GORRETI Mbabazi is a teacher at Aga Khan Primary School. Because teaching children is a calling, as she says, she teaches with passion, care and love. Michael Kanaabi tells her story
THE children who nominated her filled the coupons in pencil, with letters in different shapes and sizes, some stretching a little above and below the line, but they all wrote one thing: â€˜Teacher Gorettiâ€™, and gave their reasons for the nomination in their simple, innocent way. That drove my curiosity into high gear as I set out to visit Aga Khan Primary School â€“ I wanted to see this woman that had so thoroughly managed to steal the hearts of these little ones.
Thursday afternoon and I am inside P.1 K class at Aga Khan Primary School. The jolly little children are all over the place, playing and singing.
One little girl is trying to organise the chairs in the class, while the boys are running up and down excitedly. Half term is beginning and the children will be at home till the following week.
â€œCalm down; reduce on the noise please,â€ the teacher calls out in a simple, but authoritative tone.
The little ones oblige with no complaints and my interview with Teacher Goretti Mbabazi begins.
â€œMy father died when I was young. So, I did not get to know much about him. All I can remember is he had framed his Grade III teaching certificate which hung on the wall in our sitting room. I liked this certificate and promised myself I would get one like it when time came,â€ Mbabazi narrates.
â€œMy late fatherâ€™s friends, colleagues and family members often talked about him as a great teacher in his days. That is how I decided to venture into teaching; just to be like my father,â€ she confesses.
As early as P.1, her teachers gave her responsibilities in the classroom that brought her closer to them. Mary Tinka Abwoli, who was Mbabaziâ€™s teacher of English in primary school, was so smart and articulate. Mbabazi dreamt one day she would be like her and it could only happen if she became a teacher.
What makes her outstanding?
Alice Arinaitwe, a teacher at Aga Khan Primary School, has known Mbabazi for 12 years now. â€œShe is a very social person who does not get annoyed easily. She will work beyond her official time when need arises to ensure certain things are done,â€ Arinaitwe says.
Arinaitwe says Mbabaziâ€™s consistency as a teacher over the years is commendable.
Outside the classroom, Mbabazi is such a wonderful story teller with a great sense of humour.
Jennifer Kateregga, another long-serving teacher, who met Mbabazi for the first time at Aga Khan Nursery School in Kololo, says Mbabazi is a role model to both her colleagues and the children she teaches.
â€œShe is such a loving and caring teacher and she takes her time to understand the children she teaches. She builds a good relationship with the parents of the children she teaches.
While still teaching in Fort Portal in the late 1980s, Mbabaziâ€™s selflessness and empathy came to the fore as she interacted with community members, especially the parents of her pupils.
As a result, she was able to convince many parents who were keeping their children away to take them to school by preaching to them the benefits of education.
She also helped a lot of parents who wanted to take their children to school, but did not have all the required fees, by linking them to and convincing the school authorities to allow the children study as the parents raised their fees.
Mbabazi says children need a person who opens up to them, appreciates who they are and loves them unconditionally. Her deep and sincere love for children gave her a feeling that teaching was her calling.
A natural leader
Hannington Arinaitwe, the Aga Khan head teacher, says Mbabazi is resourceful, a good mentor and mobiliser.
Mbabazi also conducts regular workshops for the Uganda Teachers Development Association, an organisation that brings together all Ugandan teachers trained by the Aga Khan University.
She is also the current chairperson of this association and house martial to one of the schools sportsâ€™ houses, Kangaroo.
Mbabazi doubled as a deputy head teacher while at Aga Khan Nursery in Kololo between1996 to 2001 and has been an assistant coordinator of the lower primary section (P.1 to P.3 and Year 1 to Year 3 for the international section), a job she has done very well, according to Arinaitwe.
What the children say
Hope Kisakye, a pupil in Mbabaziâ€™s class says: â€œI like my teacher because she is nice, she teaches us with care and helps us a lot.â€
Ahad Gary (looks me straight in the eye and says confidently): â€œTeacher Goretti is a good teacher; she is so kind and treats me very well.â€
â€œThe biggest challenge I have come across while teaching children is getting to understand the fact that children do not learn at the same pace. You have to keep trying to ensure that the slow ones catch up, while the fast learners do not get bored. You have to ensure they always have a new challenge,â€ Goretti says.
She derives satisfaction from teaching when pupils gain the confidence and are able to fully and freely express themselves without any fear.
What the future holds for her
When she is finally done with teaching, Mbabazi wants to do social work, especially counselling children and parents, which she thinks helps children achieve their full potential. Mbabazi is also a writer and looks forward to publishing some of her works in the future, especially poems.
Who is Goretti Mbabazi?
Born in Fort Portal, Kabarole district, Goretti Mbabazi was the fourth born in a family of seven, but two have since passed away. She went to Kinyamasika Demonstration School for her primary, Mpanga Secondary for Oâ€™ Level and Kinyamasika Teachers College, where she got her Grade Three certificate in teaching. She started teaching in 1986 at Kinyamasika Demonstration School.
â€œWhile teaching at Kinyamasika, I got to know lots of people. I was also a member of the Parents Teachers Association and was involved in a number of community activities,â€ she says.
She joined the Institute of Teacher Education Kyambogo (ITEK), now Kyambogo University, where she got a diploma in early childhood education and language.
New teaching career begins
In 1993, Mbabaziâ€™s teaching career took a new direction that has come to define her career as a teacher to date.
She started teaching lower primary at Kampala Parents School before moving to Aga Khan Nursery School.
Between 1996 and 2001, she was made the deputy head teacher at the school, which she did alongside teaching. She then took a break off to do a degree course in early child education at Makerere University before returning to Aga Khan Primary School in 2005.
Her motherly touch has endeared her to pupils