Two years ago I was at the helm of political reporting in my university, in fact I was a political reporter for two media outlets, I interviewed all contestants and moderated some discussions however as my interest in campus affairs slowly faded away, so was my political reporting.
However as my interest in campus affairs slowly faded away, so was my political reporting.
While watching news recently, I struggled to raise the volume of my television so I could compete with the campaign noise outside in vain. I decided to move out and watch the chanting students, while there I brought to mind the campaign trails I was a part of.
I looked at the few past guild presidents in comparison to the reigning one in terms of their achievements, regime weaknesses and strengths. There was something special about the Kato Paul government which has seen neither strikes nor big scandals.
Given the history of Makerere University, I found that ordinary, I determined to meet and talk to him about all this before his reign comes to an end which is weeks away.
On a very cold and rainy morning, I meet Kato Paul at the famous guild canteen. He walks in wearing his well fit black suit, with a white shirt and a small blue tie.
He holds his phone in one hand and the other in his pockets. It is easy for me to notice him by his height; he stands tall with a medium size and a chubby face. He joins my table with aura and calmness.
After exchanging pleasantries, he suggested that we talk from a private place however I managed to convince him that the interview would not take long. With coffee cups in our hands, phones in silence, a book and a pen, the interview starts.
A few minutes into our interview the Guild restaurant boss walks passed our table. Pleased to see Paul, she is quick to remind him to concentrate on academics so that he doesn’t not become like Byaruhanga and Bwowe, former guild presidents that failed to graduate up to date because of their involvement in the ivory tower politics.
Paul is one of the few that have had dreams of leading a top institution from as way back as high school. His journey to the guild ship started while he was in senior five at Lubiri secondary school. He quit a well paying business job and opted for a course that was not certainly his dream to be Makerere’s top leader.
Born to staunch catholic parents, Paul is the ninth of ten children. He unfortunately lost his twin, Nyangoma at a very young age. He was raised in Bunyangabo Kabarole district a place dominated by Bakiga migrants.
As a child he remembers being beaten for missing prayers and being flogged to church. He says that his growing up was not as tough because being the 9th born means that he came at a time when his older siblings could take care of the young ones.
He attended school at St. Thereza primary school Ibanda, Kamwenge primary school, St. Mary’s College Rushoroza, Fort portal secondary school and Lubiri secondary school for A-level.
Having been expelled from St. Mary’s college Rushoroza in senior three, his father declined paying his school fees again. “It took a family meeting for my father to allow paying my school fees again and even then, he took me to a poor school as a way of punishing me which contributed to my poor performance in UCE”. Paul said.
“In my A-level I joined Lubiri SS and this was the birth of my political ambitions because I got the opportunity to display my leadership skills” while he was at Lubiri Secondary School he became the head prefect , president for the debating club and the general secretary for UNSA(Uganda National Student’s association). It was also here that he became friends with Ann Adeke, a former guild president of Makerere University who inspired him into taking up her position later.
He later joined Makerere University to pursue a bachelor’s degree of arts in Education though his dream had always been to be a lawyer. “How then did you end up in education?” I asked “people referred to me as a moving lawyer, I loved debating and arguing and I knew I was destined for the career however I was disappointed that I could not get it because I scored 49% in the pre-entries and the pass mark was 50%. I could get the course in any other university but Makerere was very convenient for me since I wanted to study while working and become a guild president later on. I opted for the second option which was education”.
During his vacation he worked with his sister who is a successful business lady in down town to earn a living “I love having money in my wallet so I had to work “. He admits that working and studying was not easy for him.
While in his second year, his friend Imran Kassujja told him the basics one needs to be the guild president which included staying in a hall and being a full time student. Kato Paul realized that he had none of these basics and yet he still wanted to peruse his dream.
It is then that Kato Paul made a bold move and quit his job to be a full time student and resident of Mitchell hall. “My sister was bitter that I was making such a decision yet I was not even certain about the outcome but I was very determined and so I started making friends, spending more time at campus and joining associations”.
Kato Paul became more popular after leading a demonstrative match to parliament to urge the government to re-open the university that had been closed by the president in 2016. “I was jailed and taken to Luzira for sixteen days, but this turned to be a blessing in disguise because students got to know me and when the campaigns started immediately after the re-opening of the university, my name was still fresh in their minds”
“While my family was bitter and discouraged by my decision, there was one person who supported me fully and that is my father. “He was only scared of the magnitude that would come with his son holding such a big position”.
I learnt that his father gives him the political back ground and so he refers to him as his inspiration, “My father has been in politics all his life, he has served in the local government for forty years and even at 80years old now he is the councilor for the elderly and the chairperson of the catholic parish”
He attributes his success to him for valuing education so much and ensuring that all the 10 children get a good education despite being a mere salary earner.
Winning the race
Kato Paul was able to win because he was coming from solid institution. “It was at a time when the FDC chapter in Makerere badly wanted a guild president, Mitchell hall had taken time without sending one and the college of Education where I belong is also very solid, not forgetting the support I got from Dr. Kiiza Besigye. Everyone joined me and it was victory for us” he says cheerfully
He says that his biggest desire was to end strikes in Makerere, a thing that he has achieved so far as there has been no strike in his tenure “I wanted to see the situation in Makerere handled by making sure that students and the administration are well served through dialogues” he manned the ID and the support stuff strikes where he had to involve the ministry of Education.
Kato says that his other big achievements have been the fight for transparency in all systems in the university, corruption and the sex for marks syndrome through establishing a desk that has handled that in sighting the two lecturers that were suspended recently in connection to sex for marks.
He also said that the new vice chancellor Professor Barnabus Nawangwe is students and result oriented which has helped him to work well with the administration. “Over the time I have worked to be honest so that I can earn the trust from all stake holders”.
Kato Paul also says that this is just the beginning of a successful journey ahead and for him attaining a degree will be by hook or crook because education is his initial purpose at the university.
He likes to travel and spend quality time with friends which he has to painfully create given his schedule. He is not seeing anyone currently because he has not paid attention to dating however he notes that he is very friendly with ladies.
He calls the current political situation in the country alarming and regrettable “we do not know what tomorrow holds, our institutions are dysfunctional, and people are just surviving”
Photos; Courtesy images