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Against all odds, Kawoya gives orphans hope

By Vision Reporter

Added 28th March 2013 01:02 PM

Far off in a ramshackled classrooms in Kalerwe, Joan Nakalyango, a P7 pupil at St Paul Preparatory School, is able to smile after years of uncertainty. When she was in P1, her father died, leaving her and five other children under the care of their grandmother.

Against all odds, Kawoya gives orphans hope

Far off in a ramshackled classrooms in Kalerwe, Joan Nakalyango, a P7 pupil at St Paul Preparatory School, is able to smile after years of uncertainty. When she was in P1, her father died, leaving her and five other children under the care of their grandmother.

By Carol Kasujja

Far off in a ramshackled classrooms in Kalerwe, Joan Nakalyango, a P7 pupil at St Paul Preparatory School, is able to smile after years of uncertainty. When she was in P1, her father died, leaving her and five other children under the care of their grandmother.

“We would plead for school fees and upkeep from relatives and friends, but they got tired and deserted us,” 16-year-old Nakalyango says.

Just when she was about to become a street child and join prostitution, luck came her way. She got support from a Good Samaritan in the area — Fredrick Kawoya.

Kawoya, raised as an orphan, says he knows what it feels like not to go to school. He narrates how one afternoon, while he was still a teacher at Makerere University Primary School, on his way back home to Kalerwe, he witnessed a grisly accident that involved a pupil.

“The child was crossing the road, probably on his way back home, when a taxi knocked him down,” Kawoya recalls.

When he returned home, he kept wondering: “What if the child was mine?” That sad incident inspired Kawoya to help orphans in Kalerwe and those whose parents could not afford school fees.
 

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The building that holds St. Paul Primary School in Kalerwe. The compoud floods when the rain comes but Kawoya soldiers on

In 1965, he started Kawoya Primary School with just six pupils — two girls and four boys. Halima Namakula, the renowned musician, was among the pioneers of the school. Pupils studied for free. By then, he had two teachers. Kawoya would teach religious education and English, while the two teachers would teach the rest of the subjects.

“I was taught by white people, so I am very good at English. In fact, I am now a consultant,” he says. He would use his salary from Makerere University Primary School to pay his teachers.

With time, when the number of pupils increased to 270, he opened up shops, so he could make money to pay his teachers. He even started selling matooke.

At lunch time, he would send the pupils back home to eat. “Some parents would just send their children without anything to eat, so my late wife would prepare for them some food before classes resumed,” he says.

On August 6, 1991, Kawoya registered the school with the Ministry of Education. He decided to change its name to St. Paul Preparatory Primary School because of his strong Christian background. It took in children from daycare to P7.

“With time, I realised that my pupils had to put on uniforms, I called a parents’ meeting and we agreed that they were going to buy uniforms for their children,” he says.

Last year, 20 pupils sat for PLE and one passed in first grade; the others were in second grade.

Challenges

Kawoya says whenever it rains, the school compound turns into a small lake. During that time, pupils cannot access their classrooms. “When it rains, I am always scooping water out of classes with basins and buckets,” he says. The heavy rain forced some parents to take their children away from the school because they were afraid their children would get cholera.

The rain also destroyed the school’s facilities. When it rains, classes leak because the buildings are weak. But Kawoya is still holding onto his dream.

“I love teaching and I cannot just give up. Who will look after these children?” he asks.

The school also has a challenge with water. National Water and Sewarage Corporation cut them off. So when the pupils go to the toilet, they do not have water to wash their hands.

Over the years, Kawoya developed high blood pressure and it has weakened him a little. He can no longer stand for long or continue with the business of selling matooke to bring in money to pay his teachers. And because of this, most of them have left.

Background

Kawoya, 70, was born on February 15, 1942 to the late Elemia Kibirige and Solome Nabatisa of Luwero district.

He attended Katugo and Masulita Primary Schools, then went to Kira Secondary School for O’level and Kyambogo College.

He studied infant’s methods at Makerere University and graduated as a teacher.

He taught at Makerere University Primary School before opening up his school for orphans in Kalerwe. Kawoya obtained a diploma from Makerere University. He has been a teacher for 50 years.


 

Against all odds, Kawoya gives orphans hope

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