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MAO: Fragments and lessons from my school days addressed to students

Namilyango College. FACEBOOK PHOTO

OPINION | By Norbert Mao This week the last school term of the year starts. So let me share these fragments to lift up the spirit of our students. The only caveat I offer is that school days offer foundation-al knowledge. Learning should be a lifelong endeavor.

In 1984 I arrived in Namilyango to join S3. S3 South to be precise. Even back in the day Namilyango was a paragon of academic excellence. My arrival as it were happened because I had spent two unhappy years (academically speaking) in Wairaka College. Why? Wairaka was not my first choice, or second choice or even my third choice. But I ended up there because my application forms for entrance to a Secondary school somehow disappeared.

I actually deserved to be in school. I had even got the only first grade of the P7 class of 1981 at Maggwa Primary School, Jinja. My brother who got a second grade had been admitted to Jinja College. My father got tired of seeing me loafing at home for a term and a half and decided that I should be in school. Any school that would have me.

But after two years, I started having other ideas. On the day I was to report for my first term of S3 I decided that all my clothes needed washing and the washing would start after lunch, the same time that my father had scheduled for taking me to school.

When my father returned and found me busy with washing instead of waiting with my luggage all neatly packed and ready for school a conversation followed or rather a heated exchange followed with the result that my departure for school was indefinitely postponed. I had made the case that whatever I could learn from the Wairaka of 1984, I could also learn by simply staying at home. Going to Namilyango was the only way to resolve the stalemate. And it was possible because my father spoke to Mr. Alfred Mugoda, who was the Headmaster by then.

The bright boys of S3 South did not disguise their joy at seeing me. You see in even the brightest of classes someone has to be the last and in S3 South none of the boys thought they deserved the indignity of being the last in class. My arrival cheered up the class because it appeared to present a solution to their dilemma.

Here for once was a student from a so called third world school who truly deserved to be the last. The pronouncement was made by one Ntabanzwa. Who else? Ntabanzwa was the acknowledged perennial number one in the class.

Others laughed, chuckled or grinned in acknowledgement of the improved state of affairs. The scornful laughter kept ringing in my ears and I did not like it one bit. I could either wring my hands in self pity or work my tails off to prove the class wrong. I chose the latter. The rest as they say his history.

By the time I left Namilyango not only had I served as Head Prefect but was also among the best in the country having scored 18 out of 19 points in A Levels in 1988. That was more than enough to get me into Makerere Law School.

School days can shape your thinking and also enable you make lifelong friends. Boxing was major sports in Namilyango at that time. Now it is rugby.

I never miss a chance to speak about the extent to which boxing and rugby define the Namilyango cosmo-conception or worldview. In boxing our coaches impress in our subconscious one key rule – “fight one more round”. It doesn’t matter the circumstance but you have a duty to fight one more round. The Namilyango spirit is defined by fortitude, persistence and stick-to-itiveness”.

In rugby our coaches exhort us at all costs to “hold onto the ball”.

Even when you your head is bloodied and you feel and hear your ribs cracking, you have a sacred duty to your team to hold onto the ball. Rugby ensures that Ngonians keep their eyes on the prize!



Norbert Mao is currently the President of the Democratic Party in Uganda


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