Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Seated in a swinging chair holding a newspaper as he sips a hot cup of tea, Edward Lwanga Kasole Bwere, enjoys his retirement at his residence in Wakiso district. Born 85-years ago, Kasole is a renowned and accomplished teacher whose love for education gave birth to the Uganda’s first privately owned school, Kampala Parents School, which later became school for children of affluent and influential parents.
Educating the children of big shots put Kasole in direct touch with major decision makers in the country. He however, says dealing with the wealthy, didn’t prepare him enough to teach children of two sitting presidents- Apollo Milton Obote and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Kasole’s experience teaching children from the first family started in 1981 when he received a phone call from State House.
At the time President Milton Obote had just won the presidential elections. Kasole describes his first meeting at State house as nerve racking affair, adding that he thought it was his last day on earth but he had nowhere to run to. According to Kasole, he was picked up in a Mercedes Benz dispatched by State house escorted by two heavily protected vehicles.
Kasole says he kept asking himself what could have landed him in trouble and remembered a Luganda proverb ‘Bakuyita embuga si buganzi’ loosely translated as ‘Being summoned by people of authority is not necessarily a good thing’.
He was received at State House by Miria Kalulue Obote, the first lady at the time. Mrs. Obote welcomed a nervous Kasule warmly and informed him that she wanted to enroll her last born, Benjamin Opeto at Kampala Parents. According to Kasole, teaching Opeto also known as Ben Obote wasn’t a walk in the park.
He says Opeto wasn’t like any other pupil he had dealt with before. Kasole explained Opeto was escorted by heavily armed soldiers during his first days at the school who watched over him like hawks. In case he needed a toilet, young Opeto was whisked off at break neck speed to the president’s residence in Kololo.
For Kasole, it was a challenge that he decided not to walk away from. As a teacher, he decided to strip Opeto of all privileges of a first son. He says that he hatched a plan of convincing Opeto’s parents to allow him to have a life outside state house.
This included getting a home where Opeto could live like any normal child of his age, which totally transformed him to the satisfaction of not only his teacher but parents as well.
Stripped of all his privileges, 8-year-old Opeto flourished in his studies to the extent that even his parents were surprised by his improvements. While teachers today might be rewarded by a parent with a bottle of soda for their efforts, Kasole was rewarded with tax exemption on his schools.
In 1985, Obote’s government was over thrown in a coup led by Brigadier Bazilio Olara Okello and General Tito Okello, which separated Kasole from Opeto who was in primary four.
Opeto’s departure left Kasole with fond memories of an eight-year-old boy who was determined to follow each and every one of his rules. He says the boy was scared of being kicked out of the prestigious Kampala Parents.
When Museveni took over, he sent four of his children including Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who was in primary six while the youngest Diana Museveni in Nursery school to Kasole.
He says this time round there was little fear since there were no cars and summons to the state house.
Having come from Sweden, where the Swede language is the main medium of communication, Kasole says that the Museveni children had to be taught English.
“When they came they didn’t know English. This really bothered the elder boy since he was in P.6. But the moment, they learnt the language, I didn’t have any academic problems with them,” Kasole recalls.
Kasole says that the children would come with packed lunch from home. He however, said that he didn’t have to intervene this time a lot because the children enjoyed the meals offered at the school.
Kasole says that throughout his experience, the presidents were involved in the learning of their children. With a far off look in his eyes, Kasole says that parents today should be ashamed with the way they look after their children.
“Some even never check their homework yet they don’t have huge responsibility like running an entire country,” Kasole said. He recalls that President Museveni was a hands-on parent who always took his time to check his children’s home work.
When asked what his secret formula was, Kasole laughed and shook his head whispering that it was making his pupils his friends. “I knew all my learners by name and I used to talk to them. When I noticed that your class work was not good, I visited your home and asked your parents to allow me to talk to you,” Kasole reveals.
After rubbing shoulders with two of the most important men in the country, Kasole described his experience as a blessing from God. “I thank God for the chance he gave me, a no body to be able to educate those children. I did nothing to deserve it but I am happy I played a hand in making them what they are today,”Kasole said.
Today, the children Kasole educated are influencing the lives of many people. Benjamin Opeto is a pastor while Lt. General Muhoozi Kainerugaba is the Special Presidential Advisor for special operations. Natasha Karugire is a fashion designer and a private secretary to President Museveni on house hold affairs.
Patience Rwabwogo is a pastor at the Covenant Nations Church. Diana Kamuntu recently made a debut as an actress in the 27 Guns movie where she acted as, Janet Kataha Museveni.