They leave a huge impact on our lives yet many times, they are forgotten the moment we leave their classroom. From the earliest experiences of formal education, these ever-present influences illuminate our lives, changing the course of history without even firing a shot.
In grade school, Budo Junior School, there was a great man called Mr. Maseruka. From the moment I joined the school, I wanted so badly to get to his P.7 class to experience some of that awesomeness. The stories told about his classes were legendary.
Long before I could get the honor to call him my English teacher, I had heard about Don Quixote and Oedipus. Granted, the kids from Grade 7, probably because they could not reconcile the differences language and pronunciation, spread the word that the greatest knight of them all was called Don Kwizot!
But all of us, P3s and P7s alike were all familiar with the knight and “Give me time to unleash my mules” was well known and subject to editing to suit different situations.
And all this fun was brought us by Mr. Maseruka.
Mase, as we called him was unconventional. While the syllabus was clear, not that we cared about what was on the syllabus then, it seems he had been given free rein to teach as he felt like. So even when we did not expect to be asked questions about Greek mythology in our PLEs, we left Kabinja with these ideas broiling in our heads, courtesy of Mase.
I can remember singing “Lil Liza Jane” and about Dr. Forster, who went to Gloucester in a shower of rain. Singing songs written at the turn of the century in Victorian England in the P.7 classroom! Of course we were embarrassed. Kids in P3 and P4 were not singing rhymes anymore and here we were, a few months to the finals and we were singing.
I had already met Capt. Nemo and his Nautilus in the school library before I got to Mase’s class, but Jules Verne’s way of thinking took on an important new hue for me when I got to P7. Mase made fiction seem cool; it was okay to dream.
But we were learning deep values. Learning about life not defined by David Ongom, who was the UNEB secretary then. Many years later, sometimes, I still have visions of Mase when I am looking for a solution. Not as dramatic as Mufasa appearing in the sky…but you get the drift.
But it was not just Mase who shaped my outlook on life. Many other teachers are constantly in mind, not for the algebra or organizational theory or some such thing. It is because of the unconventional, the unique touch they had when they did the things teachers are not expected to do in a country like Uganda.
It was Christine Kasule who taught RE (Religious Education) and brought the image of the Apostle Paul to life with her Sunday School-like teaching (Peter in Joppa, Paul with Priscilla and Aquila, Paul with that serpent…or that story about Peter and the vision of unclean animals and God telling him to “kill and eat”). Christine Kasule loved to teach. And she loved to see the impact on our lives.
It was teachers like Paul Wadango later on in secondary school. An Agriculture teacher, I had little reason to get attached to him since I just couldn’t remember all those biological names (plus I got a 9 in Form 3 before I dropped Agric). But Wadango was unconventional; I was obsessed with Riviera, a European soap that was on twice a week. Now at a boarding school, one wouldn’t be expected to keep up with Gabriella and Sam and whatsherface. But Wadango let me and a few other kids watch at his home, even while knowing the show ended past midnight.
Of course Mase had, a few years before, let kids into his house to watch Roots, which aired Sundays. I guess there’s a link in there somewhere.
Phoebe Kata, Sam Ssebuliba (RIP), Ernest Kavulu, Stephen Mugumbya (RIP) and all those other heroes who came into my life and did their part without really knowing where it would lead.
Here’s to unconventional teachers.