Interview with Uncle Katabazi Simon
I’m Katabazi Simon and I’m the headmaster of Essuubi Eppya Vocational Primary School here at New Hope. I’m a father to five biological children and a father to many other scores of spiritual sons and daughters. I have been at New Hope for the last 18 years and they have been the best years of my life. God has blessed me personally and in many other various ways, but the biggest blessing I have received is the blessing of fatherhood and family, because this was the biggest need that I had in my life. I thought that I came here to serve, but I have been served and ministered to more than I have been able to serve. I am so blessed.
How come fatherhood and family was your biggest need?
Having growing up with just my mother, I hadn’t received and experienced fatherhood or seen it practically working out. When I came to NHU, I was blessed as a young man to see a typical biblical family setting, as well as interacting with fathers who would speak into my life when I was struggling with many issues as a young man.
How did you become Head Master?
I started off as an assistant teacher trainee, in P2 in 1995. I trained on the job, until I qualified in 2000 as a P3 teacher and continued to do more schooling as I worked during holidays, until I obtained my second training level which put me at a level where I can head a school. I have a diploma in Primary education, so I’m a grade registered teacher, qualified and registered by the government. For the future, I’m mainly interested in teacher training and development. To do that more effectively I need to have a degree in teacher education, so I’m planning on joining Makerere University for holiday training. This will put me in a position to pass on what I have learned over the years to other teachers, not only at NHU, but to the nation. We are dreaming of setting up a Teacher Training College where we teach teachers to teach from a biblical perspective, so it’s one of my goals as I advance in my teaching to multiply myself in that way.
What are you goals as being Head Master?
Our goals at the Primary school flow from our four main ministry goals, which we have set for the next 3-5 years. The ministry goals are: having every child known, loved, and cared for; having every staff trained and equipped to serve; engaging the community to partner with them; and being good stewards of what the Lord has given us. Our school mission is to train and education the whole child. By the whole child we mean the spirit, soul, and body. We want our children to be job creators not only seekers. We want them to be productive and independent so they can not only support themselves, but also be a blessing to those around them. With that in mind, we have three main goals for us as a school. The first goal is to cultivate deep and growing vertical and horizontal relationships among the staff and the children. The second goal is that we want to achieve and sustain superior academic excellency. Our third goal is to produce well-balanced and wholly trained children with multiple skills.
We practically reach these go
als by celebrating their birthdays, reading and discussing the Bible daily, beginning each school day in prayer, having memory bible verses for each week, (ex. Psalm 1, the Apostle’s Creed, the ten commandments, and our Lord’s prayer), having active growing relationships with their mentors, encouraging our children to attend Sunday school and worship service, having each child’s home or family visited at least once a term, trying to cultivate the God-given special gifting of each child. For academic performance, it’s our desire to see at least 90% of the learners getting promoted to the next class by the end of each year and for our teachers to teach from a completely Christ-centered worldview. We have continuous assessment of each student by our teachers, not only academically, but spiritually and once per term we have teacher training along with regular evaluating and monitoring of each teacher.
Our main goal as a school is, “To bring the Fatherhood of God to the fatherless…” through Christian education. Also, to lay a solid foundation for their future learning and growth in life; this age is very foundational and they are at a level where their hearts are still soft to receive the message of the gospel, this is an opportunity we need to make good use of.
What are your challenges/needs at the primary school?
The biggest challenge that we face is the negative influence we have from the community. A majority of our children come from the community, and yet [in many ways] the community is not supportive of what we are doing. There are many discos that go on during the night and we find our children struggling in school the next day because they were either at the disco or the loud music kept them up all night. They come to school with their hearts and minds somewhere else, making it a challenge to teach the children or reach their hearts. Through this we have our children influencing each other negatively.
The third big challenge that we face is training teachers to do what they are supposed to be doing. It’s one thing to train and it’s another thing for the teachers to really receive the training and apply it to their day to day teaching. When we do our teacher training here, it’s different from what they have been taught their whole life because it’s from a completely Christ-centered perspective. After their training it’s natural for them to revert back to their old ways, and this is somehow affecting the progress of Christian education. Some teachers are still struggling to embrace the Christian philosophy, because other philosophies through their training are still coming into their minds. It’s like a war between the Truth vs. the lies and the principles of the world.
Another challenge we have is limited resources to do what we want to do. Right now, we need more textbooks; we have one book that is shared between 2-4 students. We need more textbooks and other resources that would make teaching more real and interesting. Also, our classrooms need to be renovated and it would be nice to be able to take our children out for field trips and educational tours. It would be nice to have a real office. Right now, my office is in a classroom, our dream is to have an administration block where we can have an office and a staffroom. Also, we used to be able to give each child two eggs in a week, but we can’t afford that anymore, so our children are only eating porridge with milk and posho and beans. We use a small amount of eggs, but not enough to reach the nutritional needs of our children.
How have you seen God working at the primary school?
I have seen God working here in a number of ways. One, He has really united us as a team here. We are all from different backgrounds, tribes, and languages and yet He has united us all together so we are speaking the same language. I have also seen Him work in the hearts of our children. He has taken children with pain and despair and has healed them and they are now blossoming. I have been here for the last 18 years and every day we have children walking back and forth on the busy roads around our school and none of our children have been hit while walking on that road.
At one point I received a call from an Indian in the community saying that their cow had swallowed a mango and they had to slaughter it. It was a very big cow and he donated over 100kg of meat for our children to eat free of charge. I could see God touch this Indian who was not a Christian to donate this meat, which our children enjoyed very much. God has provided in amazing ways for this school and these children.
How can people pray for you and the whole school community?
We need prayer for God’s wisdom, strength, and courage to advance His purposes. Please pray for good health, for both staff and children and for continued unity and cooperation amongst the staff and children. Also, pray for God’s divine provisions, especially the spiritual need of our children to come to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and that they would continue to grow in their relationship with Him. Please continue to pray for God’s protection for the children at home and as they walk back and forth on the busy road. I also am requesting prayer, as I’m planning on being launched out to live in the community, so I need prayers for God to use me there as a light and a father. Thank you for your support and prayers.
Interview by Devin Hiller