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An individual’s corporate responsibility: The example of Pius Msekwa Secondary School in Ukerewe

THERE is a Secondary School in Ukerewe District of Mwanza Region, whose name is “Pius Msekwa Secondary School”.

This school was registered on 14th March, 2006, with registration number S.1908; and on 10th April of the same year, the school received its first intake of ’Form One’ students.

Ten years later in 2016, the School received its first intake of Form Five students. The motivation for writing this article, which is only a resume of information relating to the said School; came from a visit to the School by a team from an Organization known as the ABBOT FUND, which is based in Dar es Salaam. The objective and reason for this article, is to illustrate the practical application of the concept of ‘corporate responsibility’, in relation to individual persons.

A product of an individual’s corporate responsibility

‘Pius Msekwa Secondary School’ is an exemplary product of one individual’s corporate responsibility to the community.

Its idea was conceived in the course of some purely personal reflections, regarding how I could implement this noble concept of ‘corporate responsibility’ in the education sector, in the light of the fact of my own background, in which I myself was a direct beneficiary of this particular concept, luckily obtained from an anonymous individual with whom I had no blood relationship whatsoever, not even in terms of the African model of ‘extended families’!

It was last week, on Monday 28th January, 2019, when my family hosted a two-day visit from our family friends who are working with an establishment known as ABBOT FUND, which is based in Dar es Salaam.

This Institution happens to be one of the many donors who, at my request, provided the necessary funds for the construction of all the various infrastructure projects at this School.

The ABBOT FUND generously financed the construction of, and equipment for, the two science Laboratories which are in use at the said School.

For that reason, we took them to the School to see the present state of the facilities which they helped to put in place. We conveniently timed our arrival there to coincide with the regular mid-morning School ‘break’ from classroom work, which enabled the School Headmaster to arrange a gathering of the entire School community of teachers and students, to meet these visitors.

I was given an opportunity to address that gathering, and decided to tell them the moving story of how, and why, the idea of building this school was conceived, and subsequently executed. What follows below, is a narrative of how and why it actually happened.

The death of my father

It all started with the death of my father Laurent Chipanda, who departed from this world in January 1948, at a time when I had just completed ‘Standard Five’ at Nyegezi Secondary School, in the vicinity of the present Mwanza City.

At that time, primary school education terminated at the early level of Standard Four). The direct personal consequence of my father’s death, was that I had lost the sole benefactor who was paying my school fees. I had therefore lost hope of going back to Nyegezi, to continue with my Secondary education. And that is precisely when my anonymous, unsolicited, benefactor, suddenly emerged on the scene. From the way it happened, as narrated herein, I can even venture to call it ‘God’s miracle’, that is to say an act, or event, that does not follow the laws of nature, and is believed to have been caused by God himself.

The unexpected appearance of my anonymous benefactor

By some miraculous coincidence, it so happened that during the period when our family was still mourning the death of my departed father, an Indian merchant operating his business in Ukerewe, whose name was Walji Ratanji Rughani, decided on one those days, to pay a call to the Catholic Parish Priest of Kagunguli which, at the material time was the only establishment in the whole of Ukerewe, which was offering primary education to both boys and girls, but only up to Standard Four level.

The said Indian merchant’s declared mission was quite straight forward and brief. He had gone there to deliver a personal message to the Parish priest, a French Canadian priest whose name was Father Vachon, which was that: “Because he had earned his considerable wealth in Ukerewe, it was his wish and desire, to express his gratitude to his primary customers, the people of Ukerewe who, through their continued dedicated support, had made it possible for him to acquire the wealth that he had accumulated; and further that he wished to express his gratitude by offering, ten full scholarships to deserving Ukerewe students, five boys and five girls, to enable them to pursue further education after successfully completing their primary education at Kagunguli”.

He thereafter asked the Parish priest to select, as soon as possible, the deserving beneficiaries of these scholarships, and let him have their names. Now, that was an exemplary act ‘par excellence’; and indeed a shining example, of how an individual can discharge his ‘corporate responsibility’.

The last colonial District Commissioner of Ukerewe, one Mr Donald Barton, said this in his book titled “An Affair with Africa” in which he gives minute details of his public service in Tanganyika.

His description of Mr Walji, whom he apparently knew quite well, is given as follows (at page 226): “He was a public spirited man, who at the time, was financing an African youngster through Makerere University College, although he did not advertise the fact”. I was the “African youngster at Makerere University College” being referred to therein.

The purposeful visit described above by Mr Walji Rughani to the Parish priest of Kagunguli (which was also my family’s parish), turned out to be my magical ‘lucky charm’.

