oxford University and later Harvard Law School (where he was a Fulbright Scholar) for advanced degrees.
Fulbright Scholarship was at the time a highly competitive programme for international students.
Sarah Ntiro, first female graduate in East Africa
Forget the fact that she was one of the first few Ugandan female graduates. Ntiro excelled with distinctions throughout high school to impress a generation which appreciated only boys.
In 1945, when the then Makerere College, in Kampala, began accepting girls, she was one of the first six girls to attend. But one of her teachers suggested that academically, the course was not challenging her enough.
She grasped concepts of subjects easily. Her teachers recommended that she should go to university. That meant going abroad, as there was no university in Uganda then.
She applied for a course at Oxford University. But one of the admission requirements was that she had to at least know two international languages.
She decided to learn Latin. In Uganda, the only people who knew Latin well were the Roman Catholics. Even though she was a Protestant, she decided to approach a priest for lessons in Latin. He understood her predicament. And she did not disappoint. In 1951, she enrolled for a history degree at St Anne’s College in Oxford.
Enock Kibbamu, MD, PlantekConsultants, former president, Uganda Society of Architects, First vice- president of East African Institute of Architects
As an O’level student at Nyakasura School, he was known as the mathematics wizard.
“Once, I did so well that our mathematics teacher gave me 110%,” he says. When the 1991 UCE results were released, he was the best student at Nyakasura School with 14 in six subjects and 20 in eight.
“I was also the best student in the greater Kabarole region,” he recalls. He joined St. Mary’s College Kisubi for A’level, where he pursued MEG/Art. “During our first math class,” Kibbamu recalls, “the teacher gave us a test of one number. He came back after two days and said only one person had passed the number — Enock Kibbamu. I became the class mathematics consultant.”
When the 1993 UACE results were released, Kibbamu was the best student in the school and the sixth best in the country with AAAE and a D2 in GP. He joined Makerere University to pursue his dream course, architecture and went ahead to excel in his class. “I was the second best student in the class, with an upper second degree. We did not have a first class degree,” he recalls.
Today, he is well known in architectural circles and served as president of the Uganda Society of Architects and a director with Uganda Property Holdings.
Richard Tusiime, Red Pepper managing director
Richard Tusiime, The editor-in-chief of the Red Pepper, was the fifth best UACE arts student in 1992.
Ironically, he could hardly see a few weeks to the final exams, so it is a miracle that he was able to write his final exams and pass so highly.
He was actually bedridden and was admitted at Mulago Hospital for two weeks as he waited for a neurosurgeon to examine him. A student at Kitabi Seminary, he was still in Mulago a day before his first paper.
Kitabi Seminary is a good distance away from Kampala, so Tusiime was in real danger of missing his first paper. With this in mind, he made a quick decision.
“That afternoon I said; ‘since I cannot see the neurosurgeon, let me go to Rubaga.’ Mbarara Diocese has a house at the Cathedral, so I went there. While there, a priest called Fr. Betunga came and said he was going to Mbarara.
I decided to abandon Mulago, go back to school and see what I could do,” he said during a 2010 interview.
At A’level, he scored AABB in french, economics, divinity and history respectively.
He pursued journalism at Makerere University and worked for several newspapers before he eventually joined hands with four others to start the Red Pepper.
Dr. William Samson Kalema, former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s Commissioner for Africa
He is the bright boy who jumped classes because he was brilliant. He joined Kings College Budo for S1 in 1966. In May that year (second term), the school was temporarily closed, following the Lubiri attack by the then government.
When the school opened in third term, Kalema did not resume with his S1. He instead joined S2. To the surprise of many, he beat the whole class and was promoted to S3.
At that stage, he sat for his O’level and topped East Africa with distinctions. He studied PMM (physics and two papers in mathematics), and scored AAA.
This score made him a darling of giant universities across the world, as they all wanted to have a piece of him. He chose Cambridge University. An industrial scientist by training, Kalema also holds a PhD in chemical engineering.
She is an ambitious young Ugandan journalist who now works for an international media outlet in Washington.
She was among the best students in the country in 2010 at Makerere University.
She sat her A’level from Nabisunsa Girls and scored 25 points in history, economics, geography and German.
She went on to study mass communication at Makerere University, then worked for the New Vision, while teaching in the mass communication department at Makerere.
She went to Arizona State University for a masters in journalism. She has also worked with The Ledger and the Cronkite News Services.
Dr. Kato Ssebbaale, former chairman of Uganda Cricket Association, CEO Case Medical Centre, consultant physician, laparoscopic surgeon and gastroenterologist
During his time, in 1980, Ssebbaale was the second best UCE candidate and was one of the country’s top three A’level students.
