The touching and heart-warming story of a remarkable young lady.
“My name is Rita Kyolaba, born in 1996 in Uganda to a migrant family. My father was a refugee from Rwanda. He escaped from the persecution of Tutsi by the then Hutu led government. He was accused wrongly of being part of the group that was fighting the government from camps in the D.R. of Congo.
He fled to Uganda in 1991 before the genocide of 1994. A family near Masaka gave him a small piece of land where he put up a temporary home. It is in this house that I was born. I started schooling in the nearby Kinyerere Church of Uganda Primary School in 2001. The school is funded by the government, so it was free.
My father died in 2005 when I was in primary five. He was earlier diagnosed with HIV/Aids. He left me, my mother and my two young brothers in a small mud house, and my mother was also sick with Aids. We took whatever causal work we could find to get food to eat, as we lacked land to grow food.
In 2007 my mother died leaving me, at the age of 10, to head my family. I had decided to drop out of school so that I could work to feed my brothers. However, my primary school headteacher offered me and my brothers free food so that I could stay in school. I was the top student in class so the headteacher felt I should not drop out of school. Luckily our home was only a few metres from the school so we could stay at school until late in the evening. I managed to complete my Primary Leaving Examinations in 2007 and passed in division 2.
The Headteacher arranged for me to transfer to Isaac Newton Humanist High School, which is only 2km from my home. I was offered a full boarding scholarship but I could not leave my brothers alone in the house, so I decided to be a day scholar. It was 2008 when I joined Senior 1 at Isaac Newton School. During my Senior 2, Mr Kisirinya, the school Director, brought Steve and Hilary Hurd to my home and I was informed that I would be given a scholarship for the rest of my schooling. I loved the school and completed my O and A-levels, passing with good grades.
After completing my schooling, I fell in love with a boda-boda (motor-bike taxi) rider, and I got pregnant. Unfortunately, my lover did not have a reliable income and was unable to look after me. We could not afford any medical care, so my first child died during birth. When the father went away I resorted to teaching in the primary school to try and save some money for further studies but, after paying for essentials, there was little left.
I then heard that there were jobs in the Middle East working as housemaids. I used my savings to buy an air ticket to Saudi Arabia. I was with a good family. My accommodation and food was provided and they gave me net monthly pay of shs 850,000 (£200); a fortune by Ugandan standards. This enabled me to send money home for the care of my brothers and at the same time to set aside some money for my ambitious scheme of going to University. After 9 years working in Saudi, I managed to save 17.8 million shillings (over £4,000).
I returned to Uganda to apply for University. When I learnt that the new Isaac Newton Humanist Primary School needed a teachers’ house, I was happy to give 6.5 million shillings (£1,500) towards it. I am now seeking admission to study for a bachelor’s degree in vocational agriculture with Education. My wish is to return to Isaac Newton School to teach Agriculture at the high school and possibly Science in the primary school.
I am so glad to be back home in Uganda. I have two children and am living as a single mother, but life is looking up. I have already managed to replace my parents original mud house with a brick one and I now see light at the end of what looked to be a totally dark tunnel.”
Postscript: Peter Kisirinya has offered Rita a post at the Isaac Newton School teaching agriculture. She will be able to study for her degree at Kyambogo University through part-time study. The school gains a locally grown teacher who is totally committed to the Humanist ethos of the school and Rita gains a regular salary and some stability in her life while she continues to care for her two children and younger siblings.