This is a story by Anne Kizza. As a former student of Prof Abasi Kiyimba, famously known as AK in the corridors of Literature Department, Makerere University, this is one story that should be read by many.
Let me tell you a beautiful story about a professor who redeemed a student. Who single handedly blocked the expulsion of the student from Makerere University, when the entire department had decided she should be thrown out. And he did it not because of his high education, but because his humanity could not allow him to watch her life end in shame and disaster. If you ask my high school peers, they will tell you I was an excellent, dedicated no nonsense student. Never mixed up with the wrong crowd. No alcohol. No love entanglements. Just a good Christian girl focused on her God and her studies. It was therefore no big surprise to them that I got the coveted government scholarship to study Mass communication at Makerere University. But that is as far as my brilliance went. Something happened to me at university, which even I, can never explain. I took my Christianity to the extreme. All the time I should have used on studying, doing my course work, attending class, was spent in church in prayer, preaching missions etc. It is in this Christian Union circle where I also met the boy I thought was my forever. The love was epic. Every moment that wasn’t spent on church, was spent with him. And I became a hopeless religious fanatic and love idiot. Then one day, the boy moved on. Slowly by slowly, another girl took his heart. When the reality hit me, I fell into a bottomless pit. The ground I had been standing on caved in and I descended into a river of constant tears, depression and heart wrenching groaning. This happened during exams in my second year at university. Course work had not been handed in, I had hardly attended class, I didn’t study for exams, and when they started, I simply failed to get out of bed. My disaster was complete. My life was a train wreck in slow motion. Expulsion was the only path ahead. Narrowly, perilously narrowly, I survived. And was instead given a dead year. Fast forward to two years later. I graduated. Got a job in TV and radio. The girl who was a complete hopeless case at university, was excelling as a journalist. It just didn’t make sense to my lecturers. So one day my former lecturer Dr. Monica Chibiita met me at a function, took me aside and engaged me. She expressed how my case, my situation had been an eye opener about people. She is the one I had disturbed most at university. So therefore one of those shocked that I had turned out sensible. She told me that she and all others in the department had voted to throw me out. But that one man, Prof Abasi Kiyimba who was head of department, had put his foot down. She told me to look him up and thank him. This information shocked me. A Muslim professor, who didn’t even know me personally, had fought the battles of a fanatic Christian girl. He had put his religion and my religion aside, and chosen to see me as I was: a distraught, desperate and lost girl in need of basic human understanding. I was floored. So yesterday, I loaded the 3 humans God gave me into a taxi from Kisaasi to Makerere. To go and kneel before my professor in the deepest of thank yous. We arrived there towards 7 pm to an aged, gentle but resilient professor. His office looked like you expect: books and papers every where. My children and I shoved the papers and books that had taken up space in blue sofas, and squeezed into them. The professor didn’t remember me. I introduced myself. Telling him how I was the girl he redeemed way back in 1996. How I was so scared at the prospect of termination. How, if I had been thrown out, it could have sent my mother to an early grave. I told him how I am the last born in a family of 12, raised on the sweat of an illiterate single mother. Who brewed kwete, Tonto and did all sorts of petty trade, to raise us. With this history, an expulsion from Makerere would have been enough to give Nalongo a heart attack. Prof. Kiyimba listened. All this was new information. For he never knew my story. After which he said “I have always believed that behind every struggling student, is a story and a family whose hopes hinge on that student. Therefore, my conviction is always that no, this is not how the story of this student is going to end. It will not end in disaster on my watch” I graduated from Makerere. I got jobs. I took a master’s degree in journalism at the university of Oslo. And a diploma in Education. I became a better human. A wife. A mother. A teacher. A mentor. Because one man believed in me. And gave me a third chance. May we always have the courage to give people a second chance. EBENEZER. @annekizza 2022