Education Ministry, Church Clash Over Appointment of SMACK Headteacher

A rift has emerged between the Kampala Archdiocese and the Ministry of Education and Sports over the appointment of the next headteacher of St Mary’s College Kisubi – SMACK. 

Trouble started when the Commissioner in Charge of Human Resource Management in the Education Ministry, Ronald Ssekabembe Kiberu announced the transfer of Bro Augustine Mugabo from St. Henry College Kitovu to SMACK on behalf of the permanent secretary.

The appointment came when the incumbent headteacher, Brother Deo Aliganyira, who has been at the helm of the school for seven years clocked his retirement age. In his letter, Ssekabembe ordered Mugabo to hand over office at St Henry’s and report to St Mary’s with immediate effect.

“In the interest of the service, it has been decided to deploy you to St Mary’s College Kisubi… by a copy of this letter, the chairperson board of governors, St Mary’s College- Kisubi Wakiso district is requested to accord you the necessary support in executing your duties,” the December 12 letter reads in part. 

Missionaries of Africa-commonly known as the White Fathers founded St. Mary’s College Kisubi in 1906. They handed over the school to Brothers of Christian Instruction locally referred to as Kisubi Brothers in 1926. SMACK is one of the government-aided schools that has remained under the realms of the Kampala Archdiocese through the Brothers of Christian Instruction.

One would expect that there wouldn’t be any controversy in the appointment of the headteacher given that Bro. Mugabo is a member of the Brothers of Christian instruction, which is in charge of St. Mary’s College and St. Henry College. However, it is evident there are several interests at work. 

On December 15, 2022, preparations to welcome the new headteacher got into motion as the outgoing headteacher invited members of the board of governors to witness his handover. “You are cordially invited to attend the handover function for the outgoing Board of Governors to the new Board and from the outgoing Headteacher to the incoming Headteacher on Tuesday 20th December at the college starting at 10:00 AM.”  he wrote. 

However, the planned handover did not take place. Now, it turns out that a day before the function, His Grace Dr. Paul Ssemogerere, the Archbishop of Kampala wrote to the Education Minister Janet Kataha Museveni expressing his concerns noting that the decision to choose Bro Mugabo for the position was against an earlier search process for a head teacher.

“To my surprise, the appointment was made without notifying me and not following due process, which has been going on for months since march 2022,” the Archbishop’s letter reads in part. Section 8 of the Education Act, which stipulates the responsibilities of the Government towards grant-aided education institutions indicates it is responsible for appointing and deploying heads (headteachers, deputies) but it adds that this must be done in consultation with foundation bodies.

With the aforementioned section in mind, the Archbishop added that as a foundation body for the school, they are recommending Bro. Simon Mpanga, who has been deputizing Bro Mugabo for the last six years to take over as the new headteacher.

The Archbishop also argued that Mugabo’s leadership at this time is needed at the “highly esteemed” St. Henry College as it begins a new century of providing education. SHACK recently celebrated 100 years of existence. As the church tussles it out with the ministry, it has since gained backing from Old Boys, who are a powerful force in the institution. 

One of the Old Boys who talked to this reporter on condition of anonymity said that it was a sign of undermining for the government to pick a school head without consulting the church. “Actually, the designated individual might not be a problem for the school; he even belongs to the Brothers of Christian Instruction, but the ministry didn’t follow the proper procedure,” he said adding that “….the foundation body may fail to work with someone whose arrival at the school came without their input, as he may also only listen to his singular appointing authority -ministry, and disregard the founding body – the church.”

Another source in the church noted that the government has made appointments to church schools in the past without consulting them and that this time around the church believes the modus operandi needs to be checked. The source added that the Late Archbishop Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga had expressed concern to the government about this issue to the point of threatening to revoke the aid agreements. 

When our reporter brought the issue to the attention of the relevant education authorities earlier this week, Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo, Minister of State for Higher Education, stated that he “felt it was a minor matter that should not be blown out of proportion”. 

Dr. Muyingo however, added that his senior minister, Ms. Museveni, will soon resolve the issue. While making further follow-ups on the matter, our reporter talked to some technical officers at the ministry of education. One of them said he was not in a position to give a comment at the moment as they were preparing for a top management meeting. 

It is not clear whether this matter is part of the agenda of the meeting or not. Bro. Mugabo, who is caught in the middle of the fight, says that he is waiting for a final communication from both authorities. In his redeployment letter, he had been told to conclude duties at St. Henry’s college and hand over the office in accordance with section F-d of the Uganda Public Standing Orders, 2021. 

“I’m not involved in anything that’s happening. I’m not the appointing authority. I’m waiting for the results of the decisions made by the church and the ministry. I’m currently in Kitovu,” Mugabo, who was recently elected as the chairperson of secondary headteachers in Uganda told our reporter in a phone interview.

Battles over the nomination of headteachers between foundation bodies and the ministry are becoming more prevalent. At first, it was Muslims complaining that the ministry is going too far by appointing non-Muslims to lead their schools. As time passed by the Catholics and Anglicans also found themselves in a similar corner.

In the past, the government would deploy head teachers to the schools but they would be turned away by the foundation in preference for their own candidates. Similar rejections have been witnessed at Trinity College Nabbingo (Catholic Church) and Nabisunsa Girls School (Muslim). The very recent battle was witnessed at Gayaza high school in 2019. 

As Victoria Kisarale Serunkuma bid farewell to the school where she had spent 10 years, a clash between the education ministry and the Namirembe diocese erupted over her successor. The ministry had appointed Robinah Kizito Katongole against the church’s preferred candidate Agatha Nakisekka Ssenyonjo. 

Given that both candidates were alumni of the school and had previously held positions as deputy headteachers in the same institution, the ministry and the Namirembe diocese reached a compromise and Kizito took the job. Given that the two potential headteachers for SMACK are both members of the same congregation, will the church compromise and let the ministry nominee head the school?

An answer to this query will be available soon.          

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