Fortunately, the parish priest was aware of my plight. He therefore urgently sent for me. And when I arrived at his parish office, he immediately gave me the ‘great good news’, that I had been selected to be one of the recipients of Mr Walji’s scholarships. And because the new school year at Nyegezi had already started, he quickly handed me a letter of introduction which he had already prepared, and instructed me to report to Mr Walji not later than the next morning, in order to introduce myself to him, and to follow whatever instructions he will give me.

I happily, willingly and dutifully, did as I was told. And that is how I found myself in the caring hands of this public spirited benefactor, who actually paid for my educational needs, all the way to Makerere University College in Kampala, Uganda; which was affiliated to London University, and was the only one for the whole of East Africa, comprised of Tanganyika, Kenya and Uganda.

Unfortunately, because of the very tough competition which was involved in order to qualify for the few places that were at every stage of the educational ladder, such as from primary to ordinary Secondary level, and from there to the advanced Secondary level of education; and was even tougher from secondary to tertiary education; none of the other recipients of Mr Walji’s scholarships was able to make it to the apex of the educational pyramid like myself.

My own wish and desire to do likewise 

I reached my compulsory retirement age in the middle of the year 1990, as mandated by the relevant Public Service retirement legislation.

However, by sheer coincidence, that was also general election year in Tanzania. So I decided to join the Political Service, by contesting the Ukerewe parliamentary constituency seat which, by the grace of God, I won handsomely in October, 1990.

And, again luckily, when I entered parliament, I was immediately elected Deputy Speaker, to be followed later by my elevation to the Speakership of the House, in April 1994.

I was easily re-elected as MP for Ukerewe in 1995; but I did not seek re-election for the Ukerewe constituency in the 2000 general elections. I was nevertheless re-elected Speaker of the House for the ensuing period of five years, and that was to be my final term as Speaker; which ended in December 2005.

It is during this final term of my Speakership that the idea of establishing a Secondary School in Ukerewe was conceived, and actually concretized.

That is when I made the crucial decision that my project was going to be the construction of a Secondary School in Ukerewe, right in the Village of Bugombe where I was born, but on a site to be approved by the Village Government.

Then, (like the Judges do when they are writing their court judgments), I promptly stared ‘framing the issues’, which will enable me to make the right decisions. I ended up with the following:-

(i) What is my obligation? And (ii) How can I discharge this obligation?

I decided that my obligation was to emulate Mr Walji’s example of sponsoring the education of some of the students; except that instead of sponsoring a small number of students through offers of paying their school fees, I will provide opportunities for an ‘unlimited’ number of students to obtain Secondary education, by building a whole new Secondary School for that purpose.

Having thus settled the issues relating to my proposed project, I quickly embarked on the process of its implementation; by mobilizing funds from various Institutions, friends, and from many other supporters. The response was so good, that by the month of August 2005, I had raised enough funds to commence the construction of the necessary infrastructure.

I thus invited the Prime Minister, Hon. Frederick Sumaye, to lay the foundation stone for the School buildings, which he readily accepted.

It is this the Prime Minister made the suggestion, in his public speech on that occasion, that the School should be named ‘Pius Msekwa Secondary School’, as he himself put it: “in honour of the person, who put this School in place entirely through his own personal initiative and dedication”.

The School was handed over to the Government

However, in consideration of the original basic objective of facilitating the education of Ukerewe students (and others who would gain access thereto) based on the principle of corporate responsibility; I decided NOT to make it my own ‘private school’, as that would involve the introduction of excessively high costs for the students in terms of school fees which, obviously, the majority of the targeted students would be unable to pay.

And this would totally frustrate the original objective; of implementing my individual corporate responsibility to the people of Ukerewe.

Thus, after having completed construction of the entire school infrastructure, which included eight ‘grade one’ teachers’ houses, I decided to hand over the whole project to the Government.

Consequently, the relevant handing-over ceremony took place on 9th January, 2006; and the new ‘Pius Msekwa Government Secondary School’ was inaugurated by another Prime Minister, Hon. Edward Lowassa, on 26th September, 2007; in the course of his schedule official tour of Ukerewe District. And that was it: mission accomplished, and objective achieved. “It can be done, Play your part”.

On the occasion of the ABBOT FUND visitors to the School last week; the School Headmaster was able to give an extensive briefing to the visitors regarding the School’s current position, on matters relating to: its academic progress; participation by the relevant community in support of the School; and the challenges currently facing the School.

BRIEFS London, Friday ANTHONY Joshua is ...

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Author: PIUS MSEKWA

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