While i was in my A level at St.Mary’s College Kisubi, i managed to attend an Ob’s re-union where i heard the best speech that my ears have ever captured. Am sure you’ll be interested in reading this educative, informative and inspirational speech by Prof. Charles Olweny presented on the SMACKOBA REUNION DAY.
RE-UNION DAY SMACKOBA 8 TH JUNE, 2008
The Guest of Honour and Chairman of the Board of Governors of St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Owekitibwa, Engineer Walusimbi, The Headmaster of St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Brother Edward Bukenya,President of SMACKOBA, Mr. Henry Kibirige, Fellow Honourees or Awardees, Fellow members of SMACKOBA, Ladies and Gentlemen
To day is a great day for me as it represents an official home coming after 48 years of absence. I graduated from St. Mary’s College in 1960 having been among the first batch to start A-level course here. The warm welcome so far accorded to us makes me feel I might be the prodigal son. The fattest calf has been slaughtered and there will be dancing and jubilation as the celebration continues.
Our human identity is first and foremost relational. We become who we are through relationship with other people. It is not that we become a person first and then relate; rather we become persons by relating, reflecting, knowing and making meaning of our God given gifts. I therefore congratulate you all for keeping the fire of St. Mary’s College Old Boys Association burning over the years.
Mr. Henry Kibirige in his letter inviting me to this occasion requested me to be the Guest Speaker and to talk on the theme: “Quality Education and Professionalism”. In preparing for this presentation I asked myself what is QUALITY? What is EDUCATION? And what is PROFESSIONALISM? I will try to share my perceived or shall I say my preferred definitions of what these words mean to me. Quality is the degree to which services to an individual or population are (a) likely to achieve desired outcome and (b)consistent with current professional knowledge. Quality has nothing to do with how shiny or bright a product is or how much it costs. A customer who buys your product or experiences your service has certain needs and expectations in mind. If the product or service meets or exceeds those expectations time and time again, then in the mind of the customer it is a quality product or quality service. Quality therefore relates to the customers perception and in that regard quality may be defined as ”meeting the customers needs and expectations”. Most customers are reasonable. They expect a Mercedes to have leather seats. They do no expect the same of Toyota Corolla! Customers may switch from one supplier to another not just to get a better price( although a good bargain would come in handy) but rather to secure better service, reliability, accessibility and courtesy. Customers are the most important assets of any company although they do not show up on our balance sheet, they are an asset to be nurtured. Let me then ask who are our customers at St. Mary’s Kisubi? It is the students, their parents, their sponsors, the Church and the people of Uganda. Has St. Mary’s lived up to or exceeded their expectations? If the answer is yes then St. Mary’s is a quality institution.
What about education? There are many different definitions of education. Some tell you what education is NOT as for example ,”Education is NOT just filling a bucket with knowledge”. My late parents taught me three things viz. Fear God, work hard and respect authority as all authority comes from God. They instilled in me the notion that you can never have authority until you respect authority. You need to find some authority worthy of your respect. I have added a forth dimension or value to my children, namely, “be disciplined”. Discipline is doing the right thing when no one is watching. It is , when you are alone , instead of eating in the kitchen, laying the table, carrying food to the table, sitting down, saying prayer before meals and eating the food; and when it is all done, taking the plates and washing them before retiring. Discipline is not just demanding people to take action; it is to do with getting them to first engage in disciplined thought and then take disciplined action. In this regard my parents were my first educators. My own preferred definition of education is, “what is left when all that you learnt at school, college or university is long forgotten.” What is left is “education” When you can no longer define the principle of Archimedes, when you can no longer deduce Pythagoras’ theorem, when you cannot impute E=MC2, when all the neuroanatomy, or biochemistry is gone, when all the calculus you learnt no longer makes sense then what is left in you is education. A good education empowers us; provides us with the necessary knowledge and skills to undertake important tasks in our lives, exploits all our potentials, prepares us to become global citizens and above all teach us to think critically. Text books teach people subject matter but they do not teach people to think let alone to think critically. I believe St. Mary’s gave me a good education. St. Mary’s instilled in me the notion of discipline. I recall the early morning wake up call from Brother Louis or Bother Paul Major, rain or no rain, would roar at the door, “May Jesus live in our hearts” and the chorus, “Forever”still ring loudly in my ears. We were taught the appreciation of classical music. I developed then a passion for classical music to this day. We were given dancing lessons. I wonder how many of you can dance foxtrot or waltz or calypso? We were given courses in etiquette. We were encouraged to ask questions and to ask the right questions when faced with complex decisions. We were trained not to cone by rote, but or cram but to try to understand issues and express them in our own words. Now that I can no longer remember the academic issues, what I have left in me is education and I can proudly announce it was a good education.
Lastly, what is professionalism? The definition I found is , ‘being engaged in one or other of the learned professions i.e. Legal, medicine, engineering etc. A better definition is exhibiting a courteous conscientious and generally business like manner at the work place. Another definition of professionalism is the conduct , aim and qualities that characterize or make a profession or a professional person. The majority of us here are professionals or belong to one or other of the professions. Do we exhibit courtesy? Are we conscientious ? Are we business-like in our work place? Do we exhibit qualities that should characterise our profession? Are we reliable, accessible and courteous to those we serve? I leave it up to each of you to answer those questions
Our mission in this world, according to the late Pope John Paul II, is to seek God, study the world and serve humanity. All of us have a mission to fulfil. If we are still alive then that mission is not fulfilled and definitely not completed. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “God’s grace works through nature”. Encountering God in the bits and pieces of every day life is what we should strive for. Remember the people you encounter in the streets, in the class room, in the market, in the taxi park are your gods. This earth is crammed with heaven. The people who come to your consultancy rooms whether you are an Architect, an Engineer or a Medical Doctor are all your gods. Please treat them as if they are God. Take your heart to work and ask everybody else to do the same. Don’t let your special character and values, the secret that you know and no one else does, the truth, don’t let them get swallowed up by the great chewing i.e. Complacency. The ancient Buddhist expression states, “ If we are facing the right direction all we have to do is walk” I was amazed to learn that a SMACK old boy designed the Chogm logo, not me brothers.
I suspect Mr. Henry Kibirige wanted me to talk about quality university education. I have intentionally avoided doing so because quality education begins in the home. The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people. Quality education begins in the primary and secondary schools. Unfortunately, by the time the students get to university, the dye is cast and it is almost impossible to mould them into quality products. I thank you for listening to me.