13 February 2013

Uganda: Matovu Gave Life to a School Amidst a Tempest

Some private schools collapse faster than they were established. This has been the trend for many private schools; the reason investing in education has become one of the most risky businesses.

A decade ago, Ronald Matovu joined Light High School as a teacher and, like most fresh university graduates, he had high aspirations.

All was going well until the owner of the school passed on. The school started sinking into oblivion. The best teachers left, enrolment sank and the performance deteriorated.

Matovu, who had just joined the school, could not let this go on. He stepped up his effort and is now on the school's steering wheel.

He has made himself a true example of a leader in a once sinking boat that has risen again to fame. Over time, Matovu has soared to the top ranks of Light High School.

This is not because he was the outright person destined to lead the school. But, it was because the school's board realized that he had the guts to lead the school.

He had passion and commitment; a requirement for every good teacher. Matovu's fellow teachers also describe him as morally upright and hardworking.

Matovu joined Light High School in 1999 as a geography and fine art teacher. It is now 14 years since he got that job and has gradually matured to lead the school.

When the school founder passed away in 2003, the school suffered a blow since there was no credible individual to reign over the administration and students.

As is the custom, it had to be the founder's family members to steer the institution's affairs. But the family members did less, which saw an exodus of the experienced and good staff from the school.

The school got clouded with pessimist that it would never recover from the founder's demise. Matovu, alongside his rather optimistic colleagues, never abandoned their friend's school.

"There was no way I could abandon the school. Our director was my friend and was good to many of us. We wanted to keep his legacy. That meant working hard to keep the school afloat," he adds.

As the headmaster of the school, Matovu started a fundraising move dubbed Samson Mukalazi Child Education. It is a project meant to give the poor, but talented students a chance to get proper education.

"In my time as a teacher, I have met students, who even passed in Division One, but failed to continue with their education. When I got the chance to be the headmaster, I decided to help the brilliant and poor students," he says.

In his quest to uplift others, besides teaching in class, Matovu has given inspirational talk shows on radio. "I like seeing people learn. I also learn from others."

Most people in Matovu's community see him as a father-figure to his students. Emmanuel Ssebakigye, his former student, says he remembers Matovu for his patronage.

"I remember him for, not just being a teacher, but a parent who listens and does whatever he can to help needy students and colleagues. It is partly because of his character that he has managed to rebuild that school," Ssebakigye says.

Zee Bahati, his former fine art student, now a fashion designer in London, UK, says: "He was a very helpful man in school. He is professional at his job."

To his peers at the school, Matovu is a students' parent, in a teacher's coat. He spites punishing errant students without first counselling them.

But with all those rosy praises, Matovu says it has not been an easy ride. "It can be disheartening when some people in the community and students undermine you."

Born in Masaka in 1976, Matovu went through St. Pius Primary School and Kakoma Secondary School before joining Mackay College for his A'level in 1995.

Matovu is married to Robinah, who is employed at the water and environment ministry. He obtained a diploma in education before pursuing a bachelor

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