The athlete who has a heart for teaching

By George Katongole

When I was young and living in Apilac village, Amuria District, I used to walk 12kms to school. I used to leave while it was still dark yet we would sometimes be punished for reaching school late. This is why I started running to reach school in time,” Dominic Otucet reflects on his unpleasant childhood that saw him look at education as a way of life.

While growing up, most of his peers were always troubled with school fees but luckily for Otucet, his father, a livestock trader, could afford to pay for his education. He was also passionate and later became the first person in his family to graduate from university. His sister dropped out in primary school.

He thought his passion was in sport and while at Bukedi College Kachonga, Otucet specialised in running 400 metres. When he moved to Makerere College School, the then athletics coach Chris Mugisha rated him so highly that he prepared him to compete at the highest stage. But while in Senior Five, he got a heart problem which ended his running career prematurely. It also robbed him of his preferred PCM (Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics) combination, settling for MEG (Maths, Economics and Geography).

“I Loved Mathematics so much but because I lost time during treatment, I was forced to drop Physics and Chemistry,” he said. He ended up offering a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics and Economics at Makerere University.

Trying out
With a lot of free time on his hands, friends told Otucet of an opportunity at Bombo SS while in his second year. “I was looking for a job at the time. But when friends encouraged me to join them at Bombo, I did not hesitate. I had a load of 36 lessons every week as an unlicensed teacher under Hajj Abib Sulaiman, the head teacher. But I started enjoying and since then, I have never thought of a better profession than teaching,” Otucet says.

Otucet did not go to his home for holiday breaks following the outbreak of an insurgency in Teso sub-region at the time. His parents were confined in a camp.

After graduating in 1998, he returned to Makerere for a post-graduate diploma in teaching which was to cement his relationship with teaching. And so in 2002, he graduated with Masters of Arts in Education Management at Kyambogo University. This marked the beginning of rising in his career. In 1991, he was acting as the deputy in addition to being a careers teacher.

When he applied to the Education Service Commission for a head teacher’s job in 2002, he was posted to Kamwenge District but turned down the appointment and was later posted Bombo SS. He started by bringing the best young athletes from Mbale, Tororo and Kapchorwa and offered bursaries for up to 74 of them.

“I was looking for means of raising the status of the school and sports was one of them,” he says. Such prominent names such as Ben Chesang, Diana Chelimo, current UPDF coach Grace Chesang, Julius Ogwanga, one time Uganda’s best quarter miler Felix Okello and Air Force coach Joseph Nsubuga, among others, were enrolled at Bombo SS. Their pathway was planned to Ndejje University although most ended up in American colleges.

The hard worker
When he left Bombo, a big school with more than 1,000 students, he was in 2003 posted in Kaserem SS in Kapchorwa, a school he almost rejected. But the posting was at the time he had switched allegiance from being an Anglican to a Born-again Christian.

“I got a clear message from God that it was something I was to do. I ended up serving there for four and a half years. By the time I left, the school had more than 600 students and from the rotting classrooms I had found, I left a four-classroom block and three fully furnished and stocked laboratories,” he recounts. He also established a vibrant Scripture Union.

When the Universal Secondary Education (USE) policy was rolled out in 2007, he was transferred to Kibuuka Memorial Senior Secondary School in Mpigi. The enrollment was just above 200 students but until he left in 2011, they had more than 500 students. “Whenever parents find a serious head teacher, they trust the school with their children,” he says.

He was then moved to Nampunge where he has established a strong athletics camp.
He made a name for himself here bringing the best athletes such as the current prisons coach Irene Chemusto and Jacob Araptany to the school. Ultimately, the school won the district title from 2012 until 2017 when Namugongo SS toppled them. He is a retired Uneb Mathematics and Economics Paper One examiner.

Balancing the act
Due to the administrative load, he handles candidate classes. Head teachers are mandated to teach three doubles, which amount to six lessons a week, yet he covers more in extra classes.

To him, work at the athletics federation is voluntary and although it has taken him around the world, teaching is what he describes as his job.
“Elective positions are not jobs. We only get fringe benefits when we take teams to international events,” he says.

Therefore, he conducts all athletics related work in the morning whenever need arises before he rushes to his office in Kakiri.
Otucet remains passionate about God’s work and is an ordained deacon at Deliverance Church, Kololo. Although it is rare for him to get free time, when he gets it, he reads novels, plays chess and scrabble at his Kulambiro home. He supports Chelsea Football Club of England but he does not go out to watch games.

Born on July 28, 1963, Otucet wants to undertake a PhD in Education before he retires into private work.

The mentor
According to Otucet, no other job beats teaching, a noble career he says is a learning profession. “I have mentored many people. That makes me proud,” he says. But the benefits are more. “I was shy as a boy despite being bright. The pay is not big but since teachers are trainable, I find myself doing many things to supplement my income.”

His philosophy remains to develop an all-round student saying: “A talent can lift anyone and it is about how one balances it. Schools must let children manifest their talent.” At Nampunge, Tuesday afternoons are reserved for co-curricular activities including sports.
Despite his passion, his children are following different interests. Only his siblings, Jane Mafaabi, whom he mentored since Primary Four, is a teacher of English and Literature in English at Bombo Army. His step brother, James Eochu also teaches at Aweru Primary School in Kapchorwa.

Otucet and athletics
His work in athletics in the various schools was being monitored by the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) and was invited to serve as the body’s treasurer in 1999 until 2011. They kept alternating with Godfrey Nuwagaba. But in 2002, he was transferred to Kaserem SS in Kapchorwa and was appointed vice president, a position he held until 2010. His arrival was blessed as Moses Kipsiro’s double gold in the New Delhi Commonwealth Games welcomed him. He has been the president for the association until now.

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