Tell us about your background?
I was born in 1943 in Kabale to Andrew and Esteri Mafigiri. My mother was a housewife, while my father served in the Anglican Church. Because of the nature of my fatherâ€™s work, our home was always filled with people, especially those who were stranded. They always came to the Reverendâ€™s home for food and lodging.
How has that affected you?
Because people always popped in and out of our home every minute, there was lots of sharing and no privacy. My house in Kabale is like my fatherâ€™s. It is filled with many people and I never turn my back on anyone because my dad never did.
Back then, girls were not considered as important as the boys. How come you went to school?
My father was a church leader so he was exemplary in whatever he did. When Mrs. Hornby, the headmistress of Kabale Girlsâ€™ Junior Boarding School (now Hornby High School), came to our place enrolling girls for school, my father was the first to surrender his girls. I was only five years old. On my first day, I walked over 36 miles with him to school because buses were unreliable. I went to Gayaza High School for my ordinary and advanced levels. I was awarded with a first division Cambridge School certificate.
Memories of junior school
It was terrible. It was so cold and I did not have a sweater. The diet too was poor. We used to have a mug of porridge in the morning. I used to wrap my little hands around the mug to keep warm.
Memories from Gayaza
It was so far away from home. I had to travel the whole day to reach Gayaza. When I arrived there, I had to go to the Chapel for evening prayer. One lady teacher Mrs. Posena Lubega caught my eye because she was well-groomed. I did not know Luganda, but at Gayaza it was widely spoken. I had to learn it. I was also impressed with the fact that there were so many girls from all over the country. We had to cut our hair short. When I reached Makerere, it was liberating to grow my hair.
How about Makerere?
Girls from Gayaza always stuck together. Makerere was not as free as it is now. One had to seek permission from the warden before going out. You had to sign in a book if you were going out to club. Male visitors were not allowed to stay in the hall beyond 9:00pm. We also had to wear the undergraduate gown whenever we went for meals and to the library. I enjoyed myself because I was on a special State scholarship, which meant that I had extra money to spend.
What dreams did you have as a young girl?
My greatest regret is that I never got career guidance. All I aspired to was to excel at school and go to university. Of course, because of peer pressure, I became a teacher. But I was attracted to agriculture because I was fascinated by the environment and I love plants.
What were your parentsâ€™ plans for you?
My father wanted me to join a teachersâ€™ training college after Senior Four, but I objected. I wanted to go for my Advanced Level and then university. I am the fourth in a family of nine. Our first born was the first woman in Kigezi to go to Makerere. She was my role model. So in 1964, I enrolled at Makerere University and trained as a graduate secretary. After university, I rose from being a secretary to the deputy registrar at Makerere University. I have a first class postgraduate diploma in Public Administration, a masters degree in Higher and Further Education and a PhD in Education and Gender.
How did you survive in the 1970s during Idi Aminâ€™s era?
It was hard. Things were scarce and it was difficult to rely on oneâ€™s income, so I started a poultry business. But even then, I only had money for essentials. I got married to Prof. Jassy Kweisga in 1971. He was also working at the university at the time.
Whatâ€™s your secret for such a long marriage?
The basic thing is that we have given each other space. Being able to support each otherâ€™s interests is important in any relationship. It is also important not to have bottled up feelings in a home.
What do you teach your children about life?
I tell them that being honest is important. I have also taught them to be hard-working because the world is so cruel to lazy people.
Your parting words to women?
Women should remember they are individuals in their own right. They are not appendices of men.
You can only improve your life, if you know your value. Society has for too long conditioned women to see themselves as secondary â€“ that they can only live in the shadow of men, which is not the case.
Women are not extensions of men â€“ Prof. Kwesiga