When I joined St. Mary’s College Kisubi in 1987 as a Senior 1 student, I was assigned to one of the “baddest” dormitories which was Kakooza House. After the usual clearance, I had to struggle with my tin suitcase, basin, jerrycan and mattress all the way to the dormitory. Upon entering the dorm, yells of “Mupya” filled the place and all I could see were muscled guys excitedly looking at me the same way a hungry lion would upon seeing a stray goat or cow. Matters were worsened by the fact that the S1s had to walk through the S4 and S3 wings before reaching the S1/S2 wing. The untold suffering I went through meted upon me by names like Bullelu, Bomolo, Mutumba, Gideon and others left a permanent scar in my memory. Is SMACK like that today? I don’t know.
The 19th of February 2019 saw me make my maiden trip to Gayaza high school as a parent, never mind the fact that I had first set foot there twenty six years ago as a student of Agriculture at Makerere University. With my daughter in tow, we went through the registration requirements and as we neared the end, a young lady approached me.
“Hi, I am Kylie,” she said.
“I am Wire,” I replied.
“I will be your daughter’s mentor/buddy,” Kyle confidently stated.
Being the strict parent I am, I engaged her in a quick conversation trying hard to look for signals about her values and whether we were aligned. To be honest, she passed the test. That is when I encouraged my then nervous daughter to reach out to her and talk.
Fast forward, the checking was completed and before I could figure out how we were going to lift stuff to the dormitory, a group of five other girls joined Kylie and volunteered to carry all the property. I was beaten!!! This is not the kind of reception I had even remotely envisaged.
Chatting while walking to the dormitory, my mind went back in time and I narrated to them my experience as a newbie in Senior 1 close to 32 years ago. I nearly shed tears of joy when Kylie offered to lay my daughter’s bed upon reaching the dormitory and she went the extra mile to orient her about the place in my presence.
By the time we were done, I could hardly imagine that the same Kylie would have the guts to tease any S1 entrant let alone my daughter.
It has taken me a while to pen this experience but the main reason I have been forced to is to teach other schools where bullying is still the norm that the tradition can be curtailed through such an ingenious approach to orientation.
To Kylie and all the Gayaza S2 girls, I am proud of you. Keep it up
@wirejames on Twitter
You have my empathy for your experience.
I joined St. Mary’s in 1993 and was assigned to Kakooza. I received the very same treatment that your daughter received, down to the laying of my bed.
We still walked through the S.4 and S.3 wings to get to the S.2/S.1 wing but that changed in 1994 when the S.3 wing was combined with the S.4 wing and the former S.3 wing turned into a junior common room through which we went straight into the S.2/S.1 wing.
On the 3rd day after enrolling, Bro. Tinka summoned all S.1s to an assembly. He had us stand in line, by house, just inside the quadrangle gates. He then went up and down the lines asking each student’s name and particulars, including whether or not you’d had family members attend the school. And then he never forgot any details he heard.
When he was done he spoke to us briefly and made a point of emphasising that, irrespective of whether or not your blood brother was also a student (in a higher class), as an S.1, that was your entire world. While in school we were not to mix levels with other classes. And that, is how any would be bullying was nipped in the bud.
So effective was this warning that it was only as an older student (S.3-ish) that I started to fraternise in school with my older cousin/primary school OBs.
Some interesting change there. There is a comment by Julius which somehow projects that this could have been one of the reasons why SMACK OBs fraternise more according to their years spent at the school and not as OBs in general. I wonder what you think about that.
Julius was right of course.
I would be hard pressed to point out an OB who wasn’t in my year, unless (a) I had a prior connection to them from primary school
(b) I had a connection to them from outside of SMACK or,
(c) they were hard to forget for some exploit(s) in school
Hi James, I stumbled across your article in our OBs group, which then led me to your blog. I must begin by commending you for it., It is also good to know you were in SMACK way before I joined. At the time in 1993, the only dormitory that had S1s going through the S4/S3 wing left was Kakooza House, It was eventually sealed off by the time we were in S2, leading to the independence of S1s and S2s from S3s and S4s in the whole school. Bullying was taken very seriously by subsequent Heads of the school, Bro Tinka whom we found, Bro. Agaba that replaced him and later Bro. Bukenya, though it always had many forms including psychological taunts. Separation of levels was one of those thing famous in SMACK and as such an encounter like your daughters would be unheard of. This goes to show you that there were very few friendships across classes. The trend continues in our professional life where my closest OBs are those mainly from the same lot that we joined in. We do fondly remember our bullies because those guys touched a raw nerve in our being and made school life a bit of a challenge. Your article had us pause to recall our times in S1.
Spot on. I like your observation of us having no friendship across the classes. Our friends are largely based upon the year of joining. I really hope stuff has changed.
Wait until you hear that your daughter went to teach mathematics in a nearby rural primary school and that she sat on the compound with her pupil. Mentorship is what we need not bullying.
So I am in for more surprises? Good.
The name of the buddy is “Kamwaka”, and statistics have shown that many kamwaka/mupya pairs stay friends through life and there are many examples of bride/maid of honour