Isaac Shinyekwa, 45 and his wife, Evelyn Kabongerwa Shinyekwa, 34, have defied the odds and reached great heights academically, while juggling their careers and parental duties. SAMUEL LUTWAMA captured their story.
Isaac Shinyekwa, 45, was, on Wednesday awarded a PhD in economics at Makerere University, where he is employed as a senior researcher at the
Economic Research Institute. His wife, Evelyn, was awarded a Master’s degree in Business Administration in January 2013. The couple has been married for 10 years and they have three children.
Throughout the interview, Shinyekwa, a devoted member of Rubaga Miracle Centre, Cathedral, spoke deeply about God, saying He has been a central figure in his life. “Without God, I would not have made it to this academic level,” he says.
Shinyekwa’s success story started with the simple decision he made 32 years ago, when he became Born-again at the age of 12, something which did not go down well with his staunch Anglican family. He was ridiculed by his father, who thought the young man was out of his mind.
Today, he still holds onto his faith. “Without doubt, it is the best decision I made in my life,” Shinyekwa said. He said being a Born-again Christian had helped him achieve great accomplishments. But he had to make tough personal decisions in his early life.
Knowing who he was helped him make the right decisions. He looked at his faith and education as a vehicle that would grant him the success he yearned for in life.
The Shinyekwas with their three children. They want to impart good Christian morals to them. PHOTO/Samuel Lutwama
As a child of a primary school head teacher, Shinyekwa’s early years were unstable due to the constant movements whenever his father was transferred to another school.
“Whenever my father was transferred, I had to move with him. It was during my secondary school that I enjoyed some relative stability, which helped me put my education dreams on course,” he says.
As a student at Nabumali High School in Mbale district, he felt the desire to follow in his father‘s footsteps. For two-and-half years, he taught economics and history in secondary school. He was working as a teacher when he met and fell in love with his wife, Evelyn, whom he describes as the pillar in his success story.
Like the adage, “behind every successful man, there is a woman,” Shinyekwa and his wife have worked hand-in-hand to achieve their academic success. From a secondary school teacher, he became a consultant in economics shortly after he met his wife.
A few years into their marriage, without a stable income, Shinyekwa and his wife decided that it was time to dream big. He enrolled for a Master’s degree in Resource Economics at the University of Life Sciences in Norway. Subsequently, he became a consultant at the Economic Research Institute, Makerere University, where he still works.
In his quest for more knowledge in research, in 2004, he enrolled for a PhD in economics, a journey that has taken him nine years. He has been researching on the effects of the East African Community Customs Union on Uganda in the areas of GDP and sectoral growth, revenue, trade and poverty eradication. He says his area of research aimed at bringing sustainable development in the region.
At the time Shinyekwa started pursuing his PhD, his wife, who currently works at Carr Stanyer Sims & Co, on Kisozi Complex, Kyaggwe Road, also enrolled for a Master’s degree in Business Administration. This constrained the family financially.
As parents with children and other obligations, Shinyekwa says it was not easy for the two of them to study at the same time. “But she believed that where there is a will, there is always a way, ” he says.
On Wednesday, when Shinyekwa was conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics during Makerere University’s 64th graduation ceremony, the struggles that he had endured to scoop the prestigious academic award paled away.
The family was in a celebratory mood. His wife was basking in the glory along with their children, who were equally pleased to be part of their parents’ success.
Shinyekwa says their Christian walk has helped them form a strong marriage and also pursue their academic dreams. “I married someone with the same spiritual and academic mindset. It was a perfect match. She has been a strong part of our family success,” Shinyekwa says.
Although he currently has no political ambitions, Shinyekwa intends to use his PhD to contribute towards sustainable development. He cited Bangladesh Professor Muhammad Yunus Grameen, who received the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition for his work on poverty alleviation and empowerment of poor women.
Like Grameen, he says he does not need a political platform to make a contribution in his area of expertise. Shinyekwa also plans to dedicate more time to church, particularly in the revival ministry, which he believes is his calling.
We shared home chores to pursue academics
According to Evelyn, everything good has a price tag. “Having grown up in a broken family, I longed for a stable family and a God-fearing, supportive husband. Isaac had all the characteristics of the man I had in mind,” says Evelyn, who got married at the age of 23, shortly after attaining her Bachelor’s degree in social sciences.
After the wedding, Evelyn started working towards attaining her dream family, with the support of her husband. She cites faith, determination and hard work as the tools that have spurred their marital and academic success.
The couple shared home chores while pursuing their studies. For instance, when Evelyn was out attending class, her husband would rush home to take care of the children. Although it seemed tough, Evelyn managed to juggle being a wife, mother and career woman.
But she is not quick to take the credit: “It is hard work that has enabled me achieve the dream family I hoped for at the onset of our marriage.”
Like her husband, she believes marriage is a learning experience, with no graduates. “Every challenge that we encountered gave us an opportunity to excel. Sadly, few people realise the opportunities masked in challenges,” she said, adding that everything in life has to be nurtured to get the best out of it.
Evelyn advises those intending to get married to improve on their character, before embarking on the search for spouses.
“Before you look for a good man, evaluate yourself to find out if you merit the good man you are looking for. Are you the kind of woman who moves around with every Tom, Dick and Harry? You can get married on account of your beauty, education and social status, but your character can easily fail you,” she warns.
Shinyekwa believes that with God at the centre of the marriage, nothing can tear it apart. He says the Bible has guidelines for a good marriage, but man’s selfish interests have endangered the institution. “All the guidelines of having a good family are embedded in the
Scriptures, with a descriptive account on how to deal with challenges that may come up. Whenever we get problems, we pray and then take the necessary action to rectify the problem,” he says.
He believes that there are many western theories, which have infiltrated the marriage institution, but if couples stick to biblical principles, their marriages will withstand challenges. On parenting, the couple intends to raise well behaved, educated children.
“We want to raise our children with good moral values. To achieve this, we enrolled them in Christian- founded schools, where they can be taught biblical principles. You may be surprised that two of my children can give a brief sermon, as well as pray about anything,” he said with a grin.
Born 45 years ago in Bududa district, Shinyekwa was the second-last born in a family of five. His father was a primary school head teacher, so Shinyekwa and his siblings kept changing schools whenever his father got transferred.
He started school at an early age at Bumwalye Primary School in Bududa, before joining Bunandutu Primary School. Soon his father was transferred to Isagara Primary School, then Nyamigisha Primary School and Ikoba Primary School, all in Masindi.
Shinyekwa completed his primary education at Budadiri Primary School in Sironko district. It was in secondary school that hinyekwa had relative stability. He went to Masaba Secondary School and Nabumali High School.
Right from primary level, Shinyekwa was a bright pupil and by the time completed his secondary education, he was certain of a government scholarship at university. He graduated in 1992.
Evelyn’s early years
Unlike her husband, Evelyn had a diffi cult childhood. Her parents separated when she was young and later both of them passed on. She spent her early years with her uncle in Banda, a Kampala suburb. It was there that she started school at Kamuli Primary School in Kireka, before joining City Parents School.
After primary, she joined Rubaga Girls’ School, for O’level and Bweranyangi Girls’ School in Mbarara for A’level, after which she was admitted to Makerere University for a Bachelors’ degree in social sciences. It was during her final year at university that she met Shinyekwa.
The couple married in 2003.