Another Public School Under Threat in Kampala

The existence of Nakivubo Settlement Primary School is under threat once again with political leaders in Kampala’s Central Division considering allocating the school to city vendors.

The school, situated between St Balikuddembe market and Nakivubo Blue Primary School, has an enrollment of 430 learners. Available information indicates that the idea to start this institution was mooted in 1958 by Sir Frederick Crawford, the then Governor of Uganda Protectorate, together with the municipal council of the time.

It was opened to resettle African children who did not want to study in schools run by Asians and Europeans. At that time, the nearby Nakivubo Blue, Buganda Road (then known as Norman Godinho), Shimoni Demonstration, Muslim Girls, Bat Valley, Ramgariah Singh and Aga Khan Primary Schools were dominated by the Asian community, while Nakasero Primary School was the school for the Europeans in Uganda.

But Salim Uhuru, the Mayor of Kampala Central Division recently suggested that part of the school land should be used to host vendors as one of the initiatives to create order in the city. Uhuru, says that he sold the idea to President Yoweri  Museveni after the proposal to allocate specific streets to vendors was rejected.

Uhuru insists that his proposal is for vendors to occupy its premises for only the months of December and January so that they can engage in uninterrupted business during the festive season. He is optimistic that this will not affect school activities because learners are away for holidays.

But Uhuru’s suggestion has been received with mixed feelings among residents and other leaders across Kampala who feared that this could be the first step to the death of the school.

“…That is how suggestions that lead to the sale of prime land that hosts public institutions including schools in Kampala have started over the years,” Alex Kamya, a city resident said and noted that the land hosting Nakivubo Settlement PrimarySchool has been on the verge for several years, surviving attempts to have it given out to developers.

His words are backed by a trail of records indicating the several attempts by individuals, the central government, and then Kampala City Council to remove the school. The records show that Nakivubo Settlement together with Nakivubo Blue Primary School used to occupy 16 acres of land within the Kampala Central Business District.

But the two schools have over time lost part of their land to developers and traders. In 2013, URN established that Nakivubo Settlement Primary School alone had been left with 6.8 acres of land. But, today the once spacious school owns a few decimals on which classrooms and the administration block are located.

Residents interviewed noted that part of the land on which St. Balikuddembe market (Owino), container village and surrounding areas stand once belonged to the school. But the school administration has been entangled in wrangles with a board of trustees known as the Nakivubo Settlement Muzzanganda Association that claimed ownership of the school land.

The said association was led by Mustapha Ssebowa, who had formerly served as the chairperson Parents and Teachers Association (PTA). Over time, the association constructed two residential homes, a recording studio, a kindergarten, a secondary school, a theatre (Nile Theatre), and other facilities behind the administrative building of the school. However, the plot (20-22 Nakivubo Place) was later subdivided to end the deadlock.

In 2009, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, the then Local Government minister, had insisted on the relocation of Nakivubo Settlement Primary School to turn the area into a modern taxi park. It is against this background that Faridah Nakabugo, the councillor representing Lubaga south opposes the suggestion to offer the school to vendors and hawkers saying the move is meant to hoodwink the public as powerful people plot to take over the school land.

Faustah Nalubega Bitaano, the councillor representing Makindye West- II, says public schools in the city are critical in giving education to thousands of learners of parents living and working in the city. Bitaano, a teacher by profession, says that risking the removal of the school is condemning poor learners to drop out of school.

Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwagorecollects that the city has previously lost public schools like Shimoni, Kyaggwe Road, and Muslim Girls, among others and could be stealthily implementing a policy to rid the central business district of schools and maintaining it as a typical commercial centre.

Kyaggwe Road Primary School which was opened in the 70s’ was sold to Mukwano Group of Companies and Shimoni Demonstration School which was the biggest school was relocated to Wakiso, to pave way for the construction of a Hotel, then allocated to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud, one of the world’s richest men from Saudi Arabia.

Long after Shimoni was relocated, the Saudi Prince’s Kingdom Holdings made attempts to enter a joint venture with Azure Holdings, a partner who was rejected by the Ugandan Government on grounds that the group comprised of Ugandan Asian speculators whose ultimate intention is to subdivide the land and sell it off.

In the aftermath, the Saudi prince wrote to President Museveni, informing him that Kingdom would not be able to proceed with the construction of the hotel due to the global financial crisis. He also proposed that the Government refunds the USD 2 million that he had already paid for the land.

In 2018, there was a suggestion to replace Kasubi Family Primary School with a market to accommodate vendors who were being evicted from Kasubi market to pave way for redevelopment of the Kasubi road junction. This proposal was rejected by political leaders led by Lukwago thus saving the school.  

Asked whether KCCA has agreed to temporarily host vendors and hawkers at the school, Bonnie Charles Maginot, the acting Director of Education and social service at KCCA, noted that the matter is under discussion by top authorities.

Meanwhile, URN has established that all 85 public schools in the country are facing some kind of threat with their land either encroached on or given away to private developers. But, the 12 public schools located in Kampala central are facing the worst threat.

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