HOMELESS BOY BECOMES TOP UNIVERSITY STUDENT

HOMELESS BOY BECOMES TOP UNIVERSITY STUDENT

Kato Paul celebrating his academic achievement at Emmaus Foundation Kampala in December, 2017

Kato Paul giving a speech; Fr. Mbaleeba Isidoro blesses his future

My name is Kato Paul.  I am twenty four years old.  I have a twin brother called Wasswa Peter; he is currently doing a bachelor’s degree in meteorology at Makerere University Kampala.  I have four step siblings – two sisters and two brothers.  I reside in Nsambya, a city suburb located approximately 5 kilometers south-southeast of the central business district of Kampala, in Makindye Division.  My home district is Luwero; Luwero the place that I will live to remember, in relation to the story of my life.  Luwero, the place where I stared into the face of indescribable hardship; the kind that pushed me to work so hard at an incredibly early age to become the man that I am today.

This is my story.

I am a total orphan. I lost my biological father late Sserunkuma David when I was only in primary two in 1995. He succumbed to the deadly HIV/Aids and so is my mother.

When my parents passed away, I and my twin brother had to naturally find a way to live, first by finding a way of attaching ourselves to a home of any willing relatives. By the grace of God, we were welcomed into our paternal grandfather’s home.  I remember my grandfather was a well to do and respected man in the village and was the envy of many as a successful farmer even to close relatives, so much so that one of our close relatives volunteered to help support I and my brother but later we came to discover that this relative’s intentions were not so good.  The way we were treated while under this person’s care was so bad.  Young and vulnerable as we were, we had to tend to the lady’s gardens, I mean dig and dig away very early in the morning before sunrise; this had to happen every single day before we could be released to go to a faraway Universal Primary Education (UPE) School.  It was not very long that her true intentions came out, when she suddenly and without blinking her eyes, told us

“…I cannot afford to keep the both of you in my home any more, pack all your bags and leave my compound…” In shock we began to understand why she had volunteered to take us on because this happened immediately after my grandfather passed on.  It is when the cut through words came forth from her mouth.  We had to immediately make a plan.  The first person that came to our minds was one of our step sisters. So we sought for help from our step sister who was married to then a Local Defense Unit (LDU) officer.  Unfortunately, the sister we had hoped could accommodate us for at least a few days, chased us away. Moreover, this was at a critical time of our doing senior two term three or promotional exams.  We proceeded to approach a certain wealthy farmer in the neighborhood. Our plan was that, since he was a farmer, he would constantly need shamba boys, and so we suggested working for him in that capacity and in return give us a temporal place to stay and some food.

The farmer, also knowing our late grandfather, was kind enough to accept us in his compound, but indeed as shamba boys.  It was okay for us for a start, since we had to earn a living and most importantly find a way to invest in education if we had to get out of this situation.  The farmer offered to raise school fees for the both of us, but on condition that one had to sacrifice for the other and this is how it was to play out: One had to go to school while the other worked for money to raise school fees and scholastic materials for the other, then switch upon successful completion. This arrangement had to take immediate effect until the end of Ordinary Level Education. The decision was so hard for us to make; the thought of one of us going to school without his twin brother was deeply painful. The separation and most threatening for the both of us was the fear that one twin will be without an education at all. But after bouts of tears, we had no choice but to comply. I went first. I enrolled in Bishop Nankyama Memorial College Bombo Kampala, although it was difficult for me to concentrate on my studies because of the pain of leaving behind my sibling.   I had to do something and do it quickly, I couldn’t shut up. So I approached the head teacher and explained the whole situation. Out of a compassionate heart, he allowed that the two of us can join senior three.  However, our situation was so dire that the earlier arrangement of “studies for one until senior four, then the other later”, had to take precedence because one had to work to provide the basic necessities, scholastic materials and all.  So, we always had to look for jobs – any jobs, to top up on our earnings as shamba boys.  I remember after the very first holiday, Wasswa managed to buy me one suitcase, four books, 3 pens, one pencil, one plate and one fork… these details stuck to my mind because it was the first lifetime achievement. My twin brother was so proud of me over my performance, as I was proud of him for the material support.   I began to focus on my studies, so much so that I was the best student in the promotional term to senior four.  The school noticed my brilliant academic progress and rewarded me with a dozen books and six pens.  My brother worked even harder and like it was for the other students, he made sure that he visited me on the slated visitation days. Wasswa would bring me two books at every visitation day after traveling five miles from Luwero to Bombo where my school was located.

