Old Kampala SS Board, Headteacher Clash Over Management

There is a bitter dispute between the Old Kampala Secondary School board of governors and the headteacher over the management of the school. According to several documents obtained by our reporter, the school board has leveled a string of accusations against the head teacher, William Suuna, who is yet to make a year at the helm of the once-vibrant school.    

“The headteachers’ brief stint at the school has been discernibly characterized by conflict and worryingly belligerent environment, stifled working environment between himself the other deputies, staff and most worryingly the spill over to the student’s community, which in a span of six months almost caused two student strikes,” the board wrote to the Ministry of Education and Sports asking for his immediate transfer.

The school board, which has the backing of a section of former students and staff members also invokes Suuna’s past work history to substantiate their claims against the head teacher. They argue that Suuna has a history of leaving conflicts and mismanagement in his wake and cite his previous record at Luwero Secondary School and Kalinabiri Secondary School.

In several petitions,  the board couldn’t resist pointing out how the headteacher was ejected from Luweero SS in 2022 by former students who accused him of maladministration, declining performance, examination malpractice, lack of transparency, disrespect of stakeholders, and bribery. They further point out the fact that Suuna has been posted in three schools within the last three years.

“The new headteacher … was embroiled and embattled right from Luweero and Kalinabiri respectively before he was transferred to Old Kampala with all his past misdeeds,” the letter to the MoES permanent secretary reads. Among other issues raised by the board include the headteacher’s attempt to usurp their and irregular recruitment of staff.  They cite his decision to appoint over 10 staff on temporary contracts without the knowledge of the board, which contravenes the school’s human resource manual.

Another letter authored by a whistle-blower addressed to the Education Minister and Kampala Capital City Authority also highlights concerns about what is said to be a deliberate move by the headteacher to change the entire senior leadership of the school and staff. The letter specifically mentions the suspicious transfer of Phyllis Namaganda, who was serving as a deputy to Suuna at Kalinabiri, and another attempt to transfer other teaching and non-teaching staff including the school bursar.

Paul Kamwezi, a staff member also alleged that the headteacher is using his office to sideline existing staff members and give their teaching load to new staff he brought in from his old duty stations in Luweero and Kalinabiri.       

Kamwezi also accused the recent loss of school property including laboratory equipment and more than 26 computers on temporary staff members employed by the headteacher. 

“We had not seen such at the school but some of the staff like Lincon Male have a record of stealing school property wherever they have been. It is not a coincidence that items are disappearing after their arrival,” he added.  

Male, who teaches ICT, is also referred to in an internal audit that was carried out following Suuna’s ejection from Luwero Secondary School. The audit blamed him for misconduct and negligence that led to the loss of computers and hard disks and recommended disciplinary action for abuse of office.

Multiple staff members, board members, old students, and members of the Parents-Teachers Association who were interviewed by our reporter detailed accounts of the alleged mismanagement by the head teacher on condition of anonymity. Some board members expressed hope that the situation can be resolved through intervention from authorities. “I think, with the involvement of the authorities, the matter will be handled and soon our school will return on the right track,” one of the board members noted.

Suuna has since denied all the allegations leveled against him, saying that they are being fueled by those opposed to the changes he is bringing to the school. He explains that when he arrived in June 2022, the school was operating in an unstructured manner, with staff conducting business as they pleased and students alike.

“A quick example; we have staff who are posted here but they have obtained jobs in universities as lecturers. They come here once in a while, and there are others who are currently working in Mengo hospital as lab technicians. When I arrived the syllabus coverage was poor. A’ Level students had never attended any practical lesson. Regrettably, these teachers have backing from some members of the board,” Suuna noted.

He added that as someone who is result oriented, he initiated an emergency mode and recruited a few teachers to fast-track the syllabus as he sorts out issues of those who were not working, which rubbed some people the wrong way.

Asked why he usurped the powers of the board by recruiting staff without its knowledge, the head teacher said there is a provision in the same manual that allows him to recruit staff on a temporary basis and report to the board until the opportune time for normal recruitment or regularization takes place.

In his view, there is also a tendency by the board to get involved in the day-to-day running of the school, which is not within their mandate.  

Suuna also expressed concern about the theft of school items and believes that a police investigation is necessary to determine the responsible parties. He noted that the lab has an individual assigned to open and close it and the school has security guards who may have observed the perpetrator.

The clash between the board and the new headteacher has already attracted attention from KCCA, which conducted a special inquiry whose finds are yet to be released. Equally, the Ministry of Education has been holding meetings to discuss the challenges at the school. 

Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo, the State Minister in Charge of Higher Education, said they are studying the situation but they need concrete evidence to determine what steps need to be taken to introduce sanity at the school. 

“There is a meeting that is going to look at the management of schools, old Kampala inclusive, and I can tell you that a solution will be given. This approach is important to ensure that any decisions made are based on facts and not just speculation,” the minister said.

Prior to the arrival of Suuna, Old Kampala had a history of conflicts, leadership challenges, and instability. The school was recovering from a 2017 strike that according to the Ministry of Education, was triggered by a teacher and external forces. 

The school was temporarily closed that year. Established in 1932, Old Kampala SS was founded by Asian teachers, K.D Gupta and B.D Gupta, from Bengal, India, an ancient seat of learning.  Its establishment coincided with the needs of the local community, and K.D Gupta became its first headmaster.

Over the years, the school, with its rich history and cultural background, had become one of the leading centers of learning in East Africa. It excelled not only in academics but also in other disciplines such as Fine Arts and sports. 

The school has over time nurtured, among other prominent individuals including Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, Uganda’s former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, Pastor Robert Kayanja, Gen (Rtd) David Tinyefuza, Moses Kigongo, and businessman Sudhir Ruparelia. 

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