“She taught us to love each other and share with other children,” said her son Aaron Ogaba.
PIC: Hundreds of people attended Mama Abitimo's burial in Gulu. (Credit: Jackson Kitara)
Gulu female educationist Rebecca Abitimo Odongkara, popularly known as Mama Abitimo, has been buried, with her family describing her as a "woman with integrity".
"She taught us to love each other and share with other children," said her son Aaron Ogaba, who spoke on behalf of the family.
He talked of how "lovely" their mother was and how she "stood by her word" and "valued education".
And most importantly, Abitimo reminded her offspring not to forget their roots.
"When we went into exile in Kenya and then to USA, she taught us to remember home and visit relatives at home here. That is why we learnt Luo and when she was with us, we would speak only Luo," said Ogaba.
Several high-profile people attended the burial and among them were for UPC party president Dr. Olara Otunnu, northern youth MP Oscar Omony Otema, Gulu woman MP Betty Aol Ochan, Gulu municipality MP Lyandro Komakech, Chua West MP Philip Okin, Canada-based New Vision columnist Opiyo Oloya, and others.
Gulu district local government leaders and various religious leaders were also at the send-off.
Abitimo died two weeks ago aged 82 and has been laid to rest at her home in Pece Acoyo, Koro sub-county in Gulu district.
She had for long battled lung disease until her death at International Hospital Kampala (IHK).
She was the proprietor of Upper Nile Institute for Appropriate Technology (UNIFAT) Primary School in Gulu and founder of ‘Unified for UNIFAT", an organization supporting orphans.
Denis Okema, one of the children who benefited from her education initiative said the Mama Abitimo taught them and nurtured them to work hard and serve the community.
"Our mother told us to serve community without being corrupt, but with love and integrity," said Naomi Atuno, her eldest daughter.
The Bishop of Northern Uganda Mission of Seventh Day Adventist Church, Bishop Luke Issile, led the burial service. He told mourners to turn to God to revive their faith so that they enter the kingdom of God and have eternal life.
"You should not wait until you are sick to turn to God. Devote yourself to God so that you live a peaceful life after death."
Issile also called on people to follow the example that Mama Abitimo set during her lifetime.
MAMA ABITIMO AT A GLANCE
- She was born in Ngarium in Usuk County, Soroti district (in present-day Katakwi) on April 4, 1934 to Rwot Jona Oruni of Lukwo clan (Kitgum) and Naomi Atuno (Kitgum)
- Started her education at Gulu Girls Primary School in 1942 until 1949, before joining Gulu High School
- In 1954, Abitimo got married to the late John Brown Odongkara who died in 2000. He had served as police officer in the Obote government and also district administrator of Gulu
- She continued with her education in 1979 and graduated in 1982 with a Master's degree in Education from Philadelphia State University, USA
- She returned to Uganda and founded UNIFAT in 1983 at Otwee village in Gulu district, now Amuru town council in Amuru district
- In 1986, Abitimo relocated the school in Gulu town at Lagony Road near Bank of Uganda where she supported over 5,000 children and 400 orphans who studied for free
- In 1987, she started Mego Guti, a women organization that mediated for peace
- In 1988-1989, she was the first chairperson Uganda Women's Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO), first female Mayor who served in Gulu and Acholi sub-region and the first person to bring Seventh Day Adventist Church in Acholi sub-region
- She is survived by eight biological children, six adopted children and 40 grandchildren