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Thursday,September 24,2020 12:18 PM

Bundibugyo’s reason to smile in 29 years

By Vision Reporter

Added 31st March 2005 03:00 AM

He is off duty, but, the minute he steps into the surgical ward at Rubaga Hospital, he is besieged by calls from the nurses on duty.

He is off duty, but, the minute he steps into the surgical ward at Rubaga Hospital, he is besieged by calls from the nurses on duty.

He is off duty, but, the minute he steps into the surgical ward at Rubaga Hospital, he is besieged by calls from the nurses on duty.

“Doctor, there is this patient suffering from prolapsed inter-vertebral disc (a painful condition in which the cushion between the vertebral bones goes out of place and the bones get into contact with each other).”

“I will be right there. Give me a minute,” he shoots back.

Inside the ward, he smiles at everyone and greets them as he introduces us as his friends to the visibly curious faces. This is necessary to calm the nerves of the patients as the camera flashes go off.

“How are you feeling today?” he inquires of a young lady whose leg was amputated after a nasty bus accident. Turning to us, he says, “She is so lucky to be alive.”

This is Dr Jonah Kule, a Makerere University Medical School intern at Rubaga Hospital. But the 38-year-old Kule is not your run-of-the-mill intern.
As more than 5,000 families celebrate the academic achievements of their kin, who are graduating from Makerere University today, Kule, who is also graduating from Makerere today, will have his success celebrated by the whole of Bundibugyo district!

His graduation party, organised by the Bundibugyo Makerere Students Association (BUMASA), will take place tonight at Eden Park, Bwaise, and district leaders and politicians from Bundibugyo are expected.

Apparently, Kule, a Mukonzo, is the first locally-trained medical doctor the district has produced in 29 years! But he still holds the record as the first Mukonzo medical doctor from Bundibugyo.

The first and hitherto last locally-trained medical doctor the district ever produced is Dr William Sikweyunda, currently the District Director of Health Services, Bundibugyo. He is a Mwamba, who graduated from Makerere University in 1976.

Kule, whose name means ‘fourth born boy’ in Lukonzo, is also only the second one after Sikweyunda to accept to go back and work in what most young professionals would refer to as ‘deplorable conditions’ of the district.

Bundibugyo has no access to the national grid of hydroelectric power, uses a gravity water scheme provided by an NGO and, until recently, had impassible roads.

Three tribes, the Bamba (Bwamba county), Bakonzo (Bughendera county) and the Batuku (predominant in Ntoroko county and a minority ethnic group) constitute the district.

The Bakonzo, Kule’s people, live at the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains and are predominantly agricultural people. Most of them have no access to formal education.

That Kule is the only medical doctor among Bundibugyo’s remote Bakonzo, who make up about half of the district’s 178,800 people, is therefore a distinguished achievement.

“I had always wanted to become a medical doctor. I have always wanted to make a difference in my community. I grew up seeing pregnant women with obstructed labour die on bicycles as they were being transported from Bundibugyo to Fort Portal, a distance of 78km!” explains the soft-spoken and born-again medic.

“This was because there were no doctors in Bundibugyo Hospital.”
Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, coupled with his poor academic performance at Rwenzori High School, Kule’s dream could not be realised.

“Part of my dilemma was the poor educational background I had had in Bundibugyo. In my time, I was the best in my school at O’ Level with a second grade! Things were no better in high school,” Kule explains.

Still keen on medicine, Kule decided to settle for second best - a medical assistant’s diploma after his A’ Levels in 1988. He got a job as medical assistant in Bundibugyo Hospital.

Shortly after, he got married to Mellen Musoke, a primary school teacher in Bundibugyo.

With family setting in and his job to attend to, there was little time left and money to save for his dream. He practically gave up all hope of ever becoming a medical doctor. But there was a silver lining on Kule’s dark cloud. This came in the form of Susan Kyomuhendo, a lecturer in Makerere’s Social Sciences faculty and the only university lecturer Bundibugyo has produced.

“She played a big role in ensuring that I didn’t give up on my dreams. She encouraged me to apply for Makerere University Mature Entry Scheme,” Kule narrates.

With support from Kyomuhendo, Kule sat the exams in 1998 and passed. However, for some unexplained reason, he was not admitted. His hopes came crushing down for the second time round. In 1999 he tried his luck again and made it to Makerere, although not on government sponsorship. That left one area uncatered for - his tuition and upkeep.

Fortunately, World Harvest Mission, a church-based charitable NGO based in Bundibugyo offered to meet the costs.
“We came to know Jonah in the early 1990s when he was a medical assistant.

He has been an invaluable partner over the years with our mission in all of our community-based health activities. He is extremely gifted in working with people and we decided to sponsor him because he is highly committed to improving the health of the people of Bundibugyo,” says Dr Scott D. Myhre, team leader, World Harvest Mission, Bundibugyo.

But there was a catch. With the scarcity of doctors in the district, Kule had to be willing to return home and work there.
“Over the past 12 years that I have personally been in Bundibugyo, I have seen many doctors come but few stay very long. Jonah, however, is committed to return to his home place Bundibugyo,” Myhre adds.

A father of four, Kule says would like an opportunity to go back to school and acquire his masters in surgery so that he can become a certified surgeon. And of course, he cannot wait for the end of his internship to go and aid those pregnant women in Bundibugyo, whose death due to lack of medical attention, has haunted him since childhood.

Bundibugyo’s reason to smile in 29 years

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