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Teaching children from First family

Renowned educationist and former owner of Kampala Parents School, Edward Lwanga Kasole Bwerere describes what it was like teaching the children of presidents Milton Obote and Yoweri Museveni.

After heading what was the leading private primary and lower primary school in Uganda and completing a stint as MP for Buwekula County, Edward Lwanga Kasole Bwerere, looks like he is enjoying his retirement. When we met at his residence in Wakiso district, the 85-years old renowned and accomplished teacher was seated in a rocking chair, sipping tea, and reading the day’s newspapers.

He had accepted to talking about how his 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 did not prepare him enough to teach children of two presidents; first Apollo Milton Obote and later Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Kasole says his experience of teaching children from the First Family started in 1981 when he received a phone call summoning him to 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. He says he was picked in a Mercedes Benz dispatched by State House and escorted by two vehicles with heavily armed guards. , He says he thought it was his last day on earth but he had nowhere to run to. He recalled a Luganda proverb that says ‘Bakuyita embuga si buganzi’ loosely translated as ‘being summoned by people of authority is not necessarily a good thing’.

“I kept asking himself what could have landed me in trouble,” he says.

At State House, he did not meet President Obote but his wife, First Lady Miria Kalulu Obote. Possibly noticing how unnerved he was, she welcomed him warmly and promptly informed him that she wanted to enroll her last born, Benjamin Opeto at Kampala Parents School which he readily allowed. But, according to Kasole, teaching Opeto also known as Ben Obote was not a walk in the park.

He says Opeto was not like any other pupil he had dealt with before. Opeto was escorted by heavily armed soldiers during his first days at the school and they watched over him like hawks. In case he needed a toilet, young Opeto was whisked off at breakneck speed to the president’s residence in Kololo.

For Kasole, as an experienced teacher, the way Opeto was treated and having soldiers at school was a challenge. But he could not to walk away from it. He concluded that the best way to handle it was to strip Opeto of all privileges of a First Son while at school. Opeto had to become like any other child at the school. To put the plan into action required 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. Fortunately, the Obotes like the plan and were impressed when Opeto was totally transformed to the satisfaction of not only his teachers but parents as well.

Stripped of all his privileges, 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.

Then in 1985, Obote’s government was over thrown in a military coup led by Brig. Bazilio Olara Okello and Gen. Tito Okello became president. The Obotes fled into exile and Kasole was separated from Opeto who was in primary four.

Opeto’s departure left Kasole with fond memories of a boy who was eight-year-old and pampered but grew to follow each and every one of the school rules. He says the boy was scared of being removed from Kampala Parents School which he liked.

When Museveni took over, he sent four of his children to Kasole at Kampala Parents School. He says this time round there was little fear since there were no cars or summons to State House. Kasole recalls that Muhoozi Kainerugaba was placed in primary six while the youngest Diana Museveni was placed in the nursery section.

Having come from Sweden, where the Swedish 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,” Kasole recalls, “But the moment they learnt the language, I didn’t have any academic problems with them.”

Kasole says that the children would come with packed lunch from home. He says, however, that did not last long and did not require him to intervene this time because the children were soon enjoying the meals served at the school.

Kasole says that throughout his experience, both president Obote and Museveni were involved in the learning of their children. With a far off look in his eyes, Kasole says that parents today should be ashamed of the way they shun involvement in looking 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 homework.

When asked what his secret formula was when dealing with the children, Kasole laughed and shakes his head. Then he whispers something about making his pupils his friends.

“I knew all my learners by name and I used to talk to them. When I noticed that your classwork 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 families 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,” he says.

Today, the children Kasole educated are influencing the lives of many people. Benjamin Opeto is a pastor while Muhoozi Kainerugaba is a lieutenant general in the national army and a Special Advisor for Special Operations of President Museveni. 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 her mother, First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni.

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