Exclusive Interview: From Orphan Street Life to a PhD Scholar, Kiganda Ivan’s Success Story

A born of 1987 in Kampala District, his route to growth was very crude, sad, entangled with poverty, and extreme harshness that is better felt than told.

Ivan Kiganda’s exclusive interview with Cyclone Times. A must-read touching story!

“Ivan lost his parents at a very tender age.”

Like most African families, polygamy practice left his father married to 5 women from whom he bore more than 20 children.

“The nature of management of these women was not my concern, in any case, I didn’t get the chance to know how my dad did it since I was a doodler then,” Kiganda told Cyclone Times in an interview.

The Late Mother of Kiganda Ivan (Middle) Ms. Tibaherwa Yedida and Ivan on the right. File Photo.

His mother was a poor woman who lived in Kitoba a village in Hoima District Uganda and she bore four children, two boys, and two girls but one of the girls and boys later passed on.

His father passed on in 1988 leaving him aged 1 year old, Ivan stayed with his mother in Hoima who wholeheartedly struggled to raise the family on limited resources and support. Life wasn’t easy!

It has always never been sweet living without your mother, and at 4 years old Ivan was handed over to a step mum who lived in Kampala where he thought his mother would pick him up soon.

This wasn’t the case though, he waited along in vain. This marked the start of his journey of suffering!!!.

“My life now turned nomad and I was left to act like a drowning man clutching at straws. The experience of being grown up by different guardians is compared to nothing but a journey through a tunnel with burning coal. I moved on leaving with several family members but all in vain.

“My experience indeed is no exception. I am a testimony of extreme psychological, military, and physical torture. 70% of my life was spent in tears but I was a voiceless kid.

“When meat or chicken was prepared, all that filled my stomach was the scent and a little soup,” moreover at my elder brother’s place. Kiganda narrated in agony.

“My own eldest brother looked at me as a disgrace at his place and he always worked hard to see that I don’t get any sympathy from her wife, not even the neighbours. 

“They tortured me to an extent of having my buttocks burnt with a hot flat iron. Ivan cursed the day he was born,” he added.

The harshness treatment once forced Ivan to flee and live like a street child for some good time and got the taste of the night breezes.

“I don’t want to tell what these kids go through, it’s grave on earth. Several questions filled my mind and always planned to commit suicide,” shocking! Ivan still stands.

It is not Ivan only who have gone through tough child moments, so many kids are experiencing the same kind of mistreatment but have no voice or were to run too.  Most of them have ended up running to the streets.

Ivan’s mother passed on in 1997 but he got to know about her death 3 years later. A sign of endless suffering.

As he was in this struggle of recovering, he got the game changers of his journey like Ssekalaya Denis and the family who welcomed him wholeheartedly, Seluja Ivan and Mutesasira Isaiah.

Ivan’s school journey

“I had a dream of becoming a doctor to help the sick, and this arose because I saw my mother in agony on the death bed but she had no one to help except my grandmother and in any case what much could such an elderly woman do to save my mother?…, Said Ivan.

Very eager to learn, Ivan always went to ramshackle schools because of the extreme poverty life he lived.

It was always a pleasure for him to find classrooms with incomplete school structures or holes at the back of the walls because these provided him with a chance to study while standing outside to see what his fellow pupils were learning.

He could hardly afford fees, not even a uniform. He also revealed that the times he got chances to enter in class was when some stubborn boys wanted to dodge class and look for drugs, these often gave him their uniforms to study on their behalf.

Ivan later joined Lakeview Primary School, while there, the Head Teacher picked interested in him because of the vigour he exhibited who made up his mind and transferred him to Mutungo Parents School in Nakawa Division, Kampala (Ug) where he was a teacher then, and promised to pay half of his fees.

Ivan (right) and his brother (left) at primary level. File Photo

Getting this offer was great for him, but still, he couldn’t afford to raise the other half because he had no source of money.

He instead, decided to start begging for money everywhere to meet the missing half of his fees.

“So, I resorted to looking for money tooth and nail by begging everywhere, I sometimes went playing football for some small amounts of money. By doing so, people of good hearts and those who admired my skills and commitment to scratch the ground for a living always helped me out,” he revealed.

“Later on in 1998, my cousin, Mayanja Abner picked interest and started paying my fees in Luzira Primary School.

“It was indeed better than Mutungo Parents where I had been transferred under the guidance of teacher Feabe who up to now I acknowledge as one of the first people to see that was a brilliant child, “he added.

Ivan’s life drastically changed while at Luzira Primary School. He did all kinds of sport to survive.

“I engaged in athletics, and also played football for the under 12 Uganda National Team and this gave me a big boost so I also started supporting my sister with the little I got,” he submitted with a smile.

At this level Ivan says, he started realizing change in his life. Life was never the same. However, he affiliates this to help the various people extended to him. Further, after primary seven,

God was by his side that He brought along several other people who pushed through my secondary school.

Primary is done, how did you get into secondary school and how was life there?

My secondary life was not that simple because I hustled a lot to study.

My O-Level started smoothly at Lakeside College Luzira because I was under a great Headmaster Mr. Paul Wadega who through bursaries supported the less privileged students like me to study.

