Tell-all book captures rise, fall of Namasagali

Tell-all book captures rise, fall of Namasagali
Tell-all book captures rise, fall of Namasagali

Africa-Press – Ethiopia. Book Title: The School in the Wilderness; Namasagali College, A Great Past Behind it

Author: Albert Gomes Mugumya

Year of Publication: 2019

Pages: 145

Price: Shs50,000

Where: Aristoc Bookstore, Mahiri Books

In this book, The School in the Wilderness, the author reminisces about his six years as a student at the school. Namasagali College was situated in a remote area of eastern Uganda initially met with scepticism due to its location on a desolate site. However, over the years, the school underwent a remarkable transformation, emerging as a prestigious academic institution.

The school instilled in its students the understanding that success in exams did not guarantee success in life and that low grades did not diminish their potential or aspirations. The school’s successes in academia, boxing, chess, swimming, and, most notably, dance-musical productions garnered it much-needed national admiration. The school was also the first to introduce computer studies in Uganda in 1989.

The book contains numerous anecdotes, ranging from incidents where students were bitten by snakes to a student stealing the headmaster’s clock. It recounts the time a helicopter landed at the school to pick up a student, sparking debate in the country’s parliament. It highlights the headmaster’s efforts to encourage parents to enhance their children’s etiquette skills by taking them to restaurants during the holiday period.

Furthermore, the book sheds light on the headmaster’s practice of holding female-only sessions to offer advice, such as emphasising the importance of safety in numbers, the value of chastity, and the directive to trust no man apart from one’s father, among other insights. The headmaster, Rev Father Damian Grimes, stood as the central figure behind the school’s remarkable success. He firmly believed that while education held significance, one’s character ultimately determined their success in life. He prioritised nurturing students’ aspirations and providing them with essential skills and virtues, including confidence, enthusiasm, teachability, curiosity, honesty, perseverance, and service. Notably, he was renowned for his sharp tongue, often delivering polite yet firm responses to parents who voiced complaints about fee increases or dormitory conditions. He made it clear that parents were under no obligation to send their children to the school if they were dissatisfied.

Today, at the age of 93, Father Grimes resides in a home for retired priests in Liverpool, UK, reflecting on a lifetime dedicated to shaping young minds and instilling values that endure beyond the classroom.

In contrast to the perception of Namasagali as a school where boys and girls freely wandered around half-naked, spending their days dancing and swimming, the reality was starkly different. The school operated more like a police state, with strict adherence to a tightly controlled routine. Any deviation from this routine resulted in severe consequences. The school boasted a well-run student government comprising various student officials. Bullying was unheard of and was one of the few schools in Uganda that never experienced a strike.

Regrettably, the school found itself in a state of decline, far removed from its illustrious past. A combination of factors, including financial constraints, the retirement of Father Grimes, the rise of newer and more competitive private schools, and its remote location, all contributed to its downfall.

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