After war breaks out, Mugisha is forced to flee and register as a refugee in Uganda. In this inspirational story, Mugisha shares how he went from making bricks to opening his own educational centre to becoming a global ambassador transforming lives through the educational system.
I was born in the village of Mugaja, DR Congo. The majority of the kids from my village did not go to school at all. I went to school in the mornings. In the afternoons, I followed mum to the garden to help her with family chores. She taught me to carry cassava on my head from the garden to home. After my work, I’d sit in the summer breeze, back against a tree trunk overlooking the hills. I dreamed of becoming a leader who fights for people’s rights. I wanted to change the terrible things happening to our village.
My father was a cattle keeper. Each morning he set off to work. Staff in hand, he walked into the distance. Birds chirped, lambs called, and trees blew in the wind. One day my father returned, his head hanging low.
“I have worked for decades trying save for my kids, to shape a bright future. My properties should not be taken away.”
Just as it had happened with others in our village, all our cattle and everything we owned had been stolen by a marauding gang of thