Wilber Muhwezi caught up with Associate Prof Emmanuel Karooro, who shared his story in an interview in Bushenyi.
Karooro is a former vice chancellor of Kampala International University’s western campus. He was also a deputy director of Kabale National Teachers’ College and principal of Kakoba National Teachers’ College.
My father, Elinest Karooro, told me that I was born after the Second World War in Katungu village, Bumbaire sub-county, Bushenyi. Since he never specified the year, I’ve always gauged my age from 1945.
I went to Kashenyi primary school in Bushenyi-Ishaka municipality and Kyamuhunga primary school for upper primary in Igara West. I completed in 1957.
There was no P.7 at the time; we had Junior one and two, which I did at Mbarara High Junior Secondary School in the then Ankole district. We were taught by Europeans only; so, we acquired very good speaking and writing English skills.
At Mbarara High Junior secondary school, I studied with prominent politicians such as President Yoweri Museveni, Eriya Kategaya and John Wycliffe Karazaarwe (the outgoing Ntungamo district chairman).
Back then, there were three junior secondary schools in Ankole district: Nyamitanga, St John Fisher Ibanda and Mbarara High Junior Secondary School.
But I did not perform well at junior secondary; so, I joined a private secondary school, Fardez Secondary School in Mbarara town. The school did not have S.4 and after S.3, I had nowhere to go for S.4.
I later applied to join Luzira Prisons training school but the training was so strenuous that I opted out and started teaching as a licensed teacher at St John Fisher, Ibanda. When I left Ibanda, I worked in a Bushenyi court for a few years, but later, I went to Ntare School for S.4 as a private student in 1969.
I bought all the books I needed because I had the money; I was paid Shs 480 per months, which was a lot of money then. I passed very well and joined Kyambogo National Teachers’ College for a three-year diploma in secondary education.
I later returned to Ntare School for A-Level in 1977, then joined Makerere for a bachelor’s degree in Education. I also did a master’s degree, which I completed in 1986 and enrolled for a PhD in Literature.
However, after two years into the PhD programme, one of my supervisors was killed, while a second, Prof Arthur Gakwandi, left Makerere University for a job at the United Nations.
I abandoned my PhD because a new supervisor would have made me begin the course afresh yet I had a year to finish.
In 1997, I resumed my quest for a PhD, but this time it was in education management, not literature; I completed it in 2004.
I am proud of three major achievements I initiated in the education sector. While at National Teachers’ College Kakoba in Mbarara, I realized the need for higher education among primary teachers and decided to introduce a diploma course in primary education in 1990.
I formulated a syllabus for the course and took it to the Institute of Teacher Education in Kyambogo and it was approved. Previously, teachers had to either go to Europe or America for a diploma in primary education.
Today, which university or higher institution doesn’t offer a diploma in primary education? I am proud that this is my initiative, but I have not heard anybody in position of responsibility like the ministry of Education recognize me for this. Maybe they want to thank me after I have passed away.
The second is the rebirth of Kiswahili language in Uganda. I designed the Kiswahili language syllabus, took it to the ministry and it was approved, albeit with scepticism.
I remember a minister and other education ministry officials saying, “Karooro is just proud; where will he get Kiswahili teachers?’
I carried on and admitted pioneer students for a three-year diploma course in Kiswahili. The students were later admitted at Makerere University to study a degree in Kiswahili on government sponsorship.
Thirdly, in 1990, I realized that according to the education trends in Uganda, diplomas were no longer competitive. I, therefore, planned for Bishop Stuart University at Kakoba NTC.
We planned the project together with the late Bishop Amos Betungura and his successor Bishop Elisha Kyamugambi for 10 years. My dream became a reality in 2001 and today Bishop Stuart University is powerful.
My childhood desire was to become a lawyer. It was nurtured when I was a clerical officer in Mbarara and Bushenyi courts. Unfortunately, my dream could not materialise because when I was admitted at Makerere University, I attended a few lectures in Law before abandoning it for Education.
I then had to go back to the academic registrar at the time, Bernard Onyango, who allowed me to change from Law to Education.
Since I have retired from government, I want to try politics. In July 2010, during the NRM party primaries, I had decided to contest as the Bushenyi district NRM party chairman, but pulled out in favour of Hassan Basajjabalaba.
For us teachers we are taught to obey our bosses. When I learnt that Bassajjabalaba, who was my boss at his KIU western and Dares-Salaam campuses for five years, wanted the same post, I stood down for him. However, I am the NRM chairman for workers’ league, Bushenyi district.
The government should overhaul the whole education curriculum from primary to university to reverse the colonial education setup and replace it with technical skills development. The education system in Uganda trains job seekers, not job creators.
Technical education should be emphasized for quick job creation since unemployment is one of the major problems in this country. Teachers should be trained with the aim of employing them. If the government can’t give them jobs, then it should not train them.
Today, I meet teachers I trained at NTC Kakoba, over ten years ago, who tell me that they have never been recruited by government. The situation makes me so unhappy.
Universal Primary Education is a good programme but abolishing the Parents and Teachers Association funds, which used to top up the government salary, has made teachers lose morale.
For the programme to flourish, PTA allowances should be re-instated because schools which have maintained them are far better than the majority that do without them.
Lastly, since Uganda is a developing country, every student should do a first degree in development studies and later a course in his or her preferred discipline. This would make Ugandans aware of the poverty and economic growth challenges.