May 17, 2024
TEACHERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Njirabakunzi Fights To Keep Children In School

(This article was first published in the New Vision on October 5, 2022)

By Umar Nsubuga

Kasenyi Secondary School in Mubende district had not been participating in sports competitions for years when John Njirabakunzi was sent to head it in 2016. The previous administrators had slapped a ban on participation in netball and football tournaments because students broke into fights with their competition each time the school lost a game.

According to the deputy headteacher in charge of administration, Rose Kityo, the school also did not encourage students to get involved in other co-curricular activities like debate, music, dance and drama as well.

However, once Njirabakunzi took over the headship of the school, he revived these activities.

“Njirabakunzi also encouraged the introduction of other co-curricular activities to help the students fully exploit their potential,” Kityo says. “Over 20 vibrant clubs for co[1]curricular activities have since been formed.”

Some of these, she explains, include the writers’, environmental, debate, patriotism, music, dance and drama, science and patriotism clubs.

Kityo says the school’s debate club members are currently preparing for a trip to Kenya soon to participate in East Africa’s debate competitions after emerging champions in Uganda.

“We beat schools such as Ntare, Bweranyangi Girls, St. Henry’s College Kitovu and Gombe SS to become debate champions. We are doing well in netball and football in the greater Mubende zone in the central region and at the regional level,” she adds.

Academic Performance

The population has grown from 1,400 in 2016 students to 2,400 and has improved academically, according to Godfrey Kayiwa, the school’s director of studies.

In 2020, 38 out of its 287 Uganda Certificate of Education candidates passed in division one. This, Kayiwa says, represents an improvement in academic performance as fewer than 38 candidates passed in the same division in the previous years.

The school’s records show 16 candidates passed in division one in 2016, 24 in 2017, 32 in 2018 and 2019.

“There has been a steady increase in the number of candidates in division one and a reduction in the number of candidates passing in the other divisions,” Kayiwa says.

He attributes the improvement in academic performance to, among others, remedial lessons, increased supervision of teachers and students, regular tests, motivation of teachers and teamwork, among the 62 teaching staff.

“The other strategy has been not sending students away for failure to pay lunch fees. This has given them ample time to concentrate on their studies. We only engage their parents and allow them to make contributions in kind,” Kayiwa adds.

He says Njirabakunzi has also equipped the library, as well as the science and computer labs with learning materials to support research.

Learning Materials

Njirabakunzi says at least 70% of the students received learning materials produced by the school and those which were supplied by the Government during the COVID-19 lockdown. These materials, he adds, were distributed to the learners at the sub-county headquarters and various locations in the villages.

“That is why our students performed well in 2020. We kept them engaged. I facilitated the production and distribution of these learning materials,” he adds.

When the Government announced the schools’ reopening date, he says he placed announcements on local FM radios and sent messages to the parents’ mobile phone contacts, asking them to send their children back to school.

Njirabakunzi, who says the school has the contact details of all parents, adds that he also asked politicians and religious leaders to mobilise their communities to send the children back to school.

“In our message, we said we knew a lot had happened during the lockdown and that we were ready to welcome back all our students regardless of what could have happened to them,” he says.

Njirabakunzi

Learning Environment

Njirabakunzi explains that he invites inspirational speakers to the school and makes continuous improvements to the learning environment to keep learners interested in education.

He has also constructed new structures at the school, including one which houses several classrooms, a kitchen, teachers’ houses, as well as a perimeter wall around the institution.

This, Rosemary Mugenyi, the deputy director of studies, says has improved the teaching and learning environment.

Last year, Njirabakunzi says, he worked together with teachers and students to establish a one-acre mango orchard on the school’s land to pass on agricultural skills to the learners and facilitate the teaching of agriculture.

He recently procured a bus and a minibus to facilitate the movement of students within the country and has also planted flowers and trees around the school, which have beautified it.

Fighting Dropout Rate

Njirabakunzi says the school had a high dropout rate years ago as nearly 10 girls fell pregnant every year. In order to reduce these cases, he says he sensitised parents about the benefits of keeping their children in school and stopped the practice of sending students away for delayed payment of school fees.

Previously, he adds, students who were sent home to collect fees stayed out of school for weeks, which exposed them to defilers in their communities.

“We have not had teenage pregnancies since 2019. We have a team that contacts parents over fees and I also engage parents over fees payment plans,” Njirabakunzi says.

He adds that he has also facilitated teachers to deliver counselling services to the students and educate the learners on the long-term gains that come with education.

What Others Say

Specioza Nabatanzi, Former District Senior Inspector Of Schools

Njirabakunzi has delivered almost 90% of the promises he made when he was posted to the school. He is passionate about his job and has boosted enrolment by sensitising communities about the value of education. He promotes teamwork and has supported the Parents Teachers Association to mobilise the parents to support the school’s programmes. He is development-oriented and frugal.

Innocent Ssekiziyivu, Mubende Mayor

Njirabakunzi promised to focus on development and a lot has happened in a short time. He has started and completed many projects. He has promoted a good working relationship between teachers and parents and other stakeholders. He emphasises the value of education in parents’ meetings, especially the education of girls. He has encouraged parents to love the school and that is why enrolment has increased.

James Mwondha, Chairperson, Parents Teachers Association

Njirabakunzi is keen to provide holistic education to learners. He wants the learners to think critically and we can see the fruits. Cases of student misconduct were many and some students smoked marijuana. He has addressed this by being strict on discipline.

Norah Mbabazi, Member, Board Of Governors

Njirabakunzi has created unity among the teachers by promoting professional relationships and teamwork. There were cliques formed by the teachers who had been at the school for a long time and those who had just joined it when he took over leadership of the school. He brought the teachers together

Golden Tips

  • Be passionate about your job
  • Be role models to your learners
  • Promote proper financial management

Fact File

  • 1982: Sat Primary Leaving Exams at Alpha Primary School, Bushenyi
  • 1986: Sat Uganda Certificate of Education exams at Butolere Secondary School, Bushenyi
  • 1988: Wrote Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education exams at Butolere Secondary School, Bushenyi
  • 1991: Graduated with a diploma in secondary education from National Teachers’ College, Kabale
  • 1991: Started teaching at St Denis Kijaguzo Secondary School, Luwero
  • 1999: Graduated with a bachelor’s of arts in education from Makerere University
  • 2004-2006: Deputy headteacher, Bubulo Girls Secondary School, Manafwa
  • 2006-2007: Deputy headteacher, Bukomero Secondary School, Kiboga
  • 2007-2010: Acting headteacher Bamusuta Secondary School, Kiboga
  • 2010: Graduated with a master’s of science in human resource management in education from Makerere University
  • 2010: Substantive headteacher Bamusuta Secondary School, Kiboga
  • 2016 to date: Headteacher Kasenyi Secondary School

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