Former owner of Kampala Parents School, Kasole Bwerere has spoken out on how the school ended up in Sudhir Ruparelia’s hands.
Edward Bwerere Kasole Lwanga is the man best known for venturing into private, day school education at a time when government-aided primary schools such as Buganda Road, Kitante and Nakasero produced most of Kampala’s crème-de-la-crème in education.
But beyond those renowned academic giants was Kampala Parents School with its pink dresses for girls and khaki shorts for boys, holding its own in academic standard, clout and prestige.
How KPS started
Born on April 14, 1935 to Yozef Bwerere and Maria Nammiiro at Kibalinga about 10 miles from Mubende town, Kasole went to Kikoma primary school in Mubende district where he was from P5 up to Junior Secondary Three. After completing his JS3, he was enrolled at Namutamba Primary Teachers’ College where he qualified as a Grade II teacher.
“When I finished Junior Secondary School, I couldn’t go anywhere. The nearest higher education institution was King’s College Budo, but that was over 100 miles away. On the western side, it was Nyakasura School, also over 100 miles away and my father had not even been to Mityana which is 50 miles away. How could he allow me to move all that distance?” Kasole said in an interview with The Observer.
In 1958, he enrolled at Namutamba Demonstration, a school near the college where student teachers went to practice teaching. He stayed at this school until 1964, then got admitted at Ggaba Teachers College where he stayed until 1966, qualifying as a grade III teacher. At completion, he joined Mengo Girls School as the deputy head teacher with the late Gladys Wambuzi as headmistress.
He taught at Mengo until 1970 when he did an interview for a Commonwealth scholarship in School Administration in London. However, that same year he had applied for a post at Makerere University for Deputy Office Superintendent.
“I was admitted to go to London and the government gave me the passport but two weeks before I could fly, Makerere invited me for an interview which I went and did. I was told I had been given the job. Now I was puzzled; should I take the golden chance to go to London or take the job at Makerere? In the end, I decided to take the job,” Kasole remembers.
He worked there for one year and then he was appointed as the administrative secretary of Northcorte Hall, now Nsibirwa. It was here that he met lawyer Elly Karuhanga, former MP Jack Sabiiti, and former prime minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, among others, who were students staying in Northcorte.
In 1973, he quit to return to teaching because President Idi Amin Dada had expelled Indians and was now appropriating their properties; “Many teachers had abandoned the classroom to try out business”.
“By then, my children were in P1, and who was going to teach my own children? I thought about going back to the teaching profession, this time to start a school because government couldn’t accept some of my ideas like giving children proper meals like milk and eggs,” Kasole said.
That was the beginning of Kampala Parents School. He found buildings that had been abandoned at Nakasero, looked for their new owners, paid rent, rehabilitated them, recruited eight teachers and hit the road running.
In one month, he had more than 400 pupils and all looked promising until some powerful people in the Amin government admired the new look of the building. With support from then minister of Local Government, Moses Ali, Kasole was arrested and detained for two weeks. By the time of his release, the buildings had been taken over and the school effectively closed.
With that, he went on the hunt again, which landed him at Old Kampala near the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, where an Indian secondary school premise now stood empty.
He moved Kampala Parents School to Old Kampala and his 400 displaced pupils followed him there. Still, he wanted a permanent site for the school.
“Government had allocated areas where schools could be built near highly populated areas. So, I chose Naguru, where 12 acres had been gazetted for a school. They gave me a lease for 49 years in 1975 at Shs 185,000. I made it a school garden and once a week I would put children in the bus to go and play but the main purpose was to keep the land,” Kasole said.
After the 1979 war that ended the Amin regime, Kasole, who had fled his Old Kampala-based school, returned to a damaged infrastructure. He needed to relocate.
Reverend Kefa Ssempangi had by then taken over the building housing former Pride theatre which, like others, had been occupied by the military. Kasole moved to the buildings near Pride theatre, present-day Lohana Academy-Namirembe Road.
“I hired Tanzanian soldiers from Lubiri to clear the bombs, then around 1981, I transferred the school from Old Kampala to Namirembe road.”
Because of his disciplinarian nature and the good education he was offering, Kampala Parents became one of the best schools in Kampala to the extent that even then President Apollo Milton Obote educated one of his children there.
Kasole remembers how in 1983 then first lady Miria Kalule Obote, invited him to Nakasero State Lodge to discuss how he could help her youngest son, Ben Opeto, who was not doing well at Kitante Primary School.
“He was brought to my school and I gave directives that he shouldn’t stay at State House except at the weekend. He started staying with a family at Acacia avenue. The boy became wonderful that when I sent his books to the family I was invited at State House because President Obote couldn’t believe that he had tremendously improved,” Kasole said.
Because of his association with the Obotes, Kasole was surprised to receive copy of a letter written to the Custodian Board, saying he should not pay rent in the Namirembe road buildings and should these properties be sold, Kasole be given the first opportunity to buy.
With that push, Kasole used the savings to put up two storied buildings at the school, since the school population was now more than 1,500. Even when President Yoweri Museveni took over in 1986, his children Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Patience Rwabogo, Natasha Karugire and Diana Kamuntu all went to Kampala Parents School.
Selling his dream
With the NRM government in charge, it was agreed that all properties belonging to departed Asians should be returned to them. That was catastrophic for Kasole. Previous owners of the Namirembe road premises showed up and gave him one year to vacate.
What Kasole did not know was that some of his teachers, in cahoots with some parents, had identified the landlord and promised to pay rent over and above what Kasole was willing to pay.
So, he scrambled to develop his land at Naguru within a year so he could shift the school. His friend Andrew Kasagga (RIP) of Zzimwe Construction Company loaned him Shs 600m, interest-free. All he asked in return was that his seven children at KPS be exempted from school fees.
Kasole also secured loans from Uganda Development Bank, and in less than a year, he had set up a three-storied building where present-day Kampala Parents School stands. His calculation was he would get at least 1,200 pupils.
“Unfortunately, I only got 400 pupils; one of the teachers I had trained, Fred Kiggundu, was joined by 12 other teachers and they [convinced] many of the pupils [to stay at the new school in the Namirembe road premises]. They didn’t even change the uniform. Even the name remained more or less the same, from Kampala Parents to City Parents. It was devastating!” Kasole, now 86 and living in Mubende, said.
Without enough pupils, he could not afford to service the loans. By the time Kasole decided to sell the school in 2004, he had borrowed from anybody willing to lend to him.
“I always say that of all people in Uganda, God loves Kasole; at 3am I got a dream and woke up my wife and we knelt down and prayed. After, I told her, ‘Maama, I’ve given you one week to decide whether we keep this school or we sell it’. After three days, she said, ‘Taata, we better sell’, and that’s when I looked for buyers,” Kasole said.
I ‘ate’ just Shs 1.5m from KPS
He approached Kasagga and asked him to get him a buyer for the school. It was Kasagga who connected Kasole to Sudhir Ruparelia, the current owner of Kampala Parents School. Contrary to public speculation, Kasole says Sudhir never stole his school.
“I have tried to explain this; I have written articles in the newspapers but people don’t believe. Maybe because they loved the school very much. There were other people interested but they were not paying cash, yet that’s what I wanted to clear the people I owed. Sudhir gave me Shs 5 billion, and I’m proud I’m one of the very few Ugandans who have had billions,” Kasole said.
He recalls that when he got the money, God told him not to touch it until every creditor was paid.
“I used to send people to Sudhir and he would clear them until nobody was demanding me even a shilling. Then I went to Sudhir with my accountant and we met with his accountants to calculate how much he had paid and what was the balance. Out of the Shs 5 billion, the balance I was paid was Shs 1.5m. We shook hands and I went out of his office. I was very happy. I went home and handed the land title of our home to my wife and she was also happy. Then we went to Mubende and started another school, Kasole Mubende Parents School,” Kasole said.
When Kampala Parents School stabilized, Kasole decided to look for a headteacher so that he could pursue his other dream of becoming a politician.
His search brought Lawrence Mukiibi, who was then a headmaster at a school in Nairobi, Kenya. Mukiibi, who later started his own St Lawrence schools, took over administration of the school before it left Namirembe road, which allowed Kasole to contest as a member of the Constituent Assembly that debated and passed the 1995 Constitution. He was subsequently elected member of the sixth, seventh and eighth Parliament. He quit politics in 2011.
After leaving parliament, Kasole sold his Mengo home and relocated to Buloba on Mityana road, where he built a palatial home in which he stays for just a week every month that he travels to Kampala for treatment.
“I can’t spend my old age in Kampala as if I don’t have land in the village. How can I buy eggs, banana leaves, charcoal or simple fruits that I can grow for myself?” Kasole wondered.
Kasole married his first wife, Gertrude Kutuusa Kasole, in 1959 and they have four children. Because both of them were sickle cell carriers, two of the children passed away and they were left with two boys, Eria Kaziro Kasole, who has lived in Sweden for over 30 years, and Daudi Lwanga Kasole, who has also lived in Sweden for 27 years.
When Gertrude died suddenly of hypertension, Kasole married Miriam Nakibirige Kasole, with whom they have three children. Edmund Tebajjanga Kasole, who lives in the USA, Eseza Kasole, who is married in London and the last born Emmanuel Lubega Kasole, who is in charge of the family businesses in Uganda.
Sadly, Miriam also passed away in December 2019 due to cancer of the ovary. Kasole now lives a quiet life in Mubende where his day starts with reading the day’s newspapers before 10 am. He is currently on treatment for prostate cancer, with a really good prognosis.
This article first appeared on Observer.ug, written by Muhammad Kakembo