Every year New Vision, in its Woman Achiever Awards, recognises the unsung heroines, those women who have gone an extra mile to improve the conditions in their communities.
In the ninth edition, New Vision, in partnership with UNFPA, is recognising women who have made tremendous contributions to education, especially helping girls who have dropped out of school due to pregnancy or other reasons, to go back to school or attain any form of skills training to better their lives
By George Bita
Although she lives in a posh residence in Walukuba estate, Jinja town, her gate is always open, especially to underage mothers from the nearby slums.
Her home is a stone’s throw from Danida and Soweto slums.
The girls walk in and out of her home at will, seeking free vocational training skills, as well as her wise counsel. She trains them in tailoring, weaving and making of beads from waste paper.
Currently the headmistress of Kakira High School, Proscovia Mpabulungi says she was motivated to help underage mothers after discovering late that her housemaid was pregnant.
“The worst part was when her labour pains started earlier than expected and we ended up going to the maternity ward without proper clothing,” Mpabulungi narrates.
She explains that while attending to the housemaid, it dawned on her that numerous other teenage mothers could be suffering a similar fate.
According to data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2011, one in four Ugandan girls aged 15-19 years is a mother or pregnant with her first child. Similarly, records from the gender ministry and the United Nations Children’s Fund, 2011 show that three out of 10 girls drop out of school due to pregnancy-related issues.
When she was made the head teacher of Masheruka Girls Secondary School in Bushenyi in 1995, there were only 182 girls. Records from the school indicate that by the time Mpabulungi left in 1999, the school had over 970 students.
“The school administration realised that some of the girls had dropped out because of pregnancies. It was our duty to convince them to come back and we did it persuasively until the numbers rose,” Mpabulungi says.
After Masheruka Girls Secondary School, Mpabulungi moved to PMM Girls School in Jinja. When she took over the leadership mantle at PMM, the talk was that it was a school for promiscuous girls.
“The school had been nicknamed Bufumbo College (college for married women) by the locals and my first goal was to change the school’s image,” Mpabulungi narrates.
She fenced off the school and changed the timetable so that the girls would report to school by 7:00am and leave before the usual closure time of 4:00pm.
“Since the girls were going home by 3:00pm, it was difficult for boys from neighbouring day schools to distract them from their studies. The trick worked and more girls remained in school,” Mpabulungi says.
After PMM, Mpabulungi was transferred to Wanyange Girls Secondary School, Jinja, to head it. At Wanyange, Mpabulungi’s first task was fencing off the school to prevent the students from escaping.
“While I was sleeping one night, I was tipped off about the girls escaping from school to go to a club in Jinja town. I woke up, took roll call and the culprits were identified. That is when I resolved to fence off the school as a deterrent measure,” Mpabulungi says.
At the time Mpabulungi took over leadership of the school, it had just 650 students, but within the first four years of heading it, the number had shot up to almost 2,000.
“I had to think about accommodation, so I lobbied for funds. That is how new dormitories such as Rwenzori-Range Annex, Lake George and Lake Albert were constructed,” Mpabulungi reveals.
The school also got two new classroom blocks, a library and main hall to cater for the increasing population.
David Eryatu, a former career’s master at the school, says Mpabulungi is still remembered at Wanyange for her work. “No wonder shortly after she had been transferred to Kakira High School, the girls went on strike for the first time in the history of the school citing lack of a motherly administrator,” Eryatu says.
Mpabulungi observes that being single endeared her to the Catholic Church, with religious leaders commonly addressing her as a nun.
“Right from Masheruka to Jinja, I worked closely with bishops from the Catholic church. They regularly offered moral and material support to boost my efforts to train young mothers,” she adds.
Jonathan Kamwana, the Jinja municipality education officer, observes that Mpabulungi is not only an exemplary teacher in terms of girl-child education, but is a indispensable gem for the community.
Miriam Namasaba, a teacher at Wanyange Girls Secondary School, says those who benefitted from Mpabulungi’s efforts could be in their thousands, noting that she never discriminates against anyone when it comes to offering help.
“During the five years she spent at PMM, about 206 young mothers benefitted. She persuaded them to come back to school after delivery and consequently, several have become responsible persons in society,” Namasaba says.
Peter Atayo, a resident of Kakira, says: “Aware that boys always distract girls from their studies, she separated the girls from the boys at Kakira High School,” Atayo says.
Ruth Bakuseka says Mpabulungi not only gave her wise counsel, but also paid her tuition from P.5 to university.
Mpabulungi’s work has not come without challenges.
“I have in the recent past lobbied for donations from Rockefeller Foundation and through twinning with UK schools. However, the demands often outweigh the available cash,” she laments.
Mpabulungi plans to open up a vocational training institute in Jinja district to cater for young mothers.
“Once I get the funds, I will be ready to kick off the institute. The numerous beneficiaries I have would gladly offer support, especially when it comes to training and counselling,” she says.
Born in 1957 to Nathan and Margaret Mpabulungi of Wakitaka village in Jinja district, Mpabulungi attended Buckley High School before joining Wanyange Girls Secondary School.
She later went to Namasagali College for A’level then Kyambogo University for a bachelor’s degree in education.
Mpabulungi attained her master of education degree from Makerere University in 1994.
What others say about her
WOMAN ACHIEVER AWARDS 2014: Women in education
Do you know any woman who has mobilised or used her own resources to spearhead programmes aimed at promoting girls education, especially helping girls who have dropped out of school due to pregnancy or other reasons, to go back to school or attain any form of skills training?
Nominate her by sending her name, her telephone contact, her area/community of operation, what she has done/is doing and your name and telephone contact to Woman Achiever 2014, New Vision, P.O. Box 9815, Kampala.
You can also email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or by SMS type achiever (space) her name and telephone number, and send to 8338What others say about her
She gave another day to Kabale’s vulnerable