Last year, the school had only one student in Division One in the Uganda Certificate of Education.
The school now. Courtesy photo
Manjasi High School, the former academic and sports giant of Uganda's far-east, is now among the nation's worst-performing schools.
Located a few kilometres from Tororo town on the Malaba-Jinja highway, the school, which used to boast of over 2,000 students and used to compete with other prominent schools in the district, such as St Peters College Tororo and Tororo Girls in academic performance, is now a mixed school with only 201 students.
Last year, the school only produced one student in Division One in the Uganda Certificate of Education.
John Micheal Ochwo, one of the former students, notes that currently, the school is facing a lot of challenges, which range from empty classes and dormitories. Currently, six out of the 12 dormitories have since been closed, while the others are almost empty.
"We urgently need to improve the image of the school, especially in academics, infrastructure, among others. The staffroom and administration block are in ruins and the school is heavily indebted," Ochwo says.
Recently, the old students organised two trips to the school on a fact-finding mission to see how best they could revamp the former powerhouse. The Old Boys found most of the school buildings dilapidated, while others have been worn out by years of neglect.
Maurice Olum, who was on the fact-finding team, noted that the decline of Manjasi was because stakeholders, who include the Old Boys' Association, the education ministry and the school administration watched the school crumble and did very little to salvage it.
Each student at Manjasi High School pays sh480,000 in fees compared to their neighbours Tororo Girls and St Peters College which almost pay double the amount. This means that the school administration on its own can barely afford to effectively pay all school bills while making any substantial improvements on any other areas, such as infrastructure.
Water supply to the school was disconnected by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation over non-payment and the students rely on an old borehole that constantly breaks down.
Dolar Armashi Popat (centre), an Old Boy of Manjasi High School with President Yoweri Museveni. Popat is a British accountant, businessman and Conservative life peer in the House of Lords
To help Manjasi regain its lost glory, the old students have organised a series of events aimed at raising money to improve on the sanitation of the school. Last month, the old students were able to purchase critical books that were needed by the teaching staff. Some of the Old Boys who are teachers have also volunteered to assist the students.
"We also found out that sanitation at the school is a big challenge. Students do not have access to clean water. As a result, we are appealing to the public, especially those in Kampala and its environs to come and support us on Saturday, July 20 at the Panamera Bar and Lounge in Naguru where we have organised a car wash to raise funds to support the school," Olum says.
Each car will be washed at sh40,000 and the proceeds will be directly banked on an account, according to Olum. The students are also planning to have dinner on August 31 at Hotel Africana in Kampala.
Ochwo also says they are encouraging all old students of the school to play a more active role.
"We believe that once we sort out the sanitation, then we will encourage our old students to bring in their own sons and daughters so that we can soar up the numbers and bring back the lost glory," he says.
According to the current headteacher, Thomas Wamundu, the school was established in 1956 by Mathers, the Archdeacon of the Upper Nile Province.
"The first headteacher was Ernest Victor Townsend, who headed the school from 1956 to 1969. It was originally named Mathers Technical School in remembrance of its founder," Wamundu says.
In 1962, the students at the school went on strike over the technical subjects that the school was offering. The school's curriculum at the time contained subjects such as carpentry and joinery, bricklaying and concrete practice, motor vehicle mechanics, English and Mathematics. The courses led to the award of a crafts certificate from City and Guilds and the graduates from this school were technicians who worked in organisations, such as the East African Posts and Telecommunications, East African Railways and Harbors and the Uganda Electricity Board.
"The students wanted academic subjects which could enable them to get white-collar jobs like their counterparts at St Peters College Tororo," Wamundu adds.
In 1963, it was renamed Manjasi partly because the locals could not pronounce the word Mathers well. The only difference now was that woodwork, metal works and technical drawing were introduced to replace carpentry and motor vehicle mechanics.
In 2002, it was made a mixed school. According to Solomon Osinde, the idea of making the school mixed was because of the recurrent violent strikes by the boys who felt the administration was restricting them from attending social events.
"Mixed school was introduced to neutralize violent behavior and bring about the culture of discipline which I understand has been achieved even though the student population and academic performance declined," he says.
Some of Manjasi's old students have gone on to become distinguished citizens. Some of them include Dolar Armashi Popat, a British accountant, businessman and Conservative life peer in the House of Lords. He became a Member of the House of Lords in July 2010 and is the first Gujarati to represent the Conservative Party in the upper house. He is also the UK Prime Minister's trade envoy to Rwanda and Uganda.
Others are Fox Odoi, President Yoweri Museveni's former Legal officer and a former Member of Parliament. Other legislators include Francis Mukula (Agule County), Jacob Oboth Oboth (West Budama County South), Dr Charles Olaro, the director of clinical and community Services, Eng. Joseph Eyatu (commissioner in the water ministry), Micheal Wanyama Opiemma (executive director Higher Educations Loans Financing) and Usher Wilson Owere (chairman National Organisation of Trade Unions).
In the airline sector, Manjasi produced the late Stephen Moses Oringo (Chief Flight Engineer), Ben Kwoba (Airworthiness Surveyor), Captain Stephen Wegoye, Flight Engineer Jack Oita, Pilot Madaaba, Captain Kadama, Aircraft Controller Godfery Zobbo.
Others prominent old students include Sam Kuloba the commissioner for Government Secondary Education and Johnson Omollo, the general manager NTV Uganda, among others.