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Gayaza High School deserves our financial support

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Gayaza High School deserves our financial support

(Some of the Gayaza girls at the gathering in Kampala on November 5, 2022. Left - right: Jane Nannono Kavuma Kayonga [red top], Barbara Kibaya Kiwanuka, Florence Isabirye Muranga [standing], Rowena Sempa Ndugga, Christina Mugwanya Kadama, and Jennifer Wanyoto Musiime.) 



The Old Girls of Gayaza have celebrated their school’s 117 years with a fundraising event in support of a project to build a new administration block at their alma mater.  They also used the occasion to honour Joyce Masembe Mpanga, Rhoda Nsibirwa Kalema, Miria Kalule Obote, and Akiiki Elizabeth Bagaaya Nyabongo, four old Gayaza girls whose lives invite high esteem and affection by those who know them. 


The elegant celebration, which was held at the Serena Kampala Hotel on Saturday November 5, was well attended by ladies and gentlemen that reminded me of the wealth of intellect and goodness with which our country is endowed. From across the ocean - via the gift of livestreaming – all looked elegant, festive, and proper. In short, very Gayaza-like.


Yes, one can almost always tell a Gayaza girl. In July 2019, my wife and I boarded an Emirates flight from Toronto to Dubai. Sitting in our cabin was an African lady that I had never met before. Without the benefit of taking a history from her, a visual examination, focusing on her manner and demeanor, led me to a quick diagnosis that she was a Gayaza girl.  “How can you tell?” my wife asked me. “I just can,” I confidently replied. 


My wife walked over to the lady and asked her who she was and where she had attended high school. “Gayaza High School,” the lady replied. The two exchanged information about their identities and discovered that they had been at Gayaza together, though in different classes. My wife was very delighted to introduce me to Justice Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza. She was refined, polite, pleasant, and down-to-earth. Our conversation was very enriching for me. The quintessential Gayaza girl.


I have met hundreds of Gayaza girls over the last 55 years. Some became my very good friends. Others shared enough time and intellect with me to enable me to confirm my very positive impression of a typical Gayaza girl. I was privileged to study with some Old Gayaza girls, including Dr. Christina Mugwanya Kadama, and Dr. Jane Nannono Kavuma-Kayonga, whose mix of graceful humility and intellect, reflected a true education and civilization. Fifty years after we first met at university, these two ladies remain distinguished, and honourable in the true sense of the word. They are leaders of our university class of 1977. True Gayaza girls. 


But what constitutes a true Gayaza girl? Is it the mere fact of having been there as a student? Is it the social station of her family or one that she currently occupies?  Does it have to do with religion, nationality or ideological bent? Is it defined by her academic ranking among her post-secondary school peers? It is none of the above.


A Gayaza girl has that thing that those who know, know. She is naturally self-respecting, confident, comfortable under her skin, and generally abhors public fights and scandal. She does not try to “prove anything” by singing her own praises and parading her titles and qualifications. She neither pushes her weight around, nor thirsts to be considered a very important person (VIP).


Now, the Gayaza girl does not have a monopoly on that character, of course. In my days when I lived in Uganda, the Gayaza girl shared the character with the Namagunga girl, the Budo girl, the Nabbingo girl, the Bweranyangi girl, the Hornby High School girl, and the Nyakasura girl.  I am sure other schools have joined this list during the last forty years. My lack of current knowledge about them does not imply negative judgement. 


I focus on the Gayaza girl because it is to their school that I have dedicated this column, to honour them and to celebrate a fine institution that has maintained very high standards through extremely challenging times. In addition to its very strong foundation that was laid during its first 60 years, Gayaza’s success has been partly due to its alumnae. The typical Gayaza girl loves her school. She gives back to Gayaza, and not just to the current school, but to those who have served there in the past. 


For example, their love for their teachers has been heartwarming to watch. I have been privy to their enormous financial, personal, and moral support for Ms. Joan Cox and Ms. Sheelagh Warren, two of their beloved headmistresses, as the elderly ladies walked their final years in England.


Gayaza High School’s motto – Never Give Up – is not a mere phrase to be recited in speeches and conversations. It is a rallying cry they live by. It galvanises them to purposeful collaborative action that invariably produces pleasing results. It drives them in their professional and private lives. No doubt, there are a few who have tired along the journey, but they are the exception to the rule. 


The current fundraising effort for a new school administration block exemplifies their focused determination to get things done. No doubt they will succeed. The leaders of Gayaza High School and of Gayaza Old Girls Association (GOGA) have a track record of honest and accountable use of donated funds. So, this is an effort I fully endorse without hesitation. I appeal to all Old Gayaza Girls and to everyone else who values good education to donate to this effort through GOGA, whose contact information is on their website. 


Remember that Gayaza is not “their school.” It is “our school.” If we have not had parents, sisters, other relatives, or friends who studied there, some of our descendants will likely choose Gayaza for their secondary education. To be sure, our future as a country must remain anchored by high quality, transformative education, the kind that Gayaza has offered for 117 years. 


As I celebrate this school’s stellar journey, I remember with special fondness several deceased Old Gayaza girls who were my dear friends, and many others whose acquaintance added great value to my life and appreciation of humanity. Their premature deaths robbed us of great people. 


I especially honour Lucy Alori, Jane Anywar, Joy Bikangaga, Kate Bikangaga, Constance Kategaya Byamugisha, Joyce Dratele, Debora Egweu, Donna Kagoro, Christine Kairumba, Harriet Kapiriri, Sarah Kasirye, Hope Kivengere, Robinah Kasirye Kiyingi, Evas Kantamu Mafigiri, Betty Mpeka, Rachel Nandawula Masembe Musoke, Edith Mpaka, Margaret Mungherera, Cynthia Margarida Fernandes Nazareth, Anne Ndagahweire, Beatrice Odonga, Marylin Ojera,  Alice Rwabazaire, Peace Bagurusi Rwomwiju, Jane Kibeherere Rwomwiju, Agnes Sembeguya, Ruth Supani, and Robinah Yawe.


We freshly mourn Cynthia Margarida Fernandes Nazareth who died in Toronto on October 26. She will be buried here on Thursday November 10.  Her grace and generosity; her intellect and calm demeanour, were her homage to the school that shaped her. One way to honour these and other Gayaza Girls who died, is to donate to their school’s building project in their names. 


What I saw on Saturday was very impressive. Not surprising, of course. Very challenging to me as a graduate of other schools. Well done sisters. I live with fond memories of your school. Time and 45 years of marriage to one of you has only deepened my respect for Gayaza.  Blessings. 


©Muniini K. Mulera

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