Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A History of St Mary's College Kisubi - Summary ( 1906 - 2006)

St. Mary’s School was founded by Reverend Father Raux Modeste of the White Fathers Congregation in 1906, and was named after its Patroness “Saint Mary”. Today, the Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala owns St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK).
In looking through the annals of St. Mary’s College, to quote Brother Maurice Lambert a former Headmaster of SMACK, in his article in the Uganda Teachers Journal Vol. 1 1939, “1899 seems to be the year from which to start its history.

Brother Maurice Lambert
It is fitting to mention, from the very outset, the name of Stanislaus Mugwanya (a Buganda Regent) of pious memory who did much for the foundation of the College. This grand patriot, when addressing a meeting of the Catholic Chiefs, held at the beginning of 1899, put this question quite bluntly before them: “Don’t you think the time has come for us to provide our young Catholics with better schooling than that which they have so far received?”

Stanislaus Mugwanya
In 1906, the Council of the White Fathers’ Congregation officially decided upon setting up a Regular English School and financial support was given to start it in the capital town of Uganda at (Rubaga) where young men from Catholics families would be given sufficient education to enable them compete fairly well for important appointments of responsibility introduced by the Protectorate Government.

The 1st Headmaster of St. Mary's School Father Modeste
On June 29, 1906 Father Raux Modeste was appointed Headmaster of St. Mary’s School, hence becoming its Founder. He began by concentrating his activities on the work of the School and to learn Luganda. As part of his preparation, Fr. Raux took time off to study the Crucial Question concerning schools in their relationship to public life in a Protestant environment.

His Lordship, Bishop Streicher (W.F)
His Lordship, Bishop Streicher (W.F) granted a plot of land for the school. The building, which houses the Office of the Cardinal and the Chancery Building (though much renovated), are the living evidence of the original St. Mary’s School Rubaga Campus. Where the Cardinal’s Residence is located used to be the parade ground for the school.

Class Block at Lubaga campus

The modified Class building above which houses the Chancery at Lubaga
In 1912, the pioneer finalists of the then Rubaga based St. Mary’s School completed their courses in English, History, Arithmetic and Luganda Grammer leading to an Award of certificates by the Colonial Government. The school at this time was one of the happiest places in the world. The school evolved from the equivalent of a Lower Primary section, to a College status where teaching of Commercial subjects (1922) was incorporated and eventually to a Higher School status after 1956.

Children on Parade at Lubaga Campus
St. Mary’s School supplied many boys during the war as soldiers, interpreters, and stretcher-bearers while others worked in the supply, transport and telegraph services. 105 students of St. Mary’s School served in the 1914-1918 war. 5 were killed while 66 served as African Native Medical Corps. Among these were; 4 Sergeants Majors, 8 Sergeants, 10 Corporals, 2 were decorated and 4 were mentioned in the Dispatch. St. Mary’s School provided as many as 59 interpreters to the Military Staff at Bombo.
To cope with the ever-increasing number of students, the White Fathers decided to open feeder schools so that St. Mary’s would specialize in giving higher studies. During this time, 4 schools were founded to feed St. Mary’s School. They are:
i. St. Henry’s High School – Kitovu.
ii. St. John’s High School – Nandere.
iii. St. Leo’s High School – Virika.
iv. St. Joseph’s High School – Nyamitanga.
In 1922, the parent school, St. Mary’s School was then named St. Mary’s College; this was as a result of the school offering training in commercial aspects which development was geared to employment.
The Rubaga school site was handicapped in two ways; there was no adequate room for the expansion of the school, and the place was found to be infertile. On two occasions there was famine around Kampala and Uganda as a whole, that is, in 1914 and 1918 forcing the Superiors of St. Mary’s to carry out a survey around Nkumba (Entebbe Highway), hoping that it was fertile. In 1922 Brother Martin of the White Fathers Congregation was instructed to start work at Kisubi, where Kabaka Mutesa I of Buganda had given the White Fathers, 41/2 square miles of land in 1884.
In 1923, St. Mary’s presented 5 candidates to Makerere College top section that is Medical. All 5 succeeded, they got the first 5 places. Only 5 scholarships available: all 5 went to St. Mary’s boys.
By 1922, the White Fathers were in short supply for the vast missionary field in Uganda. Bishops Streicher and J. Forbes realizing the problems brought about by the rapid development of St. Mary’s College asked Rome to find a Teaching Society with trained and certified teachers to take over St. Mary’s and hence free the White Fathers for Pastoral Work.

The view of St. Mary's College by 1924
On 12th May 1924, St. Mary’s College was transferred to Kisubi, after Bishop Forbes commissioned the new College buildings.
After the transfer of St. Mary’s from Rubaga, the College was attracting most of the attention because it was forming the elite of the nation and Kisubi usually meant St. Mary’s.

