In Part XIX of Project Success, we track down Dr Samuel Sejjaaka Kisakye, Uganda’s second best UACE Arts student in1983. He told his story to Christine Katende.
It was his not-so-good performance at O’ level that finally woke Dr Samuel Ssejjaaka Kisakye to the need to take his education seriously. He had done very well in his Primary Leaving Examinations. But when he scored 18 aggregates in the best six subjects in his Uganda Certificate of Education exams, Dr Ssejjaaka says he felt it was equivalent to failing.
“The performance shocked me. I had to concentrate on books for better marks in A’ Level because my best teachers, Reverand Bombo and Mr John Mpagi, the deputy headmaster by then, had been disappointed with the performance. So I had to change the bad impression they had about me,” explained Dr Ssejjaaka, who says the poor performance was down to a stubborn spell in his O’ level.
“I started reading hard; attended all classes. I never strayed out of the school laws. Surely I didn’t cheat myself again,” the academic says of his time at King’s College Budo.
The transformation was impressive. By the time he completed his Senior Six in 1983, Dr Ssejjaaka had emerged the second best arts student in Uganda, scoring 3AAB in Literature, Economics and Geography.
At Makerere University, Dr Ssejjaaka enrolled for a Bachelor of Commerce degree and majored in accounting. He passed with a second class lower degree. Because of that lukewarm performance, he decided to pursue further education.
Dr Ssejjaaka has since pursued a diploma in Computer Science from Makerere University, a Masters in Science, Finance and Accounting, as well as a certified accounting course (ACCA). He topped it all with a PhD that he completed at Makerere University in 2005.
“I never stopped at the first degree,” he said. “I had to continue with my studies so that I could get exactly what I wanted since the shock of the bad performance had failed to go away from my head. So I had to do all it takes to see that I change it.”
The Mubs academic says the current crop of students pass highly but often fail to relate to the needs of their surroundings because they are not given chance to explore on their own. “Teachers left us to explore and learn on our own, which is not the case today,” he said. “Much more emphasis was put on learning than passing. We had to pass our exams but the results reflected more than what we had learnt.”
Dr Ssejjaaka attributes the problem to the big number of students that universities accommodate. This, he says, cannot allow all students ample time to utilise the available resources sufficiently, compared to his days when they were only 60 students in the class.
“We enjoyed during our days. The library was filled with all kinds of books. As for the study trips, our lecturers could organise them for us,” he said. “We generally had good time at the university.”
Studying in the university at a time when the government changed hands twice through military conquests had its fair share of distractions. Ssejjaaka says he almost joined the National Resistance Army bush war. He intimates that he only failed to join because his uncle who had promised to pick him, never turned up. “I think it was just excitement at that age because I never had a positive political perspective,” he says.
When he completed his education, Dr Sejjaaka started out as an accountant at Sapoba Bookshop. He then joined the Ministry of Finance as an accounts officer in the economic analysis office. When he completed his tenure in the ministry, he joined Mubs and has since risen through the ranks to the position of deputy principal. He is also a partner at Ssejjaaka, Kawaase & Company.
Dr Ssejjaaka, 46, is married to a Tanzanian. “It was very simple for me because my parents didn’t harden on me when I took my beautiful Tanzanian wife to them. We legally got married while studying. We are now living happily with our children,” he said. However, he got his first born while still in his first year at university but that did not stop him from pursuing his academic goals.