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Kyanda: My days as Budo’s first African headmaster

By Vision Reporter

Added 2nd July 2006 03:00 AM


THE first time he was offended. The second overwhelmed. In 1966, King’s College Budo offered Daniel Musisi Kyanda a teaching job. Two emissaries were dispatched to Lubiri Secondary School, where the young teacher was stationed, to woo him.


THE first time he was offended. The second overwhelmed. In 1966, King’s College Budo offered Daniel Musisi Kyanda a teaching job. Two emissaries were dispatched to Lubiri Secondary School, where the young teacher was stationed, to woo him.

By Andrew Ndawula Kalema
THE first time he was offended. The second overwhelmed. In 1966, King’s College Budo offered Daniel Musisi Kyanda a teaching job. Two emissaries were dispatched to Lubiri Secondary School, where the young teacher was stationed, to woo him.

He, however, disappointed them after finding out why they were head hunting him; to add colour to the white teaching staff. “There was no way I would take a job offered on the basis of the colour of my skin.”

Dr Kyanda indignantly recalls the indecent proposal made to him four decades ago.

Three years later, in 1969, Kyanda received a letter from his former headmaster Ian Robinson, inviting him to head the school. “It was a bomb. I couldn’t understand why he had picked me. Had the job just been advertised, I would not have gone for it,” he confessed.

The letter found him in Kenya, working as a travelling secretary with a Christian organisation, Pan African Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

For six months, Kyanda prayed that the school board would find someone else. They didn’t. Instead Robinson held a lengthy talk with him on the grounds of Namirembe Cathedral. He took on the challenge of becoming King’s College Budo first African headmaster.

Although he studied at Budo (1947-1958) and taught there for three months (1964), Kyanda had to go through a long induction process; his takeover was watershed in the school’s existence.

First he met the school board who wanted to know his plan B: in case the job was too hard. “I will come to you for advice,” he told the board members, led by then Archbishop Dunstan Nsubuga.
For a month before school started in 1971, Kyanda and Robinson met everyday for three hours. “We went through the list of teaching staff, with Robinson giving me basic information on each, answering my questions and me taking notes.”

During the first staff meeting, Kyanda informed his staff of 28 teachers; 25 whites; 3 Africans that he had come to add colour, but in a different way.

“While my first wish was to ensure continuity, I at the same time, wanted to do something that fitted with my beliefs, training and personality.”

I wanted to assure the students that each of them counted. I wanted to ensure they all had ready access to me.”
Some white staff were put off by this laissez faire attitude to communication between headmaster and students. They did not, however, challenge it.

Actually the two main challenges Kyanda faced, came from outside school.
First was Amin’s capture of power on January 25, 1971, a few days after Kyanda had taken office.

“I was naïve about the new order. Although it was clear there had been a break from the past, I hardly knew what to expect. But since our job was to teach, we continued to teach.”

Almost immediately, law and order broke down in the country. In 1972, armed thugs attacked Budo and killed the bursar.

Increasingly it became hard for the new headmaster to insulate the students from what was has happening. As a result student discipline, one of the pillars on which the school was built, started crumbling.

First to complain were Old Budonians and parents. They felt Kyanda was not trying hard enough to enforce discipline. “But there was little I could do about it. The country was going to the dogs,” he defends himself.

“Sometimes if I met a student who was under the influence of alcohol, I would change direction to avoid a confrontation,” he further admits.

Not that he condoned drunkenness, or any other form of indiscipline. Sometimes he had more pressing problems; like shortage of food and teachers.
Feeling vulnerable, following Amin’s expulsion of Asians in 1972, many whites left the country. By 1973, the teaching staff at Budo had shrunk to 13 teachers.

“I was teaching 21 periods a week and also acting as school chaplain,” recounts Kyanda, who in 1973 almost suffered a nervous breakdown due to stress. “For three years, I couldn’t sleep without first taking some medication.”

His family too was affected. After they left Budo, Kyanda’s wife Victoria, confessed that during the five years he was headmaster, there had not been a single day when she was happy. “She could see me falling apart; she could count on one hand, the number of hot meals I had eaten during that period.”

As a result of Amin’s economic war, food became expensive. Kyanda had to explain to the students why they no longer had nice food like matooke, meat and eggs.

“I would regularly join them in mess (dining hall) to share their meals so that when they complained, I would say the food cannot be that bad, if the headmaster can eat it,” says Kyanda who once drove to Bugerere to look for groundnuts to add variety to the students’ diet.

Without alarming them, Kyanda also advised his students to brace themselves for the tough times ahead.
Those who took his advice found it handy when they started a new life after school. “I’m what I’m today, because you were what you were,” they keep telling him.

Meanwhile the issue of discipline continued to haunt Kyanda’s administration, with staff members failing to agree on how to address it. One of the issues was hair plaiting, a popular practice among girls. While some staff condemned it, others thought it was all right.

“I gave the girls a go a head.” He also liberalised chapel attendance, an action that did not go down well with some staff.

Then there was the military government. One day a Colonel in Amin’s army tried to bribe Kyanda with a crate of liquor, to secure a place for his son.

Another time, the headmaster suspended for two weeks a student who had been found taking alcohol. The culprit’s father, a high-ranking army officer, sent soldiers to discipline Kyanda.

“It was about 8:00pm when a security guard warned me about a lorry full of soldiers headed for my residence. I quickly put on a school uniform, a set of which I kept handy, walked off the hill and only returned after I had been assured that the coast was clear,” he recalls his escape.

In 1975, after five years, Kyanda left Budo. “It was an enriching experience, although it drained me. After heading Budo, you can do anything,” he sums up his Budo experience.

After Budo, Kyanda was appointed Provincial Centenary Coordinator, as Church of Uganda prepared to cerebrate 100 years of existence. However, he did not stay around to celebrate the centenary.

Someone convinced Amin the centenary celebrations was a cover to fundraise for rebels. As coordinator, Kyanda found himself on Amin’s list of rebel collaborators. After a warning from Archbishop Nsubuga, Kyanda fled to Kenya, with Ksh60 and a watch.

However, with his church contacts, he immediately got a job with Open Doors, a Christian organisation.

The 66-year-old returned home four years ago. Currently he is the planning officer at Ndejje University.

Kyanda: My days as Budo’s first African headmaster

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