Kampala, Uganda | AGNES NANTABA | Peninah Kabenge is smiley most times. Perhaps it is the reason she doesn’t dwell on regrets even when she has been portrayed in negative light. She loves to keep on the positive side of life and being a sports woman, she cheers up often.
She says, “Life is full of challenges but it still doesn’t help to dwell on them because we have to move on”.
Kabenge is the head of sports and recreation department at Makerere University, a position she has held for the longest time. She is also the Principal sports tutor at the institution. But aside from that, she also holds other titles; including the General Secretary of Federation of Africa University Sports (FASU), Executive Board member of International university sports and the president of National University Sports Federation of Uganda. She is also the serving president of International Wood Ball Federation.
But even with all these roles, some of which are continental and global, Kabenge mostly prides in her role at Makerere University.
“All the other roles stem from Makerere University; so I am proud to be part of the oldest and best institution in the country,” she says.
Sports has always been part of her life stemming from the early days of primary school when sports was part of life’s menu. The eighth born of the 11 children of Mr and Mrs. Aligaweesa, having a sports field at home meant being an active sports person. Back home in Luwero were both parents were head teachers, Kabenge had the privilege to participate in different games some of which were male dominated such as football, netball as well as track and field athletics.
Kabenge schooled at Kiyenje Home School which started as a home school and eventually grew as it became open to the neighbors and the village community. And schooling from such an environment meant adjusting to be tolerant, competitive, and survive in all backgrounds without discrimination.
“At home, we have a big football pitch where the community comes to participate in different outdoor games so we had no choice but to engage in the games,” says Kabenge.
“We however took on mainly male dominated sports where the competition was big,” she says.
Upon completion of primary education, Kabenge joined Bugema Adventist from where she built on her sports career. The war would soon break out forcing the family to relocate to Eastern Uganda as fate landed her into Namasagali College where she completed advanced level. And while she had previously participated in sports, it was a notch higher at Namasagali where participation meant extra marks. Participation earned her the title of netball team captain and sports prefect.
A year later, Kabenge was among the lucky few to be admitted to Makerere, the only university at the time. Months after admission, Kabenge took part in the inter-hall competitions for the first time playing basketball something that earned her trip to the East Africa University Games in Morogoro. She later qualified to represent Uganda at World University Games playing Track and Field athletics and sports minister representing Mary Stuart hall.
With such active participation, Kabenge caught the eye of then University sports leaders who invited her to start working with the department in 1988 as a graduate fellow. The new role pushed her to enroll for training in sports.
She says, “I did a post graduate diploma in education with physical education and whenever opportunity came up, I did more coaching and sports administrative courses”.
In 1999, she took over as head of department, sports and recreation a post she holds to date. For sports in Uganda, Kabenge points to growth in terms of numbers and professionalism. And at the university level, she prides in Makerere producing some of the best swimmers and athletics for the country.
Kabenge now looks at a humble retirement as she completes her PhD also related to sports. In her almost 25 year marriage tenure, Kabenge was blessed with two children.