Bishop Michaud

Brother Charles Jules Headmaster

The Brothers who took over from the Fathers
“On the 4th of August 1926, Fathers Michaud and Nadon handed over St. Mary’s College Kisubi to Brothers Charles Jules; Joachim-Leon; Eugene-Paquette and Stanislaus Taillefer of the Brothers of Christian Instruction who were from Canada. This ended the 20 years administration by the White Fathers.

In 1936, SMACK registered the first class of Cambridge School Certificate (C.S.C) initially covering 3 years, and later extended to a period of 4 years.

Mr. J. C. Kiwanuka
Mr J. C. Kiwanuka (J. C) the first lay teacher on the staff of St. Mary’s College Kisubi, started teaching at St. Mary’s in September of 1951 and he is the first graduate teacher in Uganda. He disproved a non-principled old colonial idea that there was hardly anybody in Uganda that was capable of reading successfully for a degree. He has had 50 years’ teaching service to SMACK and is now retired.

Mr. J. C. Kiwanuka while Chairman and his Executive of St. Mary’s Old Boys Association (SMOBA) made an appointment with Governor Cohen to discuss the matter of the Higher School Certificate (HSC) at SMACK. The Governor accepted to meet them. August 19, 1956 saw the Celebration of St. Mary’s College Golden Jubilee (50 years). On the occasion of the celebrations, Governor Cohen broke the news that he had allowed St. Mary’s to start Higher School Certificate (HSC).

In 1964, St. Mary’s College Kisubi became a Sports power. It was most unfortunate that victory brought tears to the school community 42 years ago, when on November 14, 1964, as students were returning from one of those victory matches, which were part and parcel of SMACK culture, a Buganda Senior Cup were mistaken for Political Agitators, hence came face to face with untimely death in a tragic accident, which claimed 12 of them, 12 miles on Entebbe Highway, where Kisubi High School is located. John Baptist Semanobe, and H. E Tomusange (an Ambassador) had scored the two goals against St. Henry’s College Kitovu’s one goal at Wankulukuku Stadium that precipitated into the short-lived jubilation.

The names of the students who died are: Owot Micheal (S4), Bbosa Francis; Obella Egidio; Kirumira Philip all of (S3), Kitimbo Maurice; Nsobya Roman; Yawe Joseph all of (S2), Semakula Remigius; Oryem S. Vincent; Kamya Ladislaus; Kagaba Victor and Kayiira John all of (S1).

Engineer J. B. Walusimbi, Chairman St. Mary’s College Board of Governors is one of the victims of the accident who is alive to tell the story.

Reverand Brother Paul Bourget was the Headmaster when the accident happened. “Thy will be done,” was the sigh Rev. Brother Paul, the Headmaster heaved at 7.30 pm of the fateful night of November 14 1964, when he received the sad and sudden news of a disaster 12 miles Entebbe Highway. And, with a sorrowful heart, set about his arduous duties under the most trying circumstances. He had to create order and calmness from utter chaos and confusion that followed the accident. The will of the Lord was done.”

The 43 years administration of the White Brothers of Christian Instruction saw St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK) grow from strength to strength. It exhibited academic prowess and used to have a Lion’s share of the Scholarships Awarded by the Colonial Government. Speech Days were regular phenomena and during then, there would be celebration of the College’s achievements. The White Brothers did not only concentrate on academics, they ventured into construction work, and the architectural wonders at the College are their brainchild. They spearheaded innovations, which saw the College emerge a Sports Power House. Students were trained in various skills, which among others included Cadet-ship, Boxing, Scouting, Swimming to mention but a few.

Brother Anthony Joseph Kyemwa was first African Headmaster of St. Mary’s College, ending the 43-year era of the White Brothers. Bro. Kyemwa was successor to Brother David Denicourt. He took office heading 90% expatriate staff with a challenge to uphold the school standards and also improve on it. By the time he left office, the staff was 99% indigenous. He was Headmaster for 11 years he officially handed over office to Brother (Dr) Kafeero in 1982 after a three years’ leave abroad.
Late President Milton Obote visited the school on March 15, 1969. The Current Affairs Club of the school had invited him. He delivered a very animating speech to the school community in the Assembly Hall on “The current political trend in Uganda”.

Late Idi Amin as Commander and Chief of Defence Staff (Uganda Armed Forces) visited the school. He came with his officers for two reasons:
i. To offer condolences for the 12 boys who had lost their lives in a road accident involving an army lorry and the school truck.
ii. To interest the students to join the National Army as Officer Cadets.
When Idi Amin was taken around, he saw mounted skeletons in the Biology Laboratory. He made an offer of bones of a Tiger for mounting. It is said that the Tiger killed a warden by the name of Matovu at Entebbe Zoo (Uganda Wildlife Education Centre) as he gave it food. It is then that the animal was shot, and eventually the bones donated by Idi Amin to SMACK.

