When you meet him at his workshop, clad in a stained blue overall, busy joining carpentry products, you can hardly think that he is part of the teaching staff at Mengo Senior School, one of the prestigious schools in Kampala.
But Arthur Jjunju Kiyimba, a Wood Work and Technical Drawing teacher, proudly says practicing what he teaches is his passion.
To him, it is the only way he can exploit the fortunes of braving the thorns of stigma against vocational education which he felt from childhood to university.
“Society tried so hard to prove to me that vocational courses are meant for academic failures, including my parents who discouraged me whenever I expressed my passion for vocational work,” Jjunju shares as he takes measurements for timber.
He says he believed he had some hidden skills in him and loved wood work since childhood. He remembers engaging in making the kraal at his home. “But my parents would say I was just there to disturb them,” Jjunju recounts, adding that when he reached secondary school, students piled more stigma as these laughed at him for spending most of his leisure time in the carpentry workshop where they would have their wood work lessons.
Embarking on the journey
But he did not give up on his dream, because neither did his parents nor fellow students know the passion he had.
Born at Kyango, Kalisizo, then Rakai District on July 17, 1981, to Saphan Kiyimba and Edith Kiyimba, Jjunju started school at Kabuwoko Primary School but later joined Bwala Boarding Primary where he completed his primary level.
He later joined Kabuwoko Secondary School for Senior One, before joining Kako Senior Secondary School where he sat his O and A-Level respectively.
While at Kako, he says his dream took shape after he met Musa Mukwaya, a wood work teacher who made furniture for the school and the community. “Because of him, I fell in love with his subject. I admired his furniture and pledged to myself to make such pieces,” the father of four shares.
He could spend most of his leisure time at the workshop, trying to master the art of carpentry. But he still recalls how the attitude his friends had towards his choice. “I simply turned a deaf ear because I knew what I wanted right from childhood.”
After O-Level, he followed his heart and took on Woodwork at A-Level. He recalls that the class had only two students, but this did not cause him to drop the subject in favour of those which had many students, something which he says was common among students.
“That is how determined I was because most students chose subjects following a bandwagon,” Jjunju says.
Initially, he had been admitted to Kyambogo University for a Bachelors of Education with Mathematics and Physics as his teaching subjects but because of his love for vocational subjects, he switched to Technological studies, majoring in Woodwork and Technical Drawing.
After graduation, his former teacher wanted him to return to his home district and engage in his workshop as opposed to teaching. “But he also wanted me to replace him at Kako Secondary School,” he recounts. “I taught at Kako for three years from where I joined Mengo Senior School where I teach to-date.”
Subsiding his income
To practice what he teaches, Jjunju started a carpentry workshop but to also earn extra income while enjoying his passion. He makes furniture ranging from sofa sets to dining tables and wardrobes.
Asked how he juggles carpentry and teaching, he says, his secret is planning. He says, he has class time and workshop and hardly, does any of the two conflict with the other.
“When I am not in class, I am busy at my workshop making ends meet,” he says. His furniture is mostly bought by fellow teachers.