Return to Entebbe: Final Days, Heading Home, Looking Ahead

By Margarita Rose

Entebbe, Uganda– The decision to return to Entebbe (via Kampala) a day earlier than originally scheduled offered opportunities to attend to tasks and meet with people we wanted to see before we headed home. So, some of our group made the drive to Kampala on Sunday to visit the bountiful craft market to pick up additional artifacts and make a return visit to FEMRITE, the Uganda Women Writers Association. Others used the afternoon to visit Malayka House, an orphanage in Entebbe started by an American, which provides a loving home for dozens of HIV-infected and -affected children and the aunties who care for them. Some of the home’s income-generating activities include sales of Bobo’s Coffee and Pizza Night each Tuesday, catering to ex-pats looking for a little taste of home, themselves.


King’s College alumus Joseph Rwabuhinga and Margarita Rose in Kampala (photo: Margarita Rose)

For me, the afternoon in Kampala was a chance to catch up with a former student of mine, Joseph Rwabuhinga–the first King’s College graduate from Uganda. Joseph’s story is one that would make any teacher proud, and illustrates how abundantly an investment in people can pay off. Through scholarships and hard work, Joseph completed his undergraduate studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, another Holy Cross institution, and received his Masters of Science degree in Finance from King’s in 1995. After his return to Uganda, Joseph had stints in various government positions, including with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, where he helped transition the authority to a self-supporting entity, rather than one that relies on annual government budgets.

Now a successful partner in the private sector with DAJ Communications, Ltd.(an MTN franchise offering telecommunications equipment, and cell phone and mobile money services), Joseph also serves on the board of a tea growers cooperative and supports youth empowerment initiatives. His efforts even caught the attention of Uganda’s First Lady, who invited him to the State House for a Youth Forum dinner, organized to bolster support for this critical venture that engages young Ugandans in thought-provoking conversations about avoiding early pregnancy, avoiding drug abuse, staying in school, and serving the community.

Monday, our final day in Uganda, presented another venue for discussing the future for Uganda’s youth, “bookending” our first official activity with our final official activity at Kisubi Brothers University College (KBUC). This time our student teachers (and a few of our current teachers), spent their time at KBUC with their counterparts. Meanwhile, the rest of us met with the Dean of the Faculty of Education, along with several staff members. It was a lively exchange about whether our two systems had much in common, or faced challenges on markedly different levels.

There is no doubt these faculty members understand the difficulties their students will face when they leave the KBUC campus. They realize some students may have no choice about where they wind up teaching, if they even secure a position. They know that some new teachers will have the good fortune of teaching at an institution that is well-equipped, where students are healthy and properly fed, and where teachers are regularly paid a good salary. By the same token, they realize their graduates may find themselves in woefully under-resourced schools, teaching 100+ students in a crowded classroom, with no textbooks, some hungry, some ill, some with unmet special needs, but nearly all eager to learn and convinced that education is truly an investment that they and their families cannot afford to ignore.


Margarita Rose, Br. Stephen LaMendola, and Fr. Thomas O’Hara at Entebbe Airport (photo: Noreen O’Connor)

Later that day, as we packed our bags and made our way to Entebbe International Airport–where former King’s College president Fr. Tom O’Hara, CSC joined us on the flight to Amsterdam–each of our group members processed in his or her own way what this month-long experience in Uganda had meant, how it had impacted our lives, and how it would impact our students and our communities in the future. There’s no doubt in my mind that each group member has been “changed for good.”

On behalf of all the members of the “Learning from Ugandan Models of Education Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad, I thank you for reading our blog and encourage you to continue to learn about this wonderful East African country and its people. You will always be “most welcome.”

Dennis Byaruhanga: Driver Extraordinaire

By Noreen O’Connor


Dennis Byaruhanga (photo: Noreen O’Connor)

Entebbe, Uganda– Dennis Byaruhanga, who accompanied our group and drove our “coaster” for the entire month we were in Uganda, also became a teacher, and advisor and friend.

