By ESTHER OLUKA (Daily Monitor)
Right at the entrance of Seroma Christian High School in Mukono District is a pin-up notice with dress code rules for visitors interested in accessing the premises. For instance, women visitors cannot enter the school when wearing skimpy and body revealing outfits. This includes tight jean trousers. On the other hand, men cannot enter with their sagging pants (balanced trousers).
Edith Nalubowa Kayanja, the head teacher, says these “dress code rules” is a way of notifying visitors about what the school stands for.
“We are trying very hard to bring up our students in a proper, upright manner, therefore, if we start allowing visitors to enter the school premises when they are dressed in any kind of attire, we shall be bending the rules and undoing the culture we are already promoting in the school,” Kayanja says.
Similarly, she says students’ personalities are also molded basing on Christian values and principles.
“We are an Anglican-Pentecostal affiliated school. We start and end the day with prayer. Also, we have other religious programmes running during the term, including bible studies, scripture union and fellowship,” she says. For emphasis, Kayanja says the school welcomes and respects students of other religions.
Kayanja’s teaching journey
The 38-year-old has been head teacher since 2016. Prior, she was deputy-in-charge-of-academics, a position she held for two years after getting appointed in 2014.
Before 2014, Kayanja had been working as a class teacher as well as teaching history and Christian Religious Education (CRE), still, at Seroma Christian High School, which she joined in 2006.
Before Seroma, she was a teacher at St. Mark’s College Namagoma, a school located along Masaka Road.
“It was at this particular school (St Mark’s College) where I started my professional teaching practice in 2003. I joined the school when it only had 16 students and two building structures. I was the first director of studies at this school,” she says.
Among her academic qualifications is a Bachelors of Arts with Education degree attained from Makerere University in 2002.
Challenges on the job
In these times, Kayanja says being a head teacher is an uphill task and the challenges are enormous.
“I am dealing with adolescents living in a dot com era. These are children who have easy access to the Internet and phones. They find information fast. Therefore, I have to always be updated in order to keep up,” she says.
Unlike in primary schools where pupils take advice of teachers as gospel truth, Kayanja says it is a different story among secondary school students, who are always questioning decisions. Then, some parents are always too busy to attend to the needs of their children, hence, leaving the training and grooming role to the already overwhelmed school staff.
Currently, the school, a mixed boarding facility, has about 2000 students.
“Part of my job jurisdiction requires that I retain the numbers while ensuring that students continue succeeding in academics. It is never an easy task,” she says.
And just like in every workplace, Kayanja says sometimes the staff do not agree to some of her policies and may criticize her work.
“Occasionally when you say things openly, some people will go into groups and talk about you and sometimes what they discuss will get back to you,” she says.
The school has a Human Resource (HR) personnel and in some situations, Kayanja says she involves them in resolving issues especially when it is concerning a staff member.
When HR is not involved, Kayanja says she tries to resolve the issues herself. “If the issue is involving a particular staff member, I call them to my office and we talk. I may use this opportunity to tell them the things I don’t like to see them doing again,” she says, adding, “Or even if I am giving them a warning letter, I will call them up and tell them why I am giving it to them.”
Being a hands on person has also helped Kayanja manage tasks.
“Sometimes when I give an assignment to a person and they do not do it, I will go ahead and fix it myself as a way of getting it out of the way,” she says. Also, Kayanja says she is always on ground checking on school activities and programmes.
“It is important that I see some of these school things myself since I am dealing with people’s children. You can easily get misguided by relying on reports or hearsay. For this reason, I always find time to go and check what’s happening whether in the kitchen or classrooms,” she says.
For emphasis, Kayanja says both her ears and eyes have to be on the ground all the time.
Kayanja is married with an eight-year-old daughter. Her husband is also a head teacher at another school.
“Imagine my kind of life! We are all busy people,” she says. Kayanja, who currently has no maid at home, says she always ensures that everything is in order before going to office in the morning. She gets up at 5am before proceeding to prepare herself and daughter. As her daughter goes to school in a shuttle, she will stay behind to tidy up the house before going to office.
“I ensure to be in office by at least 7am or earlier,” she says.
Since each day comes with its own share of challenges, Kayanja does not have a particular time she leaves office.
“I am lucky that I stay within the school premises. Sometimes, I may go home briefly for instance, to prepare supper for my family before heading back to office to complete unfinished work,” she says. Kayanja says everyday, she makes a to-do-list for the day. This, she says, has enabled her balance work and family life.
• Since I handle so many things and meet many people, I rely on prayer to guide me throughout the day.
• Keeping abreast of what the law says because the school can be dragged to court anytime.
• Not to work alone. Team work is very important. At the same time, it is important to have empathy and understand staff.
• Despite the position, I do not take myself as a semi-god or queen. I do not sit back and expect people to bow down to my feet. I am a servant. Sometimes, when I go to the kitchen and ask the cooks if it is alright for me to taste the food, they (cooks) get surprised. It’s just a way of showing them that I am like everybody else.
• I have to be exemplary at all times since everyone, including students, parents and staff members are all looking up to me. For instance, I always have to be presentable, especially in terms of dressing.
• To forgive at all times, including those who always criticize my work.
• I have also learnt not to pay attention to every barking dog (every gossip), otherwise I may fail to work. People will always grumble and talk. It is therefore important to prioritize and pay attention to only what’s important.
• It is important to have mentors to guide you on your teaching journey.