UGANDA: COLONIAL HIGH SCHOOL IN SHAMBLES, OLD STUDENTS SEEK RE-BRANDING TO RECLAIM ‘FORMER GLORY’

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Some of the Old Boys of Sir Samuel Baker School at NUMEC

“I have been telling my friends that when we were at Sir Samuel Baker School as students in the 1960’s, Sir Samuel Baker School was a wonderful school. One really loved to be a student there”

“Academic performance declined. Even attracting good teachers was a problem. I am sorry to say most teaching staffs were overdrinking and were not putting much effort in teaching. It was difficult to enforce discipline among students as some of them had returned from LRA captivity”

“You cannot sustain a boarding school like Sir Samuel Baker School where parents pay about one dollar per day to sustain his/her child in boarding. You cannot expect good performance from a school like our school which charge parents little money compared to a school like King’s College Buddo, which charge you over US$400”

GULU-UGANDA: The old students of Sir Samuel Baker School, one of the few colonial high schools in Uganda have organized a grand reunion, slated for Saturday, November 24, 2018, which is aimed at ‘rebranding the image of the school and restoring its past glory’.

The school was built to provide excellent and quality education to the greater north, covering the areas of Acholi, Lango, Karamoja, West Nile and Madi sub-regions and each district was tasked to contribute 5000 Pound Sterling towards its construction.

One of the pioneer students, Mr. Apollo Lawoko is still alive to tell stories of how the school used to excel in all activities including academic excellence which used to attract students from the whole country since it opened its doors to students in 1953.

“I have been telling my friends that when we were at Sir Samuel Baker School as students in the 1960s, Sir Samuel Baker School was a wonderful school. One really loved to be a student there”, recalls Mr. Phillip Okech, who later served the school as its headteacher from 1991-1997.

During the peak of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in the region, local communities around the school were forced to settle in the school between 1988 and 2000 as the ‘first concentration camp’, later renamed ‘Internally Displaced People’s camp’ in the region.

A lot of school infrastructure, farm equipments and scholastic materials were vandalized, looted and people began to lose interest in the school. That eventually started contributing to negative perceptions and attitudes about the school. This was compounded by the fact that academic performance declined and the school lost its corporate image.

“Academic performance declined further. Even attracting good teachers was a problem. I am sorry to say most teaching staffs were overdrinking and were not putting much effort in teaching. It was difficult to enforce discipline among students as some of them had returned from LRA captivity”, recalls Mr. Okech.

During a press briefing at the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) on Monday November 5, 2018, the interim publicity secretary of the Sir Samuel Baker Old Students Association (SSABOSA), Mr. Geoffrey Odong Ojibo, read a four paged press statement which says in parts:

“Old students of Sir Samuel Baker School have been following the trends of academics and other general performance of the school, which has been deteriorating over time and realized that one of the factors contributing to such conditions are lack of active participation and involvement in supporting different school programs, limited interactions with current students and the staffs as well as negative attitudes from the community and other stakeholders of the school”, reads part of the press brief.

The school was rehabilitated in 2010 with a six billion shillings (US$1.7 million dollars) grant from the Belgium government and is meant to accommodate over 1,300 students. But the student population has dropped to a mere 350 students, including 35 girls. The school collects only about 350,000 Uganda shillings (less than US$100 dollars) per term per student; which amount is too small compared to other traditional colonial schools which charge about one million Uganda shillings (US$400 dollars) per term.

“You cannot sustain a boarding school like Sir Samuel Baker School where parents pay about one dollar per day to sustain his/her child in boarding. You cannot expect good performance from a school like our school which charge parents little money compared to a school like King’s College Buddo, which charge you over US$400”, says Mr. Churchill Lacere, an Old Student and retired headteacher of the school.

The old students plan to utilize the 640 acres of the school land to produce some food stuffs like beans, maize and cabbages in order to subsidize expenses on food and cut costs and protect it. By getting the Old students organized, they can be useful in reversing some of the negative attitudes which for long has been skewed towards school progress.

“The Old Students grand reunion attempts to provide avenue through which they can mobilize and organize communities and other stakeholders to support Sir Samuel Baker School programs. The theme of the grand reunion is “reviving our identity, our past glory of the school to sustain our pride” states the document signed by several members of SSABOSA.

 

Sir Samuel Baker School was built and named after British explorer Samuel White Baker who served as the governor general of the Equatorial Nile Basin (today's South Sudan and Northern Uganda) between April 1869 and August 1873.

 

It was opened in 1953 by the Governor of Uganda Protectorate, one Sir Andrew Cohen. During the next twenty years, the school established itself as one of the best secondary schools in the country, in the areas of academics, sports and achievement of its alumni. It produced prominent politicians in Uganda’s Parliament including the vocal Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Party stalwart Cecilia Ogwal who sat for her national Uganda Certificate of Education from the school as well as the late Professor Okot P’Bitek amongst others.

 

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