The Baganda have a saying: “Okutambula kulaba okuda kunyumya”, loosely translated as “to travel is to see and narrate on return” without putting in action whatever they have seen/learnt from the visit.
However, Ms Margaret Kibuuka Najjemba, a former head teacher of Gayaza Junior School, put in action what she saw after travelling.
As the school prepared for its centenary celebrations in 2006, Ms Kibuuka decided to put in place what was one of the attractions of many schools while touring neighboring countries – a school museum.
“During several school trips to different countries, we noticed there were many museums, especially in Rwanda. There was a museum almost for everything. I got the idea to start one for the school as part of the centenary celebrations,” Ms Kibuuka, who retired in 2015, says.
The idea of the museum was conceived in 2005, and six years later it came to fruition, with its opening in 2011.
“As we prepared to mark 100 years of the school, we thought of how to preserve the school’s history,” the current head teacher, Ms Sarah Tebugulwa Kizito, says. Ms Kizito was a teacher at the school at the time Ms Kibuuka conceived the museum idea.
“As the oldest and first girls’ school in the country, we felt the need to preserve the history and evolution of the girl child education in the country,” she adds.
The museum is housed in a 112-year-old building sandwiched between a well-manicured lawn and modern structures. The building was opened in 1906 by Bishop Tucker. It is at this building that Daudi Chwa made his maiden speech as Buganda’s 34th king at the age of 11 years. The structure has its original ceiling of palm tree poles and woven reeds. Its more than six inch thick wall insulates it from intense heat.
The museum is divided into different sections, some of which stretch beyond the school’s history.
“Although it is a school museum, it is also a learning centre for our pupils on things beyond the school,” Ms Kizito says.
The section about the school covers its famous Gomesi uniform from which the Buganda women traditional wear is derived, to things such as the first office equipment used by the school.
On the uniform aspect, there is a whole row showing its evolution from the Suka to the Gomesi and to the current dresses.
In another section is a collection of some of the school’s first office equipment such as the typewriter, calculator, gramophone, television set, among others. Some of the classroom registers are also on display.
In what would be like the political section of the museum, much effort was put on the traditional leadership. In here, the collection of traditional leaders stretches beyond Buganda to cover other kingdoms. However, Buganda is given prominence in coverage as the section also includes the different premiers of the kingdom from colonial days to the present.
A separate room is dedicated to the Buganda homestead. In here are the different items they believe are a must have in a Muganda’s homestead.
In the same room is a replica of a Buganda king’s traditional hut, with the king’s bed on display. This is probably the only place where a semblance of a Buganda king’s bed is displayed. There are also the Buganda traditional kitchenware, beddings, brewing utensils, among others.
For educational purposes, the school administration, in its collection of artefacts, went beyond the school and Buganda culture to avail both the museum visitors a variety. In the money section, on display is the evolution of money in Uganda, from cowrie shells to the present-paper money and coins.
In the crafts and pottery sections, tradition meets modernity. Here, replicas of traditional pieces are side-by-side with pieces where modern technology played a hand in their production.
However, it is not all about artefacts and history. There are personalities in the history of the school. There are pictures of head prefects, although this does not date way back from 1906 when the school opened.
Mr Elkanah Sevume, a Social Studies (SST) teacher at the school, says the museum has helped pupils learn by seeing some of the things taught in class.
The school has its foundation roots both in the Anglican Church and the Buganda Kingdom establishment.
“The school was started by the Church Missionary Society missionaries on land donated by then Buganda Kingdom Katikirro [premier] Sir Apollo Kaggwa. The school was to cater for girls from the royal family, the nobility in Buganda and a few individuals who could afford,” Mr Kizito explains.
Getting the artefacts
Collecting artefacts that span more than 100 years old was not an easy task. When the for the museum was conceived, there was no artefact to begin with.
According to Ms Kizito, the old girls and parents of the school were very helpful in getting things started.
“Where we could not get the actual items but could get its picture, we had it made. In some cases, parents and old girls of the school helped with either locating some pieces in their custody or where certain items could be got,” she adds.
The museum has not only been educational to the school community alone, but also to outsiders.
“We have had visitors from other schools and some students from Makerere University, and parents as well,” the head teacher says.
The head teacher adds that the museum is open to the general public only on appointment.
“We are open to the public but only on appointment because we do not want to disrupt the school programme,” she says.
Ms Kizito emphasises that the museum is still a work in progress.
“We are still collecting artefacts and we are looking for better ways of protecting and preserving what we have collected the way they are preserved in modern museums,” she says.
Location. Located in Gayaza Parish, Nangabo Sub-county, Wakiso District, 14km north east of Kampala, Gayaza Junior School is the first girls-only boarding school in Uganda. The school started in 1906 to teach girls from the royal family, the nobility and a few others that could afford to send their daughter there.
Proprietor. The school was started by the Church Missionary Society missionaries on land donated by then Buganda Kingdom Katikirro [premier] Sir Apollo Kaggwa.