When I sneaked into the country the other day – they said – I noticed a commercial on the telly. Its first image was, if my memory of the name serves me right, the grand Centre for Culture, Arts, and Performances at Ntare School. I took a moment o observe better, and wished that it was not, indeed, an advertisement, or rather, a call upon prospective students to join the school thatch made us who we are, and, thankfully, what we are not. As students, we had always derived pride from the fact that we did not advertise. Ours was a meritorious institution.
I was calmed by a familiar face and voice. A man who profiled himself as a lawyer, and a United Nations expert, Mr. Awich Pollar, from the class of 1995, and a former member of Pioneer House was calling upon us, people like him, to join him for the Ntare School Reunion scheduled for the 19th day of April, 2014.
I, of course, was overwhelmed with bliss. It would be an opportunity to make a trip to Mbarara, to meet friends I had made while studying there, and to celebrate a history we had made while there. The aspects of visualizing a future for the school were, honestly, to be left to the much older generation, our forefathers. They are the well-heeled ones. We would chime in only as much as we could.
It would also be another opportune moment for my dad and I to remind each other of one of the unique coincidences that have been experienced by the two of us; the way, and day I joined Ntare School.
I remember the way I joined Ntare School like I remember the events of yesterday. Cardinal being that I never wanted to join Ntare School. I had chosen my schools of preference for secondary school in an order I had taken considerable time to think about. It was King’s College Buddo, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Busoga College Mwiri, and lastly Ntare School. I did not know what it was about colleges that had influenced the decision of my tender mind.
And, after performing excellently in the Primary Leaving Examinations, I had the required grades to join any of those schools in the order I had selected them.
However, on one fateful day, when he returned home from work with a brown envelope that bore the Ntare School emblem and name, I knew it. I would not be going anywhere further than the boundaries of Kamukuzi Division. He had spoken. He said I was too young to leave. I would follow in his footsteps.
I also know the day I joined Ntare School like I know the back of my hand. After purchasing pretty much all the school had detailed in the admission letter – including, I will never forget, bloody slashers – we entered the school’s huge and well decorated in white, blue, and brown school gates.
It was at the clearance desk that the coincidences started playing out. After confirming that I had come with what I needed, and had brought what the school wanted, I was allocated a class. Senior One A (S.1.A), and a house, Mbaguta.
What my exhilarated father was saying to me as we walked from the administration block to Mbaguta did not mean much to me. I was a tense, tiny boy who was labouring under the weight of a heavy metallic suitcase – which my mother had exchanged with my favorite, a plastic one, for fear that some irresponsible characters would smash it was – and was still feeling all the angst from not joining a school of my own choice.
When we got to Mbaguta House’s verandah, we ran into a giant I later got to learn was popularly known as Big Inno. He was about three times my height, and about five times or perhaps more my size. My life literally paused. I was finished. I could hardly move. The ground was not of any help to me. It failed to open up and swallow me when all I wanted was it to. My eyes couldn’t keep off the baseball bat he was not only wielding but swinging as well. I prayed that he did not, instantly, mistake me for a baseball.
My poor life was saved by a gentleman who, at a spot not distant from us, shared the same verandah with us. He sat on a wooden chair from which he rose, dried his hands of the water they had from the clothes he was washing, and welcomed us to Mbaguta . He introduced himself as Gavin, the house councillor. Gavin maintained his smile as he guided us to the door of a room that would be my home away from home for the next four years; Mbaguta Room Four. It was the same room in which my old man had lived in for his four years before, just like me, moving into Mbaguta Five X where he slept throughout his High School.
It took me a few days of getting used to my roommates and their ways, and the school in general before I started to comfortably use the same jargon as my dad had used in his heyday. Omusya, obunena, mashaka, akayaga and more became common terms whenever I utilized the MTN publicom landlines that were fixed next to the notice board on the walls of the administration block.
By coincidentally following in the footsteps of my father, I had started on a memorable and enriching journey like he himself had had more than two decades before I had arrived to join students who would be my fellow lions.
Friday, April 18, 2014.