every once in a long while i meet people who tell a story so well that despite my repeated efforts, i know that i can never get on paper the truth of their speaking voice because they are greater story tellers than i can ever hope to be. Mr Ddumba Pontiano Tebadwamu, Deputy Headmaster Naalya SSS Bweyogerere Campus telling the story of Mary Kageya, a former student of his, was one of these cases. i travelled to near mukono to get this story. a poorer version of what i sat in rapt attention listening to follows...
"Her fellow pupils used to call her their daughter. They began paying for her her school fees in the second term of her senior six and continued until she finished her senior six in third term. No one forced them to pay Mary Kageya's school fees. They just did it out of the goodness of their hearts after seeing her situation.
I remember when her aunt came to me one day to tell me that she had come to take back Mary home. She could not afford anymore to pay her fees and she had come to collect her property. She was crying I remember, real tears, she did not want to remove her but she had no choice. Mary had to leave school even if she was one of the most disciplined students we had ever had, she was even a prefect.
We called Mary and we told her what was happening. And immediately she also burst into tears, wailing. I was very touched because when I was growing up I had passed through the same situation. I had started paying for myself my school fees when I was in senior one because my parents could not afford to pay for me my school fees. As a young boy I remember working on a farm where I used to earn sh.3500 at the end of a month of very hard work. It was such little money that during holidays I often had to look for extra work and that is how I started also building fences around plots of land and looking for work at schools that needed fencing just to raise some more money.
I nearly never made it to do the Education course which has helped me to get a job here as the Deputy Headmaster at Naalya SSS Bweyogerere Campus so I understood perfectly well what Mary was going through. To tell you the truth we were three people in my office crying at the unfairness of the fact that a bright girl like Mary might not manage to complete her education that I was determined to try and do something at least.
I approached three students who were in Mary's senior six class; Lugambwa Phiona, Nakato Juliet and Damalie and told them about Mary's plight. Their reaction made me stronger. They were not just crying. They begged me not to take her out of school when she was so near finishing. Instead they pleaded with me to talk to the whole school that surely we could come up with something. We have many humanitarian groups in our schools like Red Cross, Interact Club started by students which always go out in the community around us and try to help some of the disadvantaged around us. Like a family of some kids whose parents who have died and they are being looked after by an old grandparent with a lot of difficulty. They were all wondering if we are always doing something like that for those outside why we couldn't help a fellow student who was in the same situation.
I'm a grown man but at the school assembly I called to tell the whole school what was happening to Mary, I ended up crying again because of the speech Mary's aunt made. The whole school was very moved I remember and students throughout were in tears. It was one of the most moving times of my life when the students themselves decided there and then that Mary was not going anywhere. She must stay and they would all contribute money to pay her fees. They told Mary's aunt that, "You don't worry, even if Mary has nothing, let her come, she will find everything here. We shall provide everything even if we have to part with all our pocket money."
Her senior six class alone contributed sh. 215,000, senior five sh. 185,500, senior four sh 55,100, senior three 58,500, senior two Y sh. 53,600 and senior one sh. 48,500., Altogether it came to 636,200, more than enough to cover the fees of her second term which were sh. 440,000. But there would be the third term to pay for and surely the students added on the 196,000 which was left over to pay for her third term too.
Two students, one of them the Head Prefect Olowo James took it upon themselves to pay for her upkeep. They told her to write a shopping list of the things she would need like Quencher and biscuits and they would do the shopping for her since she had no time to do it herself. I gave them the pass to go out and they went to Garden City and they bought all the things she wrote on her list, the bill coming to shs.150, 000 and they paid for everything themselves.
In spite of the hardships she was passing through, Mary read her books. On the day when the results came back and she had got 24 points, enough to get her the Law course she wants to do at the university, it was a day of celebration for the whole school. If anyone deserved to succeed, Mary more than anybody deserved it the most."