There, it stood, too close, yet far. Blame the tall walls that shielded the school from the locals.
It sits silent in Banda, one of the Kampala suburbs. It boasts of old girls whose names you have surely hard, right? Uganda Revenue Authority director, Doris Akol, honorable Syda Bumba, State Minister for Culture and Gender Rukiah Nakadama, Government chief whip, Ruth Nankabirwa, and oh, even singer Jackie Chandiru, and the list goes on. You can call it Nabisunsa Girls School.
So braving the furious January sun, we set off to find this school off the Kampala- Jinja highway in Banda. Piece of cake! Just before the Banda taxi stage, a sign-post reads: Nabisunsa Girls School. It is no busy stage, matter of fact; it could well be a residential area, complete with a few kiosks and noise here and there.
There, it stood, too close, yet far. Blame the tall walls that shielded the school from the locals. Or is it that guard that now stark his head through the gate and suddenly turns around to summon a lady clad in plain clothes.
No words spoke, are we were in trouble here? “Sorry madam, we do not allow women putting on trousers past the gate!” she said, quite firmly. Long story short, it took phone calls and a bit of convincing to get in, but we did.
It wasn’t the mosque on the left, neither was it the other old structures and trees cluttered around that caught the eye, it was a new structure. A tall building, not a class, no way, it had to be something else, a health center maybe. But no, it wasn’t, this building, the new building, with a fresh face of paint, was the school administration block. Good idea; strategically located, there was no missing it!
“I am sorry we had to keep you waiting, but the rules of the rules are no trousers,” the school’s head teacher Hajjati Aisha Lubega said upon entry into her office. Nabisunsa she said was school founded solely on Muslim values, which demand a certain dress-code, or at the very least a long skirt. It was forgiven, and the conversation changed to that of history of the school.
“Where can I start?” she wonders. Nabisunsa Girls School she said was started back in 1954, and like most schools, had the humblest of beginnings. “What you see today is a Secondary, but this school started as a junior school, and introduced Secondary in 1958,” she says.
She notes that Nabisunsa would not have been, if not for a one Prince Badru Kakungulu. In fact, the school is even named after Kakungulu’s mother. She said that Kakungulu, also an Old Boy of King’s College Buddo, wanted girls of Muslim faith to attain an Education in an all Muslim school. “He wanted the girls to get the much needed good education in a school founded on Muslim grounds,” she says as a matter of fact.
See, the notion that the Muslim children returned from the different Christians schools converted into Christianity had the Muslim community shun education especially of the girls. “Many of them instead took their children only to Madrassa schools, where they only learned to read the Koran,” Lubega provides.
Interestingly though, when the school opened its gates, 27 girls came in, most of them Christians and Miss Dimblebee, a member of the Church Missionary Society, was the school’s first head teacher for four years till it introduced Secondary.
With 27 girls in Junior School and later 25 in Secondary, Nabisunsa Girls School had started to find its bearing into a population of 1,485 girls today. It soon had a shift from a private to a government aided school.
A walk around
No doubt, with just one look, Nabisunsa would do with a little more land. Building stay clumped next to each other, attempts to plant trees make the school appear even smaller. The trees too got lost in brief stone buildings, completely no much to today’s architectural strides that soon catches the eye.
The multi-purpose hall, quite the hall! Complete with a stage, steps leading to an upper sitting area, with a ceiling so high. “It can accommodate over seven hundred students,” Hajjati Lubega says. Its ‘ancestor’ the dining hall is a far yawn from this new building. Everything else around this building looks painfully miserable, even worse, dwarfed.
Not too far from the huge hall, is the old library, a shadow silenced by what you call, its ‘giant new master’. The New Library, stands tall and proud. The maintained gray, with just the right splashes of light blue, and a manicured lawn make for a handsome building. It could be one of those museums looking things you see, boasting of a 400 sitter interior. The old frown looking Library can now be put to rest, right?
It is no wonder that when Richard Mwanika, the school Librarian emerged out of the building, it was to tell of his joy. Thinking we were a team, from the Education Ministry and the African Development Bank, which had put all the structures in place, he burst into speech.
“When are you coming to launch our Library,” Mwanika cried out. Before we could respond, he first put his joy aside and told of the challenges that he was facing in the Library. “Let me ask: why didn’t you put some burglar proof on the windows?” he starts. “Without burglar proof, a Library can lose books,” he said.
He said that he needed more shelves for the books, many of which stay packed in boxes. Before that was done, he said another section of the Library had started leaking. “In the corner, there is a part that is leaking, and also, there is a problem with the electric circuit,” he said.
So, not all is rosy in Nabisunsa, like some of its aging buildings, it has its share of issues. “I have 82 teaching staff, but only 58 are on the payroll and the rest are paid for by the parents,” Hajjati Lubega says. “Also, I only have houses for teachers and yet we cannot afford housing and transport allowances for our teachers.” She however says that they must soldier on and make sure they stay on top.
“When you are in Nabisunsa, you are not supposed to fail.” She says that for the longest time possible, the school has had up to 90% of its students getting the first grade but she wants 100%. “You see, I want Nabisunsa to capture the job market, I do not even want to hear that 10% of them are on the street and the rest are at home, no!” Hajjati Lubega says.
Although joining Nabisunsa at A’level was a bit of a culture shock for her, Uganda Revenue Authority director Doris Akol says that she attributes a lot to the school. “Skills such as being self-driven, self-sufficient, self-confidence, public speaking, eloquence,” she starts. “The attributes that were taught then and are still taught now make Nabisunsa girls very confident people.”
The school’s chairman board of directors, Mukasa Kakoma, says that discipline, dedication and hard work, are the key things that keep Nabisunsa on top. “We are among the top 10 schools in the country, and we strive to grow academically and we must do all three things,” he says.
Mustafa Miuwa, the school’s director of Studies, told of a well -endowed team of hardworking and self-motivated teachers in the school website. He also boats of a well-stocked library, a conducive environment and a strong administration.
When school engineer Sraaj Kulubya spoke, it was of the school’s unity. “In Nabisunsa, we are like a family, we take care of each other,” he said.