Around 2003, when he left to run a personal school [Hilton High School], Mr. Nyende Jimmy took over and that was the start of another chapter of my suffering because he hated poor students wholeheartedly no matter how brilliant you were.

I remember, in Senior Four (4) I failed to raise school fees and I was seriously slapped by Mr. Nyende saying that we “poor people are a problem to the community” and one of the teachers added that the poor students like Ivan make life hard for them. 

Thankfully, with God’s grace, I managed to score a first grade which made me forget about all my pain at that time.

Emerging among the best students raised my hope of getting a bursary since I had no chance to join any other school apart from Lakeside College Luzira again for A’ Level. 

It wasn’t easy at A-level; I attended class for only 9 months for both Senior Five (5) and Six (6) combined because the rest of the days I would be out of school due to school fees.

Fortunately, in our year of 2006, I was the only student who passed PCB/M with three principal passes no matter the challenges I was going through.

What did you do during your form 6 vacation?

During my senior six vacations, I began to think about what next to my university? Remember, I had to toil and give support to my young sister so I engaged in petty jobs to earn me a living.

I did every dirty job that came my way for as long as it brought some money into my hands. I was never bothered about my looks and dress, after all, I was used to living a wild and shabby style. 

I even engaged in coaching people’s children, taught at schools like Kitante Hill and taught Chemistry at underprivileged schools of Brothers of sacred heart Uplift and in Gulu.

While here, I taught but of course expecting no pay but I was always proud of my deliveries.

How did you manage to join the University?

It was during this time that I met with a white man, Dawson McCall from the USA who loved me so much and indeed became a great friend to date.

My work pleased him and promised to pay my university fees. This excited me, but I was sceptical about that promise fearing for whether Dawson would fulfil that pledge to the end of the course.

In his wisdom, he read my mind and he informed another black colleague of his that the money would be contributed together.

This now gave me boost and impetus to apply for a course at Kyambogo University, but little did I know that in reality, the money was going to be contributed solely by Dawson McCall disguising that it would be a joint fund with the black man.

Which course did you pursue at Kyambogo University?

Because of continued doubt, I applied for a diploma not a Bachelor in chemistry. This was done to enable me to scoop a little financial assistance in the shortest time possible before the chance would run down with time.

Luckily enough, I passed my diploma with a first-class and decided to take a short cut to life so I applied to join the army but my application in the army was turned down. I was informed that bright first-class graduates like us have always been wiseacres.  

I decided to refocus on education and then knowing that I had a first-class diploma, I applied for a government sponsorship at Bachelor’s level at Kyambogo University which I was given. I was admitted to Bachelor of Science Technology Chemistry and completed in 2014.

All is done at that level! Did you look for a job thereafter?

After my Degree, I was given a chance by the Department of Chemistry to work in the laboratory on a part-time basis but I was also in Kitante Secondary school under a lovely and kind head teacher Madam Rose Izizinga who happens to hold the biggest tittle in my life as my grandmother.

Kiganda Ivan (Left) with Katwere Yasin during the degree graduation at Kyambogo University in 2013. File Photo

In 2015, I enrolled for my master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Nairobi under the scholarship of DAAD. During my postgraduate studies, I had the best life because everything was available, my life at the University changed a lot as I met angels like Dr. Kwetegyeka Justus, Dr. Kateshumbwa Eunice, Dr. Sarah Nanyonga, Dr. Ivan Gumula, Dr. Bachaita Grace, Dr. Kodi Philip, Dr. Sarah Kagwa, Dr. Kyarimpa Christin and Madam Ebong, Mr. Katwere Yasin and Nasali Florence.

Ivan, how did you find studies at the University of Nairobi?

While in Nairobi, God blessed me to fly in various countries like Germany and Sweden under the supervision of a Godly hearted Professor Abiy Yenesew.

Great pillars of my life at university of Nairobi like Professor Helen Njenga, Prof. Kerubo, Dr. Ndakala Albert, Dr. Solomon Derese and friends like Dr. Foiza Ali, Dr. Buyinza Daniel, Dr. Andima Moses, Dr. Richard Owori, Kwesiga George and all my Master’s colleagues.

I also had a trip to Greece which was organized by Dr. Mugampoza Eddie and Dr. Gafuma.

Ivan’s success story is amazing and it has a lot one can learn from it. Life can be quite challenging and if you don’t keep focused you can’t defeat the hard-hitting challenges.

He is a great subject and an inspiration to many struggling and suffering children out there, but only keeping focused can save and throw you into the hands of the right people.

Having completed his Master’s Degree Ivan applied for a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Nairobi which I am currently pursuing.

Ivan at Potsdam University – Germany concluding his Masters Research in 2018 . File Photo

I am a much happier man now, a true testimony of an orphanage life but I testify that God has been good to me, provided for me, brought on board those much-needed people that have walked this journey with me.

My experience cannot be left without giving back a similar spirit and giving a word of hope to children that are undergoing the same situation like mine that yes through their miseries, life can turn positive for them. It’s against this very background that I bear the vision of helping the Orphans and Vulnerable Children to build a home that shall be their voice and lift to a greater future.

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