The Late Vice – President of Uganda, Hon. John Babiha, also an Old Boy of SMACK visited the school in 1970. He was offering the school animals so as to get started on Agriculture, but the school declined the offer, as it was not ready.
Brother Cosmas Kafeero was the second black Headmaster at St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK). He decentralized power. He seized on the new chapter of the political scene after the removal of Idi Amin from Presidency to establish a democratic administration at SMACK. This was against the background that he had been at St. Mary’s since 1960 and was quite acquainted with the strength and weaknesses of the school. He borrowed a leaf from the USA High School Administration and from sister schools here in Uganda, that is Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga, Gayaza High School to mention a few. A Constitution was drafted to involve all students and teachers in the management of the school.

As SMACK 75 Celebrations approached in June 1983, the threats to the school, which had been the order of the day, continued. A day before the 75th Anniversary for SMACK, the Headmaster Brother Cosmas Kafeero and the Deputy Headmaster Mr. J. C. Kiwanuka received letters instructing them to leave in the interest of National Security! The evening of that day, armed men heavily guarded the school premises. Brother Kafeero had to leave Uganda for Nairobi, Kenya.

“It so happened that I had come to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of St. Mary’s College Kisubi, and on June 9 1983; the eve of the Celebrations, I was appointed Headmaster. My immediate duty was to mobilize teachers, Old Boys and students for the immediate preparations for the 75th Anniversary,” says Brother Kazekulya.

Brother Kazekulya says, “the country as a whole was experiencing the effects of political instability and civil war. The College had its share of these, and the climax was the Liberation war of January 1986, when the College became a battlefield, which obliged me together with over 600 students to flee the school for three days inclusive of nights. The effects of that war are the death of one student and the destruction of one dormitory,” says Brother Kazekulya. The Brother further says, “I remember, those years were indeed very difficult and I can say that, ‘the hand of God was there to sustain the entire College community.” During his administration, the Parents’ Teachers’ Association (PTA) was born as a cushion to the College’s financial problems.

In January 1987, Brother Tinkasimire was appointed Headmaster of St. Mary’s College Kisubi, a prominent undertaking of the Brothers of Christian Instruction. This to him was a challenge to be taken with determination and great hope; to put a mark on the great school that bred him. In his speeches, the Brother has always advocated for perfect gentlemen out of SMACK students. His advice to young people is always to have a goal in life and work steadily towards its realization. Brother ‘Tinka’ thinks that it is important for young people to be positively critical, have ambitions and nurse dreams, be responsible and friendly to fellow human beings and nature in general. He undertook fundraising functions to help bridge the financial gaps in the College funding. The parents at the time bought a 125 kVA Generator to counter power load shedding

President Yoweri Museveni visited SMACK on the College’s Open Day in 1994.

Mr. John Agaba was Head teacher (1996-1998). It was during his time that Hon. Kintu Musoke, the then Prime Minister of Uganda stood in for His Excellence the President and launched the SMACK – Decade of Development (1997-2006).

On October 5, 1997 the then Prime Minister of Uganda, Hon. Kintu Musoke stood in for the President of Uganda to Launch the SMACK Decade of Development (1997-2006). The same day, the school celebrated 90 years of existence. Hon. Kintu laid the Foundation Stone for the Higher School Reading Block Extension.

Brother Edward Bukenya’s Administration has almost coincided with the Decade of Development at St. Mary’s College Kisubi. Projects, which were pronounced in October 1997 when the Decade to the Centenary Celebrations was launched, have mostly been implemented during his time of office.

Hon. Geldine Namirembe Bitamazire officially opened the HSc Reading Block and Junior Library on May 29, 2001, when she was Minister of State in charge of Primary Education.

April 7, 2002 was a Re-Union Day of the Old Boys of St. Mary’s College saw the Speaker of Parliament Hon. Edward Ssekandi and an Old Boy of the school lay the Foundation Stone for the Higher School Dormitory (The Centennial Monument) the biggest project at SMACK so far.

On June 27 2004, there was the Launch of the Preparations of SMACK 100 years’ Celebrations by H.E the Vice President of Uganda, Prof. Gilbert B. Bukenya an Old Boy of SMACK at Nabinonya Beach.

On August 13 2005 there was SMACK 100 Charity Walk in Kampala with Hon. Edward Sekandi as Chief Walker.

August 14 2005 saw the Launch of SMACK Celebrations at the school campus by Bishop Robert Gay (W.F) who was the Main Celebrant and Guest of Honour.


  1. Is there an official website for " SMACK" I am looking for more information about this secondary school. please help!

  2. You can access the History of St. Mary's College Kisubi from the link below:
    Hope you will find the content useful as it covers 1906 to 2006

  3. Thank you Mr kituuka for for keeping the flame burning long live our great school