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Ntare School of Excellence: cultivating young lions of distinction

By March 15, 2024March 22nd, 2024No Comments

March 15, 2024

President Paul Kagame and Ntare School (Uganda) Headmaster Saul Rwampororo pose for a picture with current students of the school in western Uganda during a cocktail at Kigali Convention Centre on Friday, March 8. VILLAGE URUGWIRO

President Paul Kagame and Ntare School (Uganda) Headmaster Saul Rwampororo pose for a picture with current students of the school in western Uganda during a cocktail at Kigali Convention Centre on Friday, March 8. VILLAGE URUGWIRO

Last weekend (March 8 – 10), Ugandan lions hit town. And found unbridled resonance in the company of their Rwandan counterparts.

Whether their roar shook anybody beyond their circle, that’s another matter. The important thing: the two lion prides connectedly painted Kigali red.

I am not talking about wild animals, of course. I am talking about current and former students of Ntare School in Uganda.

“Ntare” as “entare” in Runyakore of Uganda and “intare” in our Kinyarwanda are the nomenclatures for “lion”.

Clearly, the two groups share many bonds, this being another of them at language level.

That more than a thousand Ugandan current and former Ntare School students came visiting and interacted socially and in multidisciplinary sports competitions with their Rwandan counterparts need not interest us. What should, is probably that they have kept their bonding network alive.

It’s no surprise, then, that a Ntare School has been established here in Rwanda which, to make a difference, has been named Ntare School of Excellence. Which “excellence” calls for bettering.

But then again, isn’t a school just a school? Whatever its naming variation, isn’t a copycat just that – a copycat?  All schools that have been attended by Rwandan children in exile, should they be replicated here? Not necessarily, but groups that feel so bent, why not?

Anyway, methinks it’s intriguing that Ntare School (Uganda) ‘raised’ two sitting presidents: President Museveni and President Kagame. And not just presidents. Two presidents who set off as young men to put their lives on the line for the sake of their peoples’ liberation from savagery.

Is that reason enough for the school, which has nothing to do with us, to consume our attention? After all, as we have heard, it was as simple a school as they come.

Yet again, maybe it was that nature of its simplicity that made it stand out as special.

Take you, one of those old boys, a simple boy in a camp of Rwandan refugees. You have been lucky to go to primary school, thanks to Rwandan young men and women with some education who volunteered to teach you. However, now you have come at the end of the tether. You are in P.7, the last class in your primary education.

You’ve been having two days off in a week to labour for food for family. This labour for food in the locals’ crop plantations, was that now going to define your fate? Your parents abhor the prospects of your fulltime labour for food but are looking forward to it, in spite of themselves. They are too old to fend for themselves and refugee-ration (posho) taps are dry.

Lucky you, however, Ntare School comes to you. You heard right: the school comes to you!

It comes to you in the form of Mr. William Crichton (RIP), British founding headmaster of the secondary school. He is scouting for talent and, kind man, gives no fig that you are not Ugandan but a Rwandan refugee.

That’s how you become a lion, leaving the labour-for-food burden to your younger siblings. With your school fees taken care of by some international organisation, only Crichton knew how!

The moment you are at ‘the hill’, you are given two khaki shorts, two white shirts for uniform, a big packet of Omo soap to wash them, four cakes of Sunlight soap to wash your body.

And the term is covered. Houses that accommodate dormitories, classrooms, library, main hall, dining hall, older students will take you round as they make personal friendships to last a lifetime. Thus, the existence today of strong Ntare School Old Boys Associations (NSOBA), Ugandan and Rwandan.

It will be after sometime that you will begin to appreciate your environment. So, no fence, eh? And after classes and games, you can walk to town as you wish, as long as you are in time for your evening preps?

And that uniform, you come to realise, serves a lot in the way of levelling everybody. If a student is rich and owns expensive clothes for time out of school, the better motivation for you to work hard and beat them academically.

Quality education is a given, after all.

Out of all this liberal approach to almost everything and students being the leaders of fellow students was distilled a culture of excelling at everything. It provided for exceptional performance. First and foremost, academically but also in sports, debates and all other school-related activities.

The solid self-control element that marked every student; the strong drive to succeed; the pride of excelling; the zeal to outperform others in all types of inter-school competitions; the camaraderie in the student community; all those skills to succeed that students were able to accumulate; absence of divisive activities (minimal, yes, which taught Rwandans that without humaneness, there is no democracy); are they Ntare values of the past that are impossible to replicate today?

Ntare School of Excellence has been set up here, in Rwanda, to answer that question.

When it has been replicated, and maybe even bettered, to cater for your brainy offspring and those of the world’s disadvantaged, who among you can say Ntare School has nothing to do with them?

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