9 August 2018

Uganda: Using Film to Address Sexual Harassment in Schools

Since childhood, Felix Baale Bwanika's calling has been in the movies. Although he pursued a short course in Plumbing and Pipe Fitting at Lugogo Training Institute in 2008 and tried out jobs such as experiential marketing with different companies, he never felt comfortable until he got on stage, and since he did, he has never looked back.

When you meet Bwanika for the first time, he will rush to introduce himself as a down to earth person trying to earn a living through film. His passion for acting dates back to school days in the school's Scripture Union. "While at school, we would get chances to act on stage and because of my resilience, I managed to join the team at Kansanga Miracle Centre in 2008 where we would act Christmas Cantantas and Easter Packages every year," Bwanika says. He goes on to say that his dream in film came true when he was contacted by a friend in Theatre Factory at the National Theatre to act in a play on Easter although it was a one off.

Officially joining

After the Theatre Factory stint in 2008, Bwanika continued with his appearances in the Kansanga Miracle Centre Cantantas before he was called again in 2010 for an audition where Abbey Mukiibi and Phillip Luswata were tasked to get 20 performers out of the actors and actresses that had turned up at the National Theatre that afternoon. "I was among the 20 people that later joined Theatre Factory. However, we were also screened by the audience; those that were not good enough were always chased by the audience. I was lucky to have made it to the 10 that stayed," he recalls.

While in Theatre Factory, Bwanika together with colleagues Edwin Mukalazi, Otako Mpata, Simon Kivumbi and John Bosco Kyabagu formed another group called the FourSum. They organised Literature set plays and the Newspaper Theatre between 2014 and 2016, after which they changed their focus to other campaigns.

One of the campaigns that Bwanika got involved in was the End Child Trafficking Campaign. To put the message out there, he created skits in form of sketch comedy and these were acted at the end of every play. They also went to Gulu and Arua to showcase these plays. Bwanika also wrote a play; End Child trafficking alongside Nabisunsa Girls School students last year which was acted during their MDD lessons.

Bwanika also registered a film company called Emboozi Production and later wrote and directed a short Sitcom; Office Vacation which was nominated and came second at the Amakula Film Festival in Uganda last year.

By that time, he had gained experience in directing and acting and his fame rose when he featured with the FourSum in TV shows such as Barbed Wire, Trick Stars and Katemba Mu Kooti that were aired on NTV starting in 2011.

Never Again - A Ugandan Movie

After the disbandment of Four Sum, Bwanika spent quite a while without anything new. Nonetheless, he is bouncing back with an acting role in a local movie, Never Again.

He explains that Never Again, where he is an actor and director is about a bursar who is sexually harassing female students. "In the film, I act as a bursar who comes to the class and calls out for a girl with whom he has a secret programme. I give her a gate pass to go home but in actual sense, I am joining her to sleep with her and later get her back to school," he explains.

Though Bwanika had long nurtured the idea of starting a campaign against sexual harassment due to the rampant sexual harassment in our society including schools, he had never put into action. He is saddened by the fact that custodians of education get involved in sexually harassing female students. He was, therefore, glad to be approached to become a part of this set.

"Being approached to be a part of the film was a big opportunity to send out the message," he adds.

"The film was acted at St. Augustine's College, Wakiso, because the producer was a stuff at the school in the Music, Dance and Drama Department. The other reason is that I like nurturing young talent and it is the reason why I work and share my content with schools. We therefore got interested students, auditioned them for two days, trained with them for two weeks and shot the film for six days" Bwanika says.

Never Again was written by Belinda Balungi Bell, directed by Bwanika Felix and the producers are Tadeo Ntege, Daniel Ssendagire and Roy Kwintendo. It was shot in June this year.

The plan

After launching the film at St. Augustine's College Wakiso, Bwanika says that the movie will be shown in different schools in and around the country to help address the issue of the high rate of sexual harassment in schools.

He believes that sexual harassment is something that students suffer, more so the females and it needs to be addressed with urgency and finesse because it is detrimental to their performance in school.

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