Kevin Colgan and Don Wanyama (center) and the teachers pose for a photo during the flagged off Uganda’s best teachers for a study trip to Ireland. (All Photos by Miriam Namutebi)
Cecilia Okoth
Journalist @New Vision

VISION GROUP | IRELAND | TEACHERS

Vision Group’s Chief Executive Officer Don Wanyama, together with Kevin Colgan, the Ambassador of Ireland to Uganda this Wednesday flagged off Uganda’s best teachers for a study trip to Ireland. 

A total of 12 teachers emerged winners under Vision Group’s Teachers Making Difference project. They will spend a week in Ireland.

This year, Vision Group combined 2019 and 2020 winners who were unable to travel due to travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The 2019 winners include; Rose Moiti, Busesa Primary School, Iganga, Tracy Juliet Nansubuga, Gayaza High School, Wakiso, Sr. Gladyce Kachope, Immaculate Heart Secondary School, Nyakibale, Rukungiri, Samuel Abong, Naitakwae Primary School, Moroto, Susan Okello, Kotido Mixed Primary School, Kotido and Manyindo Frank Mugene, Nyakasura School, Fort Portal. 

Teachers who emerged winners in 2020 include; Sr. Theopista Namukasa, St. Mary’s Immaculate Primary School, Kalungu, Ernest Kavulu, Budo Junior School, Wakiso and Sr. Pross Nantege, Kalas Girls Day & Boarding Primary School, Amudat. 

Others are; Buluhani Mulongo, Hama Island Primary School, Namayingo, Norah Anyait, Matany Primary School, Napak and Raymond Kigongo, St. Joseph’s Secondary School Nkooko, Kakumiro.  

Speaking at the event at his residence in Kololo this Wednesday, Kevin Colgan, the Ambassador of Ireland to Uganda commended Vision Group and its partners for the long-standing commitment to recognizing and awarding teachers who have gone beyond the call of duty for their schools, their learners and their communities to deliver quality education.   

“If we learned one important thing from COVID-19, it is that we need to value and appreciate our teachers more,” Colgan said. 

“In supporting Uganda to strengthen its education system, Ireland believes that incentivizing and supporting teachers in their professional development is critical to better performance and motivation, and learning outcomes. That is why we are delighted to partner with the New Vision, on the ‘Teachers Making a Difference Award’ to honor and award Uganda’s best teachers,” he said. 

Colgan also commended the ministry of education and sports, particularly, the Director for Higher Technical and TVET Dr. Jane Egau Okou for participating in the initiative, adding that it shows its relevance to the priorities of the Government including the 2019 National Teacher Policy and the Teacher Incentivisation.   

Egau, along with a few officials from the education ministry will accompany the teachers to Ireland. 

“We are confident that it will be an enriching experience for the teachers and ministry delegates, who will undoubtedly return an experience that will benefit fellow staff, the classroom, students, and the school as a whole,” Colgan said. 

Don Wanyama, Vision Group's chief executive officer said while teachers play a critical role in the human capital development of their countries, their effort is rarely recognized, especially in the developing world. 

It was against this background that Vision Group initiated this project to recognize and reward those teachers who have gone the extra mile, teachers who have gone beyond their professional call of duty to use limited resources to greatly impact their learners and communities. 

“The 12 of you earned the award. You did not fluke it. You went through a very rigorous selection process. You were chosen as the most deserving,” Wanyama said.

“I have been informed that you have an elaborate professional development program in Ireland. You will be exposed to modern teaching methods. You are going to a country with one of the best education systems in the world. Therefore, be keen on picking what you will implement in your schools on return,” he added.

Wanyama tasked the teachers to utilize programs to exponentially improve the learning outcomes and the operations of their various schools.  

He commended the embassy and partners for supporting Vision Group.

Lydia Bakashabaruhanga, the general manager of Travelcare, commended the teachers for the dedication, and sacrifice made toward educating learners.

“Anyone who went to school can never take any teacher for granted and that is why we appreciate you,” she said.

The New Vision Teachers Making a Difference project is an annual competition implemented in partnership with the Embassy of Ireland, Simba Travelcare, and Trocaire. 

“The project recognizes and rewards teachers who have gone beyond their call of duty to innovatively use limited resources to greatly impact their learners and the school communities,” said John Eremu, editor of New Vision. 

Eremu said on average, a total of 800 teachers are nominated by the public for the competition annually. 

Of these, 60 are profiled in New Vision from which an independent jury selects the top 12 for recognition. 

“As part of the prize, the six most outstanding teachers from among the twelve, are sponsored for a week-long professional development exposure trip to Ireland. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, winners for the 2019 and 2020 competitions were unable to take the trip to Ireland,” he explained. 

In this year’s competition, the Embassy of Ireland in Uganda injected €70,000 into the project while Simba Travelcare provided return air tickets. The Embassy is also taking care of all the logistics and itineraries for the team in Ireland. 

What the teachers did 

Rose Moiti  

According to George Higenyi, the parents’ representative to the school management committee, Moiti enabled the school to acquire a borehole, and a nursery section and has also won them many trophies in co-curricular activities.  

“She is just what Busesa Mixed Day and Boarding Primary needed to get to a higher level. Her leadership has made the school shine,” Higenyi said. 

Samuel Abong 

He is a renowned folk song composer in the Moroto district. Although many teachers shy away from music in their classrooms, Abong made music his strength. His talent has helped his school perform better in drama competitions, especially the folksong. He is also the choirmaster at his church. 

Buluhani Mulongo 

Mulongo was posted to Hama Island Primary School in 2015 at a time when it was set to be closed by Namayingo district authorities due to low enrolment. 

At the time, the school had only five pupils and two teachers. However, he managed to increase pupil enrolment to 597 and 11 teachers. He did this by holding regular parent meetings at the school as well as talk shows, encouraging parents to send their children to school. 

Frank Manyindo Mugene 

He revived Nyakasura School’s academic performance and improved its infrastructure.

During the second Uganda National Coffee Festival in 2016, organized by Resilient Africa Network, Manyindo led a team of students, who shocked the nation with their innovation of coffee yogurt. The school emerged as the best in the competition. 

Ernest Kavulu 

Kavulu has set up new dormitories for the pupils. He has also renovated a three-storeyed building, which he found condemned and on the verge of collapse. This is now a classroom block. It is one of the best buildings on site. 

Kavulu loves sports and is now constructing a swimming pool. “We want our children to have fun, but also learn through swimming competitions. We already have soccer and netball teams, on top of participating in district competitions,” he said. 

Sr. Gladyce Kachope 

In only 13 years, Kachope completed projects worth billions of shillings at her school. She completed a four-story dormitory, 16 classrooms, a five-story modern science laboratory, and a three-story convent for nuns. 

She is currently constructing a multibillion shilling Golden Jubilee complex. She has also purchased 72 acres of land for the school’s farming activities, a bus, and a 50KV generator, and completed the construction of a playground. Sr Kachope has undertaken all these projects using the school’s resources. As a result of her effort, the school’s enrolment has risen from 821 students in 2016 to 2,119 currently. 

Raymond Kigongo 

Having grown up in a rural setting, Raymond Kigongo felt it was his duty to help children in a similar situation attain a good education. 

Kigongo started by speaking to the parents about the value of education, which eventually changed their mindset. “As part of grooming, the students are divided into groups and given a family head, who is a teacher. It is the teacher’s responsibility to draw them closer, know their challenges as well as guide and keep them interested in school. Joseph Sentayi, the LCV chairperson of Kakumiro district describe

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