By Andrew Masinde and Precious Birungi
When Betty Nakyanzi Walusati conceived the idea to start a nursery school in her village, she never imagined she would transform her entire Ngugo village in Mukono district.
She started a nursery school in 1992 with a handful of pupils, in one of the remotest villages in the district. The number has now grown to 515 pupils. Quality education was unheard of in the area since most of the residents did not value it. All that mattered to them was waking up to go to the gardens and drinking joints in the evening.
Most parents in this village never cared about their children’s education. But Nakyanzi who got a vision of starting up Joy and Jolly School, a nursery school, awakened up the area, years later.
Nakyanzi was born 1960 in Katende, Mpigi district. She went to Mabuye Primary School, then called St. John Bosco Primary School. She then joined Nkozi Teachers College for her Grade II Certificate, which she completed in 1979 before joining Kyabazala Public School, for her first teaching job.
She was then transferred to Ntunda Public School, where she taught up to 1988. But due to the poor state of the school, Nakyanzi decided to quit teaching and stayed home.
Starting the school
“I was tired of teaching in a school where grades were poor. As teachers, we were neglected and had no teaching materials such as textbooks. I started thinking about what I would do to change the education standards in the area. Since my children were also victims of the poor education, I decided to start up a nursery school.”
“Since our house was small, I got a room in my neighbours boys quarters. I carried a book and a pen and moved to different homes and churches asking people to bring their children to the school I was about to open. I was lucky and got 20 pupils to start with,” Nakyanzi says.
She started teaching free-of-charge until parents started appreciating her work. They suggested that she begins asking for school fees in order to improve the school.
As the number of pupils increased, Nakyanzi used her husband’s land to set up a two-room mud-and wattle classroom in 1995.
“Soon, the pioneer nursery children completed and were to join the primary section. But some parents were not willing to take their children to the poor quality schools in the area.
They asked me to start a primary school, which explains the school’s growth,” she says.
“I decided to build more rooms and started a primary school. In 2002, our classes spread up to Primary Seven. My first pupil who sat for PLE passed well.
Although I had one pupil passing in Division One that year, the rest passed in Second Grade,” she explains. Nakyanzi recruited professional teachers, since parents were paying enough money. She makes sure the teachers she employs know how to handle the pupils.
Nakyanzi, as a trained teacher, supervises the teachers to ensure they complete the syllabus in time. She also works with well performing schools to help boost performance in her own school.
Gradually, the village has several students who now pass in Division One. “Parents from Mukono town and Kayunga districts bring their children to the school, which shows that the school is doing great work for the community and country at large,” she says.
She plans to start a boarding section at the school.
Emanuel Nsubuga, who joined the school a few years ago, prides in the performance, saying it has helped him improve academically.
“When I joined Jolly and Joy, it was hard for me to adjust to the environment. But today I have learnt English and I am always the best pupil in English and science. This would not have been possible if I had not joined the school. I want to become an engineer in future,” Nsubuga says.
Aliseni Kulingoma, an elder in the same village, says it was a dream come true to have the school’s performance go up fast.
“Our children would study up to Primary Seven, but would hardly come close to passing in Division One. It is a real dream come true with Nakyanzi’s hardwork,” he says.
Another parent, Resty Nakintu, says her first two children never performed well before joining Nakyanzi’s school.
“I did not regret taking them to Jolly and Joy because it paid off. My other children also excelled in their national examinations,” she says.