He is one of the few people who have scored highly at the national level in both O’ and A’level examinations. He had all his secondary education at Kings College Budo and scored BBBC in physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics at A’level. He joined Makerere University for a degree in medicine. He later became a laparoscopic surgeon.
Today, those in sports circles recall his days as the chairman of the Uganda Cricket Association. Others know his Case Medical Centre, which he started in 1995 as a small clinic on Bombo Road.
Today, the medical centre is one of the most popular one-stop health centres in Kampala. To him, his success in both O’ and A’level exams was based on his ability to balance his love for sports and education.
Indeed, he excelled in both sports and academics, two fields he pursued even after he left Budo. While at Makerere University, he was part of the cricket team and represented Uganda at international level in 1983. Today, his busy medical practice aside, he plays cricket and golf, swims and jogs.
Former Principal Judge James Ogoola
We all know him to be poetic. You want to read the phrases he makes over and again because they are deep. The poetry comes naturally. Ogoola scored AAB when he sat for his A’level in 1965 at King’s College Budo.
He has a degree in law from the University of Dar-es-Salaam and a masters in law from Columbia University, in the US.
Dr. Hilda Tadria, retired associate professor
She got a first class degree in sociology at Makerere University, which earned her a scholarship to Cambridge University in the UK for her masters.
She worked as an associate professor at Makerere University and later a regional gender adviser at the UN Economic Commission for Africa for over 10 years. She retired in 2007.
Emmanuel Mutebile, governor Bank of Uganda
He attended Makerere College School and attained only distinctions. “He could fail history or any arts course, but give him maths and he scores 90!” says his former old boy, who prefers anonymity.
He has a degree in economics from Durham University in the UK, a masters in economics from Oxford University in the UK and a PhD in economics from the University of Dar-es-Salaam.
It is his brains that have largely kept him at the helm of the central bank for several years. He is credited for his sound fiscal policies, especially during the credit crunch.
Moses Mukisa, architect, pastor and gospel artiste
His childhood dream was to become an architect. In pursuit of his dreams, he studied so hard that when the 1996 UACE results were released, the former student of Busoga College Mwiri was the fourth best student in the country.
His excellent performance was a surprise to him, for he had never been anywhere near the top throughout his A’level. “I had real issues understanding complex mathematics in A’level. It was not like the O’level mathematics,” he said during an interview.
Come mock exams, he scored O in mathematics, E in physics and E in economics. Then his mother died shortly before the final exams. “That was the defining moment.
It was the moment I was either going to lose it completely or something miraculous would happen,” he added. At this point, all he had was God, since his father had been murdered in 1984, leaving his mother with six children to provide for.
So as he sat for his final exams, he made an earnest prayer to God. “God” he pleaded, “ help me, because my mum is now out of the picture. If I do not pass, I do not know anyone who is going to take care of me. If I do not go to the university on government scholarship, this is the end.”
When the results were released, he was elated and surprised, to learn that he was the best in his school and the fourth best student in the country.
He scored A in mathematics, A in economics, B in physics, B in fine art and a distinction in general paper, He went on to pursue a degree in his dream course, architecture, at Makerere University.
Dr. Rosemary Byanyima Kusaba
She is a senior specialist radiologist at Mulago Hospital and one of the best in the country. She also heads the Directorate of Radiology, nuclear medicine, pathology and clinical laboratory at the same facility.
She sat her Primary Leaving Examinations at St. Theresa Primary School, Ibanda between 1972 and 1978 and emerged one of the best. She attended her O’level at St. Immaculate Heart Girls Secondary School, where a good academic performance saw her head to Trinity College Nabbingo to take on chemistry, physics and biology.
Her first degree was in medicine, but later, she specialised in radiology. She also holds a masters in business administration.
She has also served as a member of Uganda Atomic Energy Council, the governing body that regulates and ensures safe use of ionising radiation in the country. Dr. Byanyima is also a visiting consultant at the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC), Kampala. She was also the president of Uganda Gastroenterology Society for a long time.
Nora K. Mulira
She is a systems analyst, researcher and consultant with specific expertise and experience in the research, development and analysis of e-strategies and ICT policies at the national and global level.
A former student of Gayaza for her primary and secondary school education, her former classmates say she was an extremely intelligent girl and always topped her class. She was among the best students during her A‘level examinations and was admitted to Makerere University.
The IT specialist proceeded to the prestigious London School of Economics and graduated with masters a in management information systems.
She later attained a PhD in service systems engineering from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. She introduced the Management Information Systems (MIS) course when she was a director and lecturer of the Institute of Computer Science, Makerere University. She is the current director, directorate of ICT Support, Makerere University.
She is in charge of the implementation and management of the university ICT policy and master plan. She is married to Dr. Ham-Mukasa Mulira who is also a computer scientist.