LIKE most of you, whenever I think about the KCCA Facility in Nakasero opposite the Kampala Club I recall the fracas created during the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) eviction of former Mayor, Al-Hajji Nasser Ntege Sebaggala.
Back then it was the official residence of the Town Clerk, and Sebaggala had taken it over as Lord Mayor and then claimed the City Council had resolved to give it to him personally for some reason.
I sometimes confuse it with the one KCCA evicted Tinyefuza from in 2011, in Kololo (and checking up on that story I found he had previously been evicted from another house in 2002!)
So, walking into the Nakasero building last Friday I was pleased it was open for public use as the Employment Services Bureau of the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). On the notice board were job adverts for members of the public to access – including one from Airtel.
I was there to attend a graduation ceremony for young students in their senior six vacation who had undergone a nine-week training and mentorship programme designed to make them volunteer to serve others and develop skills.
The skills they were made to develop included those they already had and some they would discover within themselves in the process.
While it was uplifting to spend time with the youth there it was also saddening to think of how many years we lost, as a nation, NOT putting this facility to its proper use.
If in my time as a child I had been given this mentorship and direction from others besides my own family, how far would I have come by now and by extension, how far would this country be?
We may hope that the selfishness of the people who denied us these opportunities will be punished one day somehow, but that’s a waste of energy.
Instead, I was propelled by the energy of the young people there and grew my own aspirations about the potential we have to make a brighter future in Uganda.
The founder, Benjamin ‘Benjy’ Rukwengye, is a relative youngster himself and has already achieved a lot of positive impact through an organisation I have talked about often before – the ’40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation’ where I first met him.
He has taken part in a number of mentorship initiatives as a recipient and found the impact so great that he has dedicated himself to giving back in this way – hence the organisation ‘Boundless Minds’.
From what I’ve noticed, it’s difficult for traditional educationists to comprehend at first but when they meet the children who participate in programmes of this nature they will be better convinced.
That’s not to say that traditional education isn’t useful – it certainly is, especially if it is delivered correctly and complemented by a certain method of upbringing.
The cohort I met that day – all of them under twenty (20) years of age – made this obvious in their presence and presentations that day, and I proved it by reading their application forms.
One of them, Immy, designed and made the t-shirts and photo collage backdrop in the marque; another, Pearl, baked some beautiful cakes for the reception; Laban, from a previous cohort, was the event caterer; and Patricia had done the email communication leading up to the event in an impeccable fashion that made me think Benjy had hired a high-level Assistant for his office!
All of them, in their senior six vacation, had become entrepreneurs and were already suppliers of a registered company paying for professional services.
They didn’t necessarily learn how to design stuff, bake, write and cook while on the mentorship programme – they were given experiences that built their confidence to do things they already had an interest in and a passion for.
After the event I read their application forms for the programme – NOT application letters like job applicants have been made to write for decades – and was impressed by their clarity of purpose.
The forms were designed to elicit their passions, interests and latent skills, so that the programme could build on those.
Again, if all our twenty-year-olds went through this experience early on in life, imagine what they would be like at age thirty (30)?
An emotional Benjy told us, on the day that when young people are given a chance to prove themselves it gives them confidence to do what they believe they can and creates the opportunity for them to try harder to initiate more.
He revealed that these children, in their WhatsApp group, tended to hold unguided discussions about news items in a manner that not many adults
do – and don’t challenge this lest you are found guilty.
During the reception I spoke to a few of them and was blown away even more. One soft-spoken young lady told me how she makes sandals so she can earn money to support her forthcoming university tuition, while another earnestly held me in a conversation about digital media and robotics even though his next step is a complicated science degree he can’t find in Uganda.
What was I doing at nineteen years of age? A very different type of hustle. A hustle I won’t complain about now.
Still, I imagine how that hustle could have been further complemented by someone like Benjy opening my mental boundaries with the deliberate support of authorities thinking about my positive role in making the future of Uganda brighter.