Dennis showed a bottomless store of patience, energy, and good humor as he navigated us through the Kampala’s busy streets, as well as the winding red dirt roads of rural Jinja and Masindi. Dennis is also an expert driver; we witnessed his driving skills in a variety of challenging conditions.


Dennis and his children with Margarita Rose (photo: Noreen O’Connor)

A group of us stopped to reminisce about our time aboard Dennis’ coaster, and share a few moments we’ll remember:

  • When he heard that we were studying Swahili and Lusoga, Dennis decided to become our personal language tutor. He especially focused on the Lusoga greeting words “koodi” and “abeno” and the always amusing Swahili term “mzungu.”
  • One evening, we were stuck in traffic in Kampala for hours just getting from one side of town to another. While we watched traffic lights cycle through and waited in gridlock, Dennis turned up the music and turned the coaster into a dance party bus. Much to the amusement of passengers in other cars and vans around us, the bus was rocking for about 20 minutes until traffic cleared up.
  • oconnor-our-coaster

    Our “coaster” (photo: Noreen O’Connor)

    Returning from Soft Power’s Amagezi Center, which was located in a very rural area of Jinja, it began to rain extremely hard. The dirt road turned to liquid mud, as treacherous as any ice coating in the Poconos; the bus slipped back and forth on the road, between deep ditches. But Dennis steered the bus carefully through. When he finally reached the paved main road, he broke out into a wide smile.

  • In Masindi, some of the group saw Dennis in town one evening as they headed out to enjoy a dance club. When they invited him along, Dennis joined the group for a few moves on the dance floor before retiring to play some pool.
  • Dennis invited the group to his home in Kampala, where we met his children, admired his wedding photo and a framed portrait of his hero Nelson Mandela, and had a transnational bonding moment when Justin Bieber’s “Baby.”

You Are Welcome


A student welcomes Erin McDonough to St. Andrew’s Primary School in Jinja (photo: Noreen O’Connor)

By Maria Zangari

Entebbe, Uganda– There is something disingenuous about the phrase “You’re welcome” that I didn’t realize until visiting Uganda. It is as if you are saying, “I’m glad to have you here, but not glad enough to speak the whole phrase instead of a contraction.” Maybe that’s cynical. But the first time our group was welcomed into a school with many empathetic “You are welcome” greetings it struck me how welcomed I truly felt. Although now, at the end of the trip, I have heard this phrase hundreds of times it still feels heartfelt and it is this genuineness that I will bring back to the United States.

Every time I walked into Ugandan classrooms, the teachers offered me their hands and with a smile on their face proclaimed, “You are most welcome!” The students then often greeted me with the same fervor. I felt welcomed into these classes. I felt that my presence was noticed and appreciated and that, for the most part, both teachers and students were happy to have me visit their classrooms. It is the common phrase that drew me in. It made me feel less like an intruder and more like a friend in the classes than the quick “You’re welcome” would have. As a lover of words it strikes me how miniscule modifications to a phrase change its connotations.


St. Jude Primary School students in Jinja (photo: Paula Longo)

Our group visited craft markets in Jinja and Kampala and both times we were lured into shops with “You are welcome” immediately followed by a gesture encouraging us to enter. I find it interesting that somehow, even as a business ploy, this phrase spoken without contraction feels true. I know that the shop owners want me, a white American, in their shops. I know that I am often their target customer. But beyond the monetary appeal, I feel a sense of true happiness and often pride from women when I enter their shops. Owners sometimes point you towards items they think might interest you most. I am most excited when these end up being the exact items I was looking for. Again I feel welcomed and enjoy the bartering process as the attendants stress the importance of the purchase.

The conversations

“Hi, my name is Maria.”
“I’m Thomas. You’re welcome here.”


“Hi, my name is Maria.”
“I’m Thomas. You are most welcome here.”

Holy Cross Primary School in Jinja (photo: Paula Longo)

convey two very different feelings. It is amazing how shortened speech can cheapen the quality of the words. And it is hopeful to realize how quickly genuine meaning can be restored. I will bring this genuineness home with me, along with the non-contracted phrase, and I hope I will be able to better express warm welcomes to my guests the way Ugandans have welcomed us into their lives.