By Nick Twinamatsiko
This book grew out of a Facebook post. On July 19, 2010, I wrote a Facebook note, The Unforgetable Ntare Lines, and the response from readers, especially the old boys of Ntare School, was enthusiastic.
As a novelist and memoirist, I have always attached much value to the documentation of experiences and I saw it as a matter of great importance that the spoken sentences that had captured my imagination in my student days at the school should be put on record. But while I had written the note with relish and with a sense of purpose, I had lacked the assurance that others would enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The enthusiasm with which the note was received drew my attention to the power of shared memories and encouraged me to write more Facebook posts of my school recollections.
Some of the comments on the posts urged me to write a whole book of the school experiences. But I knew that, for a book, I would need contributions of other Old Boys, so that we have an integrated whole of the school experiences, reflecting multiple vantage points. So I asked those who attended the school in the 1990s to share their memories and the result is this book.
As I have read the memories of the old boys, I have realised that a book of this kind has multiple benefits. Just as the shared experiences of vulnerability, adolescence and discovery drew us together in the years of boyhood, the shared memories of boyhood can draw us together in our years of adulthood. The hilarious incidents that made us laugh back then can, when recalled, make us laugh again. The somber moments that made us ponder back then can, when recalled, make us ponder again. The triumphant moments that thrilled us back then, can, when recalled, thrill us again. The general lessons that teachers gave us when they deviated from the curriculum can, recalled, be found to hold relevance even for our present situations. Some of the experiences we had, and some of the things that were spoken at assembly were analogous to bubble gums; their utility was confined to the moment. Time tends to erase such things from our memories. The things that linger in the memory after decades are usually things whose value was not exhausted.
The experiences of boyhood, when looked back upon in adulthood, with the relative detachment created by time, can be found to be instructive about life, and the lessons, if not directly applicable in our lives, can be passed on to our sons, many of whom are now in the very phase of boyhood that we were in when we had the experiences. This book is, therefore, published in the belief that it has the power, not only to make us better people, but also better parents.
The documentation of school experiences is also an opportunity to celebrate the people that made a significant difference to our lives in the boyhood years. These could be the teachers that taught well, or the prefects that demonstrated exemplary leadership, or the entertainers that lit up the Main Hall, or the sportsmen that gave us bragging rights over rival schools.
Finally, this book has the power to inspire the current students of the school, the same we were inspired by old boys of the school in our student days. As students of Ntare School in the 1990s, we were inspired by the example of former students of the school who had since become distinguished politicians, professors and professionals.
These included Yoweri Museveni, Eriya Kategaya, Samwiri Karugire, Stanley Tumwine, John Ruganda, Frank Katusiime, Tumusiime Rushedge, Yonasani Kanyomozi, Francis Butagira, Badru Wegulo, Omwony Ojok, and Tarsis Kabwegyere. We took pride in the knowledge that the reigning political organisation in the country traced its history back to the school where, in the 1960s, Museveni, Kategaya, Martin Mwesiga and Mwesigwa Black started a student movement that morphed into the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) in the early 1970s and then into the National Resistance Movement (NRM) in the early 1980s. Museveni had, two decades after leaving the school, become the president, with his former classmate, Kategaya, as the de-facto number two in the NRM hierarchy. Arguably, Ntare School had the most prominent old boys in the country. That gave us pride and confidence. We knew that our school was a launch pad to any heights in any profession.
In the tenth month of the 1990s, Rwandan members of the NRM broke away to form the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) and mount an armed rebellion in their own country -- a rebellion that would end four years later, with the rebels taking Kigali and putting an end to a genocide. The RPF rebellion, like the NRM rebellion before it, was led by Old Boys of Ntare School. As Paul Kagame and others waged war in Rwanda, they most probably drew inspiration from their Ntare School Old
Boys who had successfully staged a rebellion in Uganda and were now running the country. And those who joined Ntare School at about the time the RPF was waging the war similarly drew inspiration from the Old Boys. The RPF believed they could liberate their country just as their Ntare School Old Boys had liberated theirs, and the students of Ntare School in the 1990s believed they could excel academically, and subsequently become leaders in different fields of endeavor, just as their Old Boys, who had attended the school in the 1960s, had done.
Therefore, the Ntare School that I joined on February 18, 1991, was a place of pride and optimism. A student of the school knew that the footpaths on which he trod, the deckers on which he slept, the dining table on which he took his meals, and the classrooms from which he received his lessons, had once been used by the most prominent men in the country – including men who had had the courage to start a liberation war and the brains to prevail.
Their success gave us hope that we, too, could succeed. We could emulate them, just as the RPF was emulating the NRM in Rwanda. The knowledge that the lion had ever roared gave us the strong belief that it could roar again. Seeming to read the mood of the student community, the headmaster, Mr. Stephen Kamuhanda, arranged for a statue of a lion to be constructed at the school and fitted with a sound system, so that it could occasionally be made to roar. As the statue roared, the idea of our school roaring again gripped our imagination.
It may be important to note that whereas, in the new millennium, Ntare School Old Boys have contributed to major infrastructure projects at the school, this was not the case in the 90s.We had the same old facilities, some of which had been damaged during the wars. The Old Boys did not give us material support, but their example gave us priceless spiritual support. Without saying anything, they made us believe that we could make it, and that was of greater value than any material support they could have given. No wonder, the lion soon began to roar again. By the close of the decade, Ntare School had regained its position amongst the top schools in national examinations.
And the lions did not stop at roaring in examinations, but went on to roar in different fields of endeavour. Many of the Ntare School students of the 1990s are now leaders in different professions. In 1988, when Dan Kidega, the first Old Boy featured in this book, reported to the school, 32 years had passed since the school had been founded.
Thirty years have passed since he reported and it is arguable that the old boys from the latter half of Ntare School’s history have been at least as successful as those from the the former half. The peers that I saw on the school compound in khaki shorts and grey trousers who are now distinguished professionals are as many, if not more, than those from whom we drew so much inspiration as students. The only place, perhaps, where we have not been represented is cabinet.
Since we were inspired by the stories of those who attended the school 30 years before we did, our stories can probably inspire those attending the school 30 years after we did. This book has therefore been written partly to inspire the current Ntare School students.
The publishing of the book does not mark the end of the project. It is more like the launch of the project. While 33 old boys are featured in this book, we know that there are thousands of old boys out there. We expect to publish as many books as will be necessary to document the memories and the post-Ntare stories of all the old boys.