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St. Leo’s College gets a new breath of life

By Conan Businge

Added 11th July 2016 10:19 AM

New and renovated buildings have sprouted amongst several old and non-renovated old ones.

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A new library mushroomed off by old buildings at the school

New and renovated buildings have sprouted amongst several old and non-renovated old ones.

Prestigious is definitely not one of the descriptions that come to your mind, the moment you set foot in St. Leo’s College Kyegobe’s compound, in Fort Portal.

And yet that is what used to be the school’s trademark back in the olden days. Several decades have gone by and the effects of negligence, strikes, underfunding and academic limps have taken their toll on this former great school.

The striking reality of old dilapidated buildings, with no coat of paint for years; signifies a school that has had a great share of the tough times.  

But in this hazy scenario shrouding St. Leo’s College Kyegobe, or SLECK as it is commonly known by the people in the community and the old students; lies a great sign of the school’s resurrection.

New and renovated buildings have sprouted amongst several old and non-renovated old ones. The African Development Bank and Government in few years ago massively invested $1.7m in the rebuilding of St. Leo’s College.

 A few buildings can be seen over the horizons, swamped up old buildings. Among the new buildings include the new library, teachers’ quarters, an ablution toilet and a laboratory. The school also benefited from the renovation of its classroom blocks, a storied dormitory (Mulenga House) on top of having some of the school’s classrooms restocked with furniture.

The deputy headteacher (administration) Fred Ojuka notes that, “The school greatly benefited from the Government project and will gradually regain its lost glory.”

The school also had its computer and science laboratories restocked. It also received a tractor, meant to improve its teaching of agriculture and running of its expansive farm.

St. Leo’s history

Built in 1921 by the White Fathers; St. Leo’s College was first established at what presently stands as St. Mary’s Seminary in Virika, Fort Portal. By then, it was attracting pupils from St. Peter’s Primary School and other Catholic primary schools.

The birth of the school can be traced back in the early 1930s, when the White Fathers invited the Brothers of Christian Instruction to take over from them. In the early 1960s, the school was shifted to its current location, on a hill overlooking the plains of Mountain Rwenzori and some parts of Fort Portal town.

But in the early 1960s the Brothers of Christian Instruction wanted to return to their base in Kisubi and concentrate on the schools they had started. It was then that the school got the first black headmaster, Moses Nyakazingwa.

The prowess of being champions in almost all students’ sports activities, the excellent academic performance, and the general serenity at the school are partly what used to attract students to this college.

These attributes still run through the school, though not strong enough to salvage its academic prowess that it yielded.

But, all this might is now no more. They could still be giants in sports, but not in academics, discipline and infrastructural set up.
The school obtained a bus on credit a few years ago, after a series of strikes cropping from its delayed purchase.

From 1976 to 1986 the school was headed by Austin Mulengwa, and later his one-time deputy Henry Basaliza was elevated and ran the school between 1987 and 1992.

When Basaliza joined politics and subsequently became a Constituency Assembly delegate, the school started its downward journey, marred by a state of disorganisation and accumulated debts.

Basaliza’s deputy, William Asiimwe, was promoted to head the school up to 1995.

Most instrumental of all this school’s former headteachers, was Bro. Flood, who served the school from 1996 to 2003. He had no connection with the Brothers of Christian Instruction.

He was connected to the Holy Cross Brothers. This was the school’s prime time, with enrolment shooting up and academic and sports performance improving.

Flood was replaced by Bro. Joseph Byamukama, who had been transferred from St. Edward’s Bukuumi in Kibaale; and was part of the Brothers of Christian Instruction. Byamukama was, a few years later, replaced by Bro. John Mary Etubire and later Ivan Otigo.

But that is not all about this once glorious school. It was the most renowned school in strikes between 2004 and 2008; to an extent that at one time one of the head teachers, Bro. John Mary Etubire, was waylaid and beaten and left unconscious in a pool of blood.

His arm was broken, while the ear and skull were cut. He spent almost a full academic term in hospital in Kampala.

After the attack on Bro. Etubire, the school was closed for some time to conduct investigation; but to date, no culprits have ever been apprehended.

During Bro. Etubire’s time, students complained of poor feeding, lack of drugs in the school clinic, undelivered school bus, poor sanitation and the headmaster’s harsh administrative style.

The students also complained of lack of a goalkeeper for the school’s football team and demanded that a mercenary be hired.

Will Kyegobe rise again?

An eerie nostalgic feeling grips me as I inquire about the status of my old school. The schools’ stature is worrying, but all is not lost.

Francis Wako, the deputy headteacher (academics) is very optimistic about the status of the school. He is one of the school’s longest serving teachers.  In his view, much as the school is having challenges, it is on the right road to recovery.

But one aspect you cannot take away from this College is its rich history.

The school had a total population of 700 students and 45 teachers’ way back in 2012. However, its population has gravely sunk to about 545 students.

But a few years ago, the school was indebted to the tune of sh390m and was almost closing down. Much as it managed to pay off the debt with time, the schools has been battling to clear the bank over the School Bus they got on credit. With the reduced school population and decline in academic performance, it has been quite a struggle for the school to keep afloat.

Parts of its problems were precipitated when Uganda National Examinations Board withheld their 2014 national examinations, over malpractice. The population of the school went down drastically and it has not yet recovered from this situation.

Today, the dormitories are in an appalling state, with most of its classroom blocks and kitchen in dire need of a new coat of paint and reconstruction. The dilapidated teachers’ quarters, are not any different.

Otigo the current headteacher, who has just been transferred, joined the school seven years ago and together with Wako. He has worked steadfastly with Wako, to revamp the school; starting with restoring discipline and sanity at this school.

“With discipline, motivation of teachers, proper funding and commitment, the school will soon be among the best in the country’s best,” Wako explains.

But Otigo has now been transferred to another school in Iganga.

Charles Nyakahuma, a long time chairperson of the Parents and Teachers Association says that, “We do feel we have all that we needed to improve this school’s performance. We need to ensure that the students’ discipline is improved.”

“The school has had various problems, and also had issues with setting up a formidable administration of the school. But the time the school changed to Otigo to head the school, the population had gone down to 400 students,” Nyakahuma, who is now the PTA treasurer says.

He also adds, “We managed to step up the population. But we have our results withheld, and the population which had grown to 600, came back down to 500 students. This gravely affected our capacity to admit more students.

Nyakahuma says the Government needs to continue supporting the school financially, to help it regain its lost glory. More so, with the support of the old students, the school seems to be on a steady road of revamp.

OLD STUDENTS

  • Charles Onyango-Obbo, Editor of Mail & Guardian– Africa
  • Dr. George Rubagumya, first executive director of the Uganda Investment Authority
  • Dr. Evarist Mugisa, a consultant with East African Community
  • Paul Kasande, Executive Director Princon. School’s Chairman Board of Governors
  • Adyeri Kanyaihe, Letters Editor, New Vision
  • Eng. Kiiza Nkya, Former  UNRA manager of Mechanical Services
  • Steven Kagwera, MP Burahya
  • Dr. Adam Mugume, Executive Director for Research–Bank of Uganda

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