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Budo co-education@90: female leadership the next goal.

Budo co-education@90: female leadership the next goal.

Photo: Budo Pioneer girls. (Photographer - unknown. 1934)




Ninety years ago this year, ten (perhaps twelve) girls were admitted at King’s College, Budo, a 27-year-old school hitherto exclusively dedicated to the education of boys. The girls - Flora Kawalya, Eseza Kitamirike, Margaret Nakato Mulyanti, Aida Musoke, Faith Kibuuka Musoke, Norah Muyinda, Elizabeth Serebe, Emily Solomon, and Hannah Namuli Wamala – became the pioneers in a quiet but transformative revolution that would change the story of our country. 


This was not only a first in Uganda, but also a rare phenomenon in the British Empire. Whereas mixed-gender education had existed in Quaker schools in pre-nineteenth century Britain, it was only in 1898 that the first non-Quaker boarding school opened its doors to both boys and girls. By 1933 very few schools in Britain had taken a similar step. 


Credit for this development has been rightly given to Rev. Canon Harold Myers Grace, the third headmaster of Budo. Born in Blenheim, New Zealand on December 28, 1888, Grace graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge before going to Uganda in 1914 as a member of the Church Missionary Society. A very keen scout, he served in the East African Labour Corps in World War I. 


Grace married 24-year-old Enid Mary Dundas Harford Battersby in Stanstead Abbotts, Hertfordshire, England on November 10, 1920. Mrs. Grace was the daughter of Reverend Dundas Harford and his wife Enid Howells. Her brother, Sir James Dundas Harford, was Acting British Governor of Mauritius (1948 and 1950), and Governor of Saint Helena Island (1954-1958). The Graces had three children – Anne (1922), Michael (1925), and James (1928).  He served as headmaster of Mbarara High School (1921-1925), and King’s College Budo (1926-1934), before becoming the principal of the Prince of Wales College, Achimota, Gold Coast (1935-1940). He retired to Seaford, Sussex, England in 1940, and died in Bournemouth, Dorset, England in 1967. Mrs Grace died in Odiham, Hampshire, England in 1984.


Rev. Grace was one of the most consequential educationists of the twentieth century. Without his focused pursuit of mixed-gender education at Budo, the program might well have taken longer to be implemented. However, the idea might well not have occurred to him had he not been profoundly inspired and encouraged by two men: Dr. James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey, and Rev. Alexander Garden Fraser, both from the nascent college at Achimota, Gold Coast (Ghana). 


Aggrey, who was born in the Gold Coast in 1875, was a multi-talented intellectual who achieved great fame and reverence as an educationist in the United States of America. A passionate advocate of mixed-gender education, Aggrey made a key statement in 1920 that would become one of the most quoted remarks about girl education. “The surest way to keep people down is to educate the men and neglect the women,” Aggrey said. “If you educate a man, you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.”


He first put this into practice in North Carolina, USA, and then in Ghana where he returned in 1924 to help build the new Prince of Wales College at Achimota, just north of Accra. He was the first vice principal of Achimota, serving under the Rev. Alexander Garden Fraser, who had recently retired as principal of Trinity College, Kandy in Ceylon (Sri Lanka.) 


Aggrey visited Grace at Mbarara High School in 1925. The Graces visited Aggrey in North Carolina later that year, to learn about the work the Ghanaian had done, including his promotion of mixed gender education. The Graces returned from America persuaded by Aggrey. Sadly, Dr. Aggrey died in New York on July 30, 1927, six years before his dream for Budo became reality. A subsequent visit to Budo in 1932 by Rev. Fraser, the principal of Achimota, who had been sold the idea of mixed-gender education by Dr. Aggrey, gave a boost to Grace’s campaign to turn his school into the first co-educational institution in Uganda.


The Aggrey-Fraser-Grace plan for Budo would not have succeeded without the support of a larger community of stakeholders. Key among these were Kabaka Daudi Chwa II, the king of Buganda (1897-1939); Martin Luther Nsibirwa, the Katikkiro of Buganda (1929-1941); county chiefs of Buganda; Uganda Protectorate Governors Sir William Gowers (1925-1932) and Sir Bernard Henry Bourdillon (1932-1935), two of the most pro-indigenous African colonial administrators our country ever had; the school’s board of governors; the parents of the pioneer girls; and the pioneer girls themselves. So, our celebration of mixed-gender education at Budo embraces the memory of Aggrey, Fraser, Grace, Chwa II, Nsibirwa, Gowers, Bourdillon, and other nameless heroes that made it all possible. 


I salute the thousands of young ladies that have passed through Budo on their academic journeys. She-Budonians have had a strong presence across the broad spectrum of professional occupations, both at home and abroad. Many have excelled in sports, in volunteerism, and, of course, many more have given birth, raised children and held their families together. 


Today, I specially celebrate the thirteen or so girls with whom I entered King’s College, Budo in 1967. I may not remember them all, but the following enjoy a brightly lit spot in my memory: Eunice Atim, Mary Magdalene Nantaba Bogere, Susan Kibirige, Margaret Dorothy Kyenkya, Gladys Nakazibwe Kyeyune, Everini Ngambe Lwere, Rose Sempala Nalwanga, Caroline Jenny Nyankori, Edrone Nyanjura Rwakaikara, Jane Sebaddawo, Lydia Sempa, Sarah Nalumansi Senoga, and Mary Irene Murekatete Shalita. 


These ladies, along with dozens in other classes with whom we shared space in my five years at Budo, were our informal teachers as we navigated the transition through adolescence. They effortlessly demonstrated the fallacy of a cultural belief about gender differences in intellectual, scholastic, and extracurricular abilities. They immersed us in feminism before the concept took centre stage. They enhanced our civilized, gentlemanly conduct and socialisation and prepared us for the real world of university communities and beyond. Those whose journeys I have followed, have had stories of success and outstanding contribution to humanity. Well done, ladies. 


Sadly, we have lost some of our marvelous sisters to premature death. Bogere, Lwere, Nalwanga, and Rwakaikara, all gone too soon. We honour them and remember them with fond memories. We long for news of Eunice Atim, Jane Sebaddawo and Lydia Sempa. Perhaps they or their children can fill the 50-year gap, hopefully with the good news that they are enjoying their golden years. 

From 10 (or 12) female students in 1933, Budo’s girl population increased to just under 100 out of a total student enrollment of 600 during my time. Today, Budo, at 117 years, has 725 girls out of a student population of 2080. The increase in female enrollment from 16 percent to 34 percent in 50 years is encouraging, though still short of a desirable target of 50 percent. 


It has been a great journey, full of triumph. The credit must largely go to the girls who seized the opportunities, excelled, and fulfilled the dreams of Dr. Aggrey, Rev. Fraser and Rev. Grace. One hopes that when Budo celebrates the centenary of girl education in 2033, the school’s headmaster will be a lady, reporting to a lady board chairperson. Gakyali Mabaga, but it is an overdue milestone. 


© Muniini K. Mulera



Budo ladies, circa 1966. 

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