“We are nurturing young talent and this is just part of what we are doing in the schools."
On Saturday 2nd April 2016, Nabisunsa Girls’ School Mukono held a colorful poetry festival at the school organized by the rhymers’ poetry club 5 years since the opening of the club in 2011.
The first of its kind, this festival attracted students from both secondary and primary schools including Uganda Martyrs SS Namugongo, Seeta High School Main Campus, St. Mary’s College Kisubi and neighboring Waterford Nursery and Primary School among others.
The school’s main hall, art room, dining, library, selected classrooms and the gardens were all decorated and host to various activities including discussions, musical performances and poetry presentations which had more to them than well-thought titles and rhymes.
Nabisunsa students were on ground to welcome guests to the festival. (Credit: Solomon Kalema)
From left, Daniel Omara, president Eagles Poetry Club, St. Mary's College, Kisubi and Kisembo Geraldine, president Debate Club of Nabisunsa and member of the poetry club. (Credit: Solomon Kalema)
“We were used to watching poets in one place. So we decided to have multiple locations to entertain our audience,” said Apio Sheila, the club president.
In addition to lots of historical masterpieces like “We will not let exam results decide our fate” by Britain-born poet Suli Breaks, the students presented notable compositions like “I will shower when I want” and “My crazy imagination” that got the crowd excited by the maturity and blend of controversy in them.
The latter, “My crazy imagination” by one Nahabwe Emily, was about the desires of an estranged lover who keeps thinking about a love that she doesn’t have within her reach.
This particular piece captivated the crowd, Nahabwe being a senior one student at the school who had the creativity to build an emotion-filled poem.
According to Peter Kagayi, a teacher of Literature and English who helped the students in organizing the festival, such talent was given a platform to enable students to appreciate poetry.
“We are nurturing young talent and this is just part of what we are doing in the schools,” Kagayi said.
Ruyonga (left) gave the opening remarks to the students. Right is Peter Kagayi. (Credit: Solomon Kalema)
Variety of activities
The students lined up poetry presentations, music performances and organized poetry core discussions where poets from different classes presented to smaller groups in the classrooms to get views from their counterparts about the quality of their poetry.
The event attracted among others, popular rap artist Ruyonga who gave the audience an illustration of how rap and poetry feed into each other, giving samples of lines from his hits such as Tutuuse, Rruu and Happy 2 be Ug.
He also gave the ecstatic audience his view of the origins of poetry which he said existed as a creative voice way before rap and hip hop music.
As a favorite for a number of school poetry events including KaTorch and Verses in Vac, Ruyonga said hailed this festival as a big step by Nabisunsa.
“This kind of event will build more focus on creative arts in schools, teaching young people better ways of addressing what goes on in society too,” he said.
Tusubira Sheebah Latifah, who is in S.6, presents a speech at the festival. (Credit: Solomon Kalema)
Kagayi, the main organizer of the event, also hinted on the positive energy that the day brought to the students beyond Nabisunsa.
“We have managed to reach schools like Gayaza High and Kings College Buddo and this event shows how the schools are working together,” Kagayi noted.
The parents were not left to sit and watch as is the tradition usually.
Instead they were involved in separate discussions with the students on various topics including the “benefits of poetry” “How to handle a child who loves poetry” and the “relevance of the National Theatre today” in which they expressed the need for the theatre to hold more students’ events for such talents as poetry and general performing arts to grow.
Apio Sheila, the president of Nabisunsa Girls Rhymers Poetry Club. (Credit: Solomon Kalema)
Opio John of St. Kizito SS Bugolobi attended the festival. (Credit: Solomon Kalema)
18-year-old Nabadda Hibah, Nabusunsa's deputy head girl. (Credit: Solomon Kalema)
Nabisunsa’s Rhymers club had 59 year old Amatre James, a revered teacher of literature whose experience dates back to 1979 and spans through schools like Nabisunsa Girls, Namilyango College, Trinity College Nabingo, Busoga College Mwiri and St. Joseph’s Nagalama as a motivational speaker for the audience.
In his presentation, Amatre hinted on how he has been appointed as a head teacher three times in different schools and turned down the offers to maintain his role as a teacher of poetry.
“I am glad that young people are also picking the example and organizing such events,” he said in appreciation.
We learnt, we shared
At the height of the excitement, students who spoke to the New Vision expressed what they believe was the highlight of the festival.
“Poetry is normally a one-place event. This time we have had a variety of locations and activities,” Tumwebaze Clarity, 17, Uganda Martyrs Senior Secondary School Namugongo.
“I have learnt that one does not have to be a student of arts to love poetry. It is self-expression for all of us,” Kisembo Geraldine, 18, President Debate Club of Nabisunsa Girls School and member of the Rhymers’ Club.
“This kind of event helps students to gain confidence on the stage,” Daniel Omara, 18, President of the Eagles poetry club of St. Mary’s College Kisubi.
“The love for poetry is growing and this festival is going to help us learn to express ourselves even better,” Nabadda Hibah, 18, Deputy Head Prefect at Nabisunsa Girls’ School.
The Omukago team treated students to a taste of coffee brands. (Credit: Solomon Kalema)
Parents also shared their appreciation of the creativity exhibited at the festival and among them was Benson Bityo who applauded the school for recognizing the role of talent development in education.
“Creativity and innovation rank as the world’s most valuable skills. These kinds of presentations nurture young people into professionals who can communicate. Our grandparents also used to groom us using poetry and I am glad to see the students pick up,” he said.
Where else from here?
According to Apio, the club president, the students have a dream to travel to as far as the Kenya National Theatre later this year to showcase the potential that Uganda has in the field of poetry today.
This well-packaged event showed how much the students are interested in going out of their way to spread the message not only to other schools in Uganda but also across East Africa.