KAMPALA – A sharp misunderstanding emerged between the Kampala Archdiocese and the Ministry of Education and Sports over the appointment of the next headteacher of St Mary’s College Kisubi – SMACK.
Trouble started when the Commissioner in Charge of Human Resource Management at the Education Ministry, Ronald Ssekabembe Kiberu announced, on behalf of the Permanent Secretary – PS the transfer of Bro Augustine Mugabo from St. Henry College Kitovu to SMACK.
The appointment came when the incumbent headteacher, Bro Deo Aliganyira, who had been at the helm of SMACK for seven years, clocked the mandatory retirement age. And in his letter, Ssekabembe ordered Mugabo to hand over office at St Henry’s and report to St Mary’s ‘with immediate effect.’
“In the interest of the service, it has been decided to deploy you to St Mary’s College Kisubi… by a copy of this letter, the chairperson board of governors, SMACK – Wakiso district is requested to accord you the necessary support in executing your duties,” read the letter dated December 12, in parts.
Missionaries of Africa – commonly referred to as the White Fathers founded SMACK in 1906, handing it over to Brothers of Christian Instruction, fondly known as Kisubi Brothers in 1926. SMACK is one of the government-aided schools that has remained under the realms of the Kampala Archdiocese through the Brothers of Christian Instruction.
One would expect that there wouldn’t be any controversy in the appointment of the headteacher, given that Mugabo is a member of the Brothers of Christian instruction, which is in charge of both St. Mary’s College and St. Henry College – SHACK. However, it is evident there are several interests at play.
On December 15, 2022, preparations to welcome the new headteacher got into motion as the outgoing headteacher invited members of the board of governors to witness his handover.
“You are cordially invited to attend the handover function for the outgoing Board of Governors to the new Board and from the outgoing Headteacher to the incoming Headteacher on December 20……,” wrote Aliganyira.
However, the planned handover did not take place. It turned out that a day before the function, His Grace Dr Paul Ssemogerere, the Archbishop of Kampala wrote to the Education Minister, Janet Kataha Museveni expressing his displeasure to appoint Mugabo as the new head, against a search process for the same position.
“To my surprise, the appointment was made without notifying me; and not following due process, which has been going on for months since March 2022,” reads, the Archbishop’s letter in parts. Section 8 of the Education Act, which stipulates the responsibilities of the Government towards grant-aided education institutions, indicates that it is responsible for appointing and deploying heads (headteachers, deputies) but the same law adds that the deployment(s) must be done in consultation with foundation bodies.
With the aforementioned section in mind, the Archbishop added that as a foundation body for the school, they were recommending Bro Simon Mpanga, who has been deputizing Mugabo for the last six years, to take over as the new headteacher.
The Archbishop argued that Mugabo’s leadership at the moment was needed at the ‘highly esteemed’ St. Henry College as it begins a new century of providing education to the nation. SHACK recently celebrated 100 years of existence. As the church tussles it out with the ministry, it has since gained backing from Old Boys, who are a powerful force in various government offices.
One of the Old Boys, who talked to this reporter on condition of anonymity said that it was a sign of undermining on the side of government to pick a school head without consulting the church.
“Actually, the designated individual might not be a problem for the school; he even belongs to the Brothers of Christian Instruction, but the ministry didn’t follow the proper procedure,” said the source, adding; “….the foundation body may fail to work with someone whose arrival at the school came without their input, as he may also only listen to his singular appointing authority – ministry, and disregard the founding body – the church.”
Another source in the church noted that the government has made appointments to church schools in the past without consulting them and that this time around the church believes the modus operandi needed to be checked. The source added that the Late Archbishop, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga had expressed concern to the government about this issue to the point of threatening to revoke the aid agreements.
When our reporter brought the issue to the attention of the relevant education authorities earlier this week, Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo – the Minister of State for Higher Education, was quick to state that ‘he felt it was a minor issue that shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.’
Dr Muyingo however, added that his senior minister, Ms. Museveni, will soon resolve the issue.
Mugabo, who was caught in the middle of the fight, said he was waiting for a final communication from both authorities. In his redeployment letter, he had been told to conclude duties at SHACK and hand over the office in accordance with section F-d of the Uganda Public Standing Orders, 2021.
“I’m not involved in anything that’s happening. I’m not the appointing authority. I’m waiting for the results of the decisions made by the church and the ministry. I’m currently in Kitovu,” said Mugabo, who was recently elected as the chairperson of secondary headteachers in Uganda.
Battles over the nomination of headteachers between foundation bodies and the ministry are becoming more prevalent.
At first, the Old Kampala establishment were at the forefront, complaining how the Education Ministry was over-stepping its mandate, appointing non-Muslims to lead their schools. As time passed, the Catholics and Anglicans found themselves in a similar corner.
In the past, the government would deploy head teachers to the schools but many would be turned away. Such rejections were witnessed at Trinity College – Nabbingo (Catholic Church) and Nabisunsa Girls School (Muslim).
The very recent battle was witnessed at Gayaza High School in 2019. As Victoria Kisarale Serunkuma bid farewell to the school where she had spent 10 years, a clash between the education ministry and the Namirembe diocese erupted over her successor. The ministry had appointed Robinah Kizito Katongole against the church’s preferred candidate, Agatha Nakisekka Ssenyonjo.
Given that both candidates were alumni of the school and had previously held positions as deputy headteachers in the same institution, the ministry and the Namirembe diocese reached a compromise and Kizito took the job. So, given that the two potential headteachers for SMACK are both members of the same congregation, we wait to see whether the church would compromise its postion.
Additional reporting by URN