By Our Reporter
St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK) Board of Governors member Charles Ocici, who also chairs Parents Teachers Association (PTA), has explained what the BoGs intends to do about grievances parents have been raising against head teacher Brother Deoditius Ariganyira. Since last month, a group of parents have been up in arms protesting the manner in which Ariganyira blocked the promotion of the 26 form 5 students to S6. Even when they attained the 12 points which is the requirement for promotion to form 6, Ariganyira blocked them saying they had committed acts of indiscipline. Parents have been bitter reporting to many offices including Education Minister Janet Museveni whom they petitioned saying Ariganyira acted arbitrarily without going through the school disciplinary committee. Besides this being an individual decision, the parents also say the constitutional right to be heard wasn’t respected as Ariganyira just made blanket statements alleging indiscipline without particularizing what wrong their children did. Since December, the parents have been seeking audience with Ariganyira to demand justice for their children only to be subjected to all manner of humiliation including being looked out of the school gate. On many earlier occasions Ariganyira moved out of office refusing to meet the same parents. Some had hoped Deputy Head teacher Simon Mpanga, a more progressive official, would help them resolve the problem but he too chickened out after reflecting on the dangers of doing something contrary to what Ariganyira had earlier decreed. While seeking remedy, parents have been reluctant to go to court fearing that would humiliate the Catholic Church (SMACK’s founding body) which is not good for the body of Christ. They have been insisting on dialogue in order to resolve the stalemate. Many of them have been communicating to Mulengera news anonymously fearing reprisals for their younger children who are still at SMACK. Last night one parent rang us fearful that, if the growing discontent at SMACK isn’t urgently diffused, the conflict between Ariganyira and some school employees could result into disasters like acts of arson similar to what another Catholic school suffered in Rakai late last year. “We don’t have any problem with our children being subjected to disciplinary proceedings but it shouldn’t be a one man’s show. There should be a committee and rules of natural justice should apply including the right to be fairly heard because the Constitution prohibits one being condemned unheard,” said the male parent who sounded very angry with Ariganyira. Another parent accused Ariganyira of using very rudimentary methods to identify the 26 students who he says shouted during preps. “He planted spies among fellow students and it’s on reports of such spies that he is basing on to judge our children guilty. How do you rule out bias? How do you unleash students to spy on each other?” the parent wondered. Another parent says it unfortunate that Ariganyira, whose team sanctioned promotion of students with low as 9 points, can rely on flimsy excuses to lock out children whose performance exceeded the original cut-off point of 12 points. “Because the points were scarce, the standard was lowered to accommodate even those with 9 points but our children got as high as 15 and 16 points where only 12 was required. Yes indiscipline isn’t good but since when did it become ground for one not to be promoted to the next class when they have the points?” Another parent ranted “our children are not angels but if you must accuse them of indiscipline, be specific so that we know what you are saying.” He added “we are partners with the school in the nurturing of our children and we expected the headmaster to be courteous to talk to us as required by corporate governance principles.” The parent added that the class teachers who deal with students more closely and know them better than the HM are equally appalled at the victimization. The parents say if Ariganyira is too busy, he should delegate his deputy Simon Sempa to attend to them rather than making them drive to Kisubi almost every day without him according them any attention. Another parent challenged GoU/MoES and the Catholic Church to employ seasoned administrators to run big name public schools “because Ariganyira has proved to be a poor administrator devoid of basic management skills.” Another parent thanked the OBs/alumni association members for firmly standing up to Ariganyira from time to time “otherwise the situation at SMACK would be much worse by now.” The same parent made reference to a 2016 incident which saw Ariganyira demolish a classroom block to build a new one whose construction standards later turned out not good and it had to be demolished yet billions of shillings had already been sunk into the structure. Ocici defended Ariganyira on this saying as a result of his efforts there is now a more spacious structure accommodating more student numbers. Another parent faulted BoGs chairman Prof Edward Kirumira for being too busy to do sufficient oversight on the way Ariganyira runs the school. “We had Katikkiro JB Walusimbi as BoG chairman and things were much better because he was available and more firm when doing his oversight work to ensure the head teacher is under the authority of the board which isn’t the case today. Ariganyira seems to be above everybody and the board doesn’t seem firm enough. That is why we want OBs like VP Edward Sekandi and his predecessor Gilbert Bukenya and others to once again become interested in their school,” said the parent who was as furious as the others we interviewed prior. “Rebecca Kadaga too can help us because she has previously been in our PTA meetings because she has been sponsoring students at SMACK and was with us when we reelected Ocici as PTA chairman.”
OCICI SPEAKS OUT
Speaking for the entire BoD on which he sits, Enterprise Uganda’s Charles Ocici said there is a lot the BoD didn’t know about the alleged HM unfairness but now that they know, they are going to act. Firstly he said SMACK is a strong school operating on very strong principles and discipline can’t be compromised in favor of academic excellence. He said whereas academic excellence is very important, it’s not sufficient to keep a child at SMACK without being well behaved and compliant to school rules and regulations. “SMACK is a brand name in Uganda and beyond and that’s what we must all jealously protect. SMACK is built on and operates on transparent principles and it’s not true that anybody can be permitted to act arbitrarily. As BoD we are going to sit and invite aggrieved parents and listen to them to amicably resolve that problem. SMACK will always get students but even when that is the case, the HM must act fairly and respect the rules of natural justice,” said Ocici renowned for his seminars on hard work and corporate governance. He denied that parents going to the Minister amounts to a vote of no confidence in the BoD. “My brother you know Uganda is a free society and you can’t gag parents. When aggrieved they can determine where to go for a solution including court. It’s their right and it has nothing to do with the competence of the BoD or lack of it.” Ocici said being a supreme organ, the BoD will have the last word on the 26 students “and even when he is the head teacher, Brother Ariganyira will have to go with what has been discussed and decided upon in the BoD.” Ocici said at their next meeting (taking place tomorrow Saturday), they will review the decision the HM had taken on the 26 students and come up with the best way forward to ensures a win-win situation for all stakeholders including the school, parents and the affected students. Many of the affected parents are hopeful the BoD will act very prudently and reverse Brother Ariganyira’s anomalous decisions. For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.