Then came the time to wind up my ordinary level education, hence attain Uganda’s Certificate of Education (UCE). I worked extremely hard and behold, I attained the mark that only the best can achieve: twenty eight aggregates in ten subjects (28 in 10). This performance ushered in an opportunity of a scholarship for Uganda’s Advanced Level of Education (senior five and senior six). However, the hard decision came creeping once again. I had to revisit the arrangement of “one at work, the other at school.” No matter how excellent my mark was, I had to drop out of school and give Wasswa a chance to resume school and pave way for his future to some extent as well.  It was my turn to work – work for his future.

I immediately landed a casual job at a whole sale shop in the city center – Kampala, and worked very hard in order to provide all the necessary requirements for Wasswa to enable him go back to school just like he had done for me.  Wasswa enrolled in Shanam Senior Secondary School Bombo Kampala in senior three.   Unfortunately, a major problem hit us. It was suspected that due to the stability and sudden academic progress that I and my twin brother were experiencing, a cross-section of people known to us and especially our helpers, suddenly abandoned us; while at work in Kampala, it came to my knowledge that Wasswa had been kicked out of the home – our helper’s home. Wasswa slept in the cold under a tree for two whole days and nights with all his and my belongings.  Suddenly a Good Samaritan appeared and rescued us from the situation by temporarily offering us a small vacant room; and somehow things started to normalize and no matter the obstacles, I worked very hard to support my brother for almost 6 years, before I myself could resume studies again.

Wasswa and I have now grown up. We decided to relocate to Nsambya, five kilometers to Kampala city after establishing that our late father owned a small house there. It was in bad shape, almost falling to the ground, rough floor, no running water, no windows and doors but to us, with the only consoling thought that it was our late father’s property, the state of the structure didn’t matter, after all we had come a long way and can survive this one as well.

Meanwhile Wasswa and I are about to experience breakthrough. One day, on a brief visit to our cousin sister who resides in Bbiina, just a few meters from the Emmaus Foundation (EF) head office in Mutungo Kampala, a conversation was going on among the family members about plans to seek school fees sponsorship for one of their children by Fr. John Scalabrini (RIP), the founder of EF.  It took us two more visits to gather all the information that was necessary for anyone to be considered for the program.   Our situation surely  needed such an opportunity.

Soon enough, I and my brother discovered EF’s physical address and had a chance to meet Fr, John personally. After hearing our story, he immediately granted us an opportunity to join the prestigious Bishop Cipriano Kihangire Senior Secondary School Luzira, Kampala (BCKSSS) – Day Section and offered to sponsor our schooling.  We were now both ready for senior five.

Unfortunately we encountered a dilemma because one had to work. At that time (2011), a boys’ hostel belonging to EF (St. Stephen and Leonard boys hostel Bbiina) was under its final stages of construction. Only one of us was admitted in the hostel and Wasswa became one of the immediate beneficiaries to the fine facility. So school was nearby, food was available, accommodation was given; this was a miracle! Although part-time, I had to work in order to sustain myself, and for the first whole term, I had no choice but to walk on foot every day from Nsambya to Luzira where BCKSSS is located, an approximately four Kilometers journey in order to attend school.  After the first hectic term for me, I went back to Fr. John and narrated our dilemma to him. Compassionate as he as, he allowed me to join the hostel as well. I worked so hard, for there were no more interruptions. I was one of the best students when the senior six results were released with twenty points in twenty subjects (20 in 20). Fr. John, pleased with my performance blessed me with a gift of a laptop, as I was ready to enroll for university education. At Kyambogo University, I did a Bachelor’s Degree in Micro Finance, a course I completed in December, 2017 with a clear-cut First Class Degree and in my category, I was the second best student.  Waking up to see my name in the National Newspaper, was very unbelievably exciting.

These are my future plans:  I have always trusted the Lord to make me excel, and because I am sure of a successful life, I intend to give back to the people; encourage people who are experiencing hardship.  I am also hoping to go back to school and get more knowledge, in order to serve society even better.  In the meantime, I and a group of friends have developed a business plan for a SACCO, an achievement that is in line with my area of profession. I will never forget the day I met Fr. John Scalabrini (RIP), because my life and that of my dear bother changed rapidly. Everyone who blessed me in one way or another, May God richly repay you.

 

 

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