How St. Leo’s College, Kyegobe was Transformed into a Top School During the Reign of Mr. Henry Basaliza Araali as the Headmaster (1987 – 1993)
Mr. Henry Basaliza Araali (Left) handing over a document about his efforts in the transformation of St. Leo’s College into one of the top Schools in Uganda to the Chairman, Sleck revival Eng. Emmex Turyatunga (centre) and Dr. Mugahi Richard (right) at his home in Fort Portal
Mr. Henry Basaliza Araali is an educationist who trained as a teacher at Makerere University in the 1970s. In 1971 he got a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with Honors and in 1972 he went back for a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). Mr. Basaliza got an Upper Second class PGDE and majored in History and Religious Studies. He narrates that he was not satisfied with one degree and in 1975 he embarked on a Master’s Degree in Education which he completed in 1977 specializing in Curriculum Development. He further explains that at that time it was extremely difficult to get a Master’s Degree from Makerere University and out of 18 students who embarked on the degree, only 7 students including himself were able to complete.
Joining St. Leo’s College
After completing his PGDE in 1972, he was recruited as a Secondary School Teacher at St. Leo’s College, Kyegobe where he earned a salary of UGX 1,900 per month. He narrates that at that time the majority of the staff at the School were Americans and the Head Teacher was also an American Holy Cross Brother, called John Houlihan. Mr. Basaliza was assigned the duty of teaching History, Christian Religious Education (CRE) and Commerce. He reveals that his students nicknamed him “Historian” because they used to enjoy learning history whenever he was teaching and his students could hardly fail the subject. As a result, he says that St. Leo’s College started beating powerful schools in the Country in History exams.
After completing his Master’s degree in Education in 1977 he was made Deputy Headmaster of St. Leo’s College in charge of discipline and examinations. Mr. Basaliza explains that he worked so well with the Headmaster of the School at that time, Mr. Austin Mulengwa that the School never experienced any strike during the time they were working together. Basaliza was later transferred to Maddox S.S, an “A” Level day school during that time as the Headmaster.
Joining Maddox S. S
Mr. Basaliza explains that his appointment letter to Maddox S. S as the Headmaster of the School was withheld by a certain Bishop for some months because he did not belong to the domination of the founders of that School. But due to pressure from the Ministry of Education, the Bishop was forced to release that letter.
After joining the School, Basaliza explains that he embarked on the path of improving the academic standards of the School and worked so hard for the School that he sometimes physically got involved in lifting bricks with the students to expand the School. He further explains that he found the School not practicing religion as it was supposed to be because there were no Chaplains at the School to assist students in Religious Affairs. He therefore invited in a Church of Uganda Chaplain and a Catholic Chaplain to conduct services for all the students. He reveals that eventually the School became one of the best day schools in Western Uganda.
Basaliza attributes the success of the school to emphasizing discipline of both the teachers and students. He gives an example of an occasional market which used to take place at Mukunyu Trading Centre on every Wednesday and students and teachers would go there, practically abandoning the School! He adds that Wednesdays were sort of Public Holidays at the School. Mr. Basaliza explains that he took a positive approach to the problem; instead of reprimanding the teachers, on every Wednesday he would prepare first class meals for the teachers. This kept the teachers at the School and made them enforce discipline. Then, he Himself would go to the market to chase the Students and this worked very well. He reveals that by the time he left Maddox S.S., the academic standards were high and discipline was very good.
As a result of improved academic standards and discipline at the School, Basaliza says that when the Bishop who did not want him to go to Maddox S. S visited the School, he was so impressed by the progress made at the School that he apologized to him publically about what he had done. He says that he and the Bishop are now great family friends. Basaliza reveals that he considers the Bishop a great man because he had the courage of apologizing to him publically. He says that he left the School satisfied with what he had achieved.
Return to St. Leo’s College
In 1987 Mr. Henry Basaliza Araali was transferred St. Leo’s College, Kyegobe this time as the Headmaster of the School. He replaced Mr. Austin Mulengwa who had been the Headmaster of the School since 1976 and had decided to retire. Basaliza intimates that Mr. Mulengwa was a gentle, soft spoken and a good Administrator whom the School honoured by naming one of the A level dormitories Mulengwa. During Mulengwa’s time, there was stability in the School and it was performing well. But when Basaliza became the Headmaster, he says he embarked on the task of seeing the School reach greater heights both in academics and co-curricular activities.
Transformation of Academic Performance of the School
When Mr. Basaliza returned to St. Leo’s as the Headmaster of the School, he says he embarked on reforms which transformed the School significantly. He changed the School Motto which used to be “Agabugaya” meaning; something which you despise eventually becomes great or respected. He says he found out that this Motto was not befitting a great School such as St. Leo’s and replaced it with “Strive for Excellence”.
He further says that with the assistance of the Chaplain of the School, Fr. Robert Muhirwa, who is now the Bishop of Fort Portal Diocese, the School Anthem, full of meaning and much hope was composed. The School Anthem starts like this “In God we triumph in all we do for our School, Our lives and Nation…” basically putting God first in everything done at the School. The School uniform was also changed so that the students could look smarter and T-shirts were also introduced.
In order to make members of staff comfortable, Mr. Basaliza explains that he used to give them well prepared lunch every working day. He says that during that time, the World Bank used to provide the School with tined beef, chicken and yellow posho and he ensured that the teachers also got a share of the food stuffs. He adds that he put up a good number of staff houses to accommodate members staff who were living outside the School campus.
Mr. Henry Basaliza further narrates that he found a lot of tension between the villagers and the students. Sometimes the students would invade the surrounding villages and steal sugarcanes or fight the villagers who would retaliate. To ease this tension and improve the strained relationship, he says he opened the stores of World Food and started giving food stuffs to the villagers. He also instructed the School driver to always give lifts to the villagers whenever he would be going to Town. This was done to bring the villagers closer to the School and make them feel that the School is theirs. He says this trick paid off and the villagers started liking the School and treating the students well.
Basaliza explains that all the above were done in order to prepare the School for great academic performance and discipline. He says indeed teachers and students started working so hard that St. Leo’s became one of the best performing School in the Country. The School competed favorably with Schools like Kings College, Buddo and St. Mary’s College, Kisubi. At one time the School produced the best student in the Country who is now an Engineer. Sometimes almost the whole of senior six class could join Makerere University. Very many of the products of this School are now serving in high positions in different parts of the Globe. Some are Ministers, Members of Parliament; others are Lecturers, Professors, Businessmen, Engineers, Clergymen, Doctors, Lawyers, District Officials, basically in all sectors of life.
Inculcating Leadership Skills and Discipline in Students
Mr. Basaliza says he always encouraged students to participate in various activities such as debates and seminars geared towards training students for leadership. He says he always told students never to be backbenchers but always be front sitters. According to him, any student who showed some qualities of leadership but wanted to cause strikes would never be expelled from School but rather he would be called to the office for counseling and warning. This was made possible through a network of informers who would inform him of any impeding strike. He explains that through such methods of work, he could nip strikes in the bud and nurture stubborn students with leadership potential. As a result of this approach, many of the former Students who used to be trouble causers are now serving in many leadership positions. Had they been expelled, St. Leo’s would not be boasting of the many leaders it has today in various sectors of life.
Basaliza intimates that one of the secrets of how he maintained discipline and high academic standards of the School was getting involved in teaching as well as keeping close contact with the students most of the time. He would wake up at 5:00 a.m. in the morning and move from dormitory to dormitory hitting the beds with a cane. The students who would be still asleep would wake up very fast, run to wash and go to class. Due to this, he reveals that he was nicknamed “Muzinga” which means a bomb.
After waking up the students, he would physically get involved in teaching the candidate classes. He mainly taught his favorite subject History. Then at around 7:00 a.m. he would go for breakfast but most of the time he would not go at all. He would remain to supervise students when they were having breakfast. Mr. Basaliza recalls that he had little time for his family and neglected the family at the expense of making the School excel. However, he achieved good results for his School and is proud of his former students.
He further explains that every Friday he would hold general assemblies whereby he would listen to complaints from students. Some of the major complaints of students were concerning food as well as some teachers who were not doing their work properly. Then he would address the students and teachers about current issues facing the School and how he was handling them. He would solve the issue of food by giving them a special meal. Sometimes he used to give them fresh maize or sugarcanes or have a bull slaughtered for them. They would feel so happy and for some time there would be peace in the School. Whenever the students complained about food, the Headmaster used to go and eat with them. Even if the food was good, he used to sympathize with them and give them special food. That is how he kept the School running. He was using what one would call a positive approach to remove steam from the students so that they could not cause a strike. He says this approach was a big success.
The Headmaster never lost sight of the importance of prayer. Although he is Catholic, he tolerated freedom of Worship in the School. He gave support to each Religion. He says during the month of Ramdan for the Muslims, he used to give them special diet after fasting. He also supported Church of Uganda students and tolerated the Pentecostals. The Pentecostals used to make a lot of noise while praying and in fact some people took them as a nuisance and they advised Mr. Basaliza to stop them but he never took heed of their advice. He explains that he knew very well that besides praying to God, the students were also using a lot of energy while praying. So after prayers they would not be having enough energy left to plan and cause indiscipline in the School. The practice of Religion in one way or another brought sanity in the School and helped to maintain discipline. He also invited various Religious leaders to address the students on ethics, Religion and discipline.
Although the discipline of students was good, at times students would misbehave! Basaliza recalls that at one time, students escaped and went to dance at St. Maria Goretti S.S., a School for girls in Fort Portal. The girls lent their dresses to the boys and they posed like them while dancing. They were identified by the night watchmen who arrested them and brought them to the School in their dresses. They were punished heavily and the students never repeated it. At another time we woke up to find the sign post of Kyebambe S.S., another girls School in Fort Portal, in the middle of St. Leo’s compound! The students had snatched it from the roadside at night and brought it to the School. We solved this problem administratively with the Headmistress of Kyebambe S.S.
Enhancement of Co-Curricular activities
Mr. Basaliza having specialized in Curriculum Development for his Masters’ degree at Makerere reveals that he realized that co-curricular activities were also important for discipline and academic performance of students. He therefore involved students in all types of co-curricular activities but football was the most popular activity at the School. The School had one of the best teams in Uganda. It used to participate in Post Primary football tournaments and sometimes could reach the finals. But one of the challenges the team used to face was that whenever it took part in such competitions, the best players would be enticed with all sorts of favours by other Schools especially from Kampala. The team would then be weakened. Basaliza says that he would then reinforce the team with more talented players from the Bunyoro Kitara sub region. Additionally he would make the players pay half the School fees and the School would top up the other half.
St. Leo’s College had a long tradition of a marching band; but for several years, the School did not have a band. The instruments had grown old and Basaliza was eager to restore this tradition. He says that he used diplomacy to lobby for a School band. He approached Bishop Emeritus of Hoima Diocese, Bishop Edward Baharagate Akiiki who assisted in getting the instruments from Germany. Basaliza says that this was a big achievement for the School and the Students could now march smartly behind the band. Whenever there would be a big public function in Fort Portal, the students of St. Leo’s could play their band. Thanks to the generosity of Bishop Edward Baharagate Akiiki.
The Headmaster also embarked on the construction of a Chapel for the Catholic faith because all along the School never had one. He was assisted by Father Robert Muhiirwa who was a Chaplain of the School (but now the Bishop of Fort Portal Diocese) and by Father Wunsch to get funds for the construction of the Chapel. Fundraising was also done locally and the work of constructing the Chapel commenced. However, Mr. Basaliza later left the School for politics before the Chapel could be completed. He is however proud that Brother John Flood who replaced him completed the Chapel. Efforts were also made to construct the Chaplain’s house but this project was also never completed before he left the School for politics. The Headmaster also allocated rooms to the other denominations where their followers could worship from.
Consolidation of the Gains and ensuring Sustainability
In order to improve further on the academic standards of the School and ensure sustainability of the standards, Mr. Basaliza had a vision of setting up a feeder Primary School. He felt that Schools like Kings College, Buddo and St. Mary’s College, Kisubi had permanent academic achievements because they got most of their students from their feeder Primary Schools.
Basaliza says that he had convinced the Parents and Old Boys of the School about this issue and some funds had been raised for the project. This money was used to grade the site and to buy some materials. By the time he left the School, about fifty Lorries of hardcore stones had been deposited on the site. However, it appears his successors did not keep up the momentum and the project never took off.
During his term of service, Basaliza also carried out other innovations. For a long time, the School relied on electricity from Jinja and as a result there were constant power failures. To solve this problem, the Headmaster bought a big generator for the School. He also bought a hammer mill for the School for grinding maize into maize flour right at the School. Furthermore, he introduced poultry farming at the School and was assistance by Colonel Tom Butiime, an Old Boy of the School who was always interested in the development of the School together with other Old Boys.
Everything in life has an end and Mr. Henry Basaliza had to end his chapter in active administration of Schools to join politics. He however says that he is very proud of his achievements in his career both as a teacher and as a School administrator because of the so many former students who passed through his hands and are now serving in big positions in various fields. Examples of these former students include the current Bishop of Rwenzori Diocese, a Monsignor in the Catholic Church in Fort Portal Diocese, the former Vice Chancellor of Makerere University and now Vice Chancellor and founder of UTAMU University and Presidential aspirant 2016, the current Managing Director of Umeme Ltd., the current Managing Director of National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and so many others.
Basaliza intimates that he had been practicing politics quietly and in 1994 he decided to go into politics full blast. He reveals that he was one of the historical members of the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) and one of the founders of Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) and the National Resistance Movement (NRM). He contested for the Constituent Assembly (CA) in 1994 and won. But the Parents of St. Leo’s College were not happy because they did not want him to leave the School after he had set up a good academics and sports record. Brother John Flood who replaced him tried his best to run the School but was later transferred to Jinja around 2003. After Brother Flood left the School gross indiscipline set in. There were series of strikes which resulted into loss of School property. After the CA, Basaliza says that he was persuaded to come back to the School but he opted to continue with his Political career.
Mr. Henry Basaliza was informed about the work being done by the OBs to revive the School to its past glory by the current Chairman of the Committee overseeing the revival efforts, Eng. Emmex Turyatunga, who was a student at the School during his reign as Headmaster in the 1990s. The former Headmaster was quite impressed by the work being done by the OBs and commended them for the efforts and sacrifices. He called upon all the OBs to actively support the cause with resources, ideas and active participation to revive the School to its past glory in order to continue the legacy.