An alumni of Padibe Girl’s School in present day Amuru District, Gertrude Abalo, topped the entire class. Because of her good grades, she studied in the best schools in northern Uganda at the time; Sacred Heart Secondary School Gulu for O-Level and Dr Obote College in Lira for A-Level.
“I studied Chemistry, Biology and Geography and was admitted to Makerere University for a Bachelor’s in Zoology Botany in 1985. But with war and all the disruptions, I spent a year out of school and completed university in 1989,” she says.
Abalo started working in 1990 as a research assistant at the Faculty of Zoology in Makerere University and spent two years researching on general animal feeds with a focus on lake flies as a source of proteins. “After my research work, I spent two years jobless during which I decided to become a teacher. I was already married at the time, so I looked at teaching as a profession that would keep me near home with my children.
I did not want a job that would take me away and far, so in 1995, I registered at Makerere University for a Post Graduate Diploma in Education,” Abalo shares.
Interestingly, as a young girl, she had once said she would be a teacher but got caught up in other things as an adult. “It is amazing how what I prophesied when I was young came to pass,” she says.
As though by luck, while still processing her registration, she was given a job as a fisheries officer and posted to the Fisheries Training Institute in Entebbe. “As I was beginning my diploma, I also reported to work as a lecturer. I, however, requested that I should be allowed to study as I worked,” she says.
Through the ranks
After one year of lecturing, Abalo was assigned as an examinations officer in charge of examinations at the institute. “At the time, the institute did not have terminal examinations and neither did it issue transcripts. I had just joined the institute and did not know much. I knew I had a hard task ahead of me, but I gave it my best,” she recalls.
That year, Abalo instituted examinations for both terms and at the end of the year, she ensured that students did examinations meant for progression.
“If a student did not pass, they would not progress to another level. At the end, we came up with transcripts. The following year, 1996, I was appointed as academic registrar, a post I held up to 2006 when I was made the acting deputy principal. The institute’s principal unfortunately died shortly after that but it was not until 2008 that I was appointed the principal,” she shares.
Abalo also holds a Master’s degree in Zoology—Fisheries and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy all from Makerere University.
Outside the institute, she has done some work in education. She is an associate assessor for technical and vocational institutions with Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB).
“When UBTEB came on board I was assigned to be the chair of biological science committee for institutions that offer agriculture, forestry, and fisheries courses. After two years, I was made the representative of principals on the board of UBTEB, a position that has totally changed my attitude towards hands on training,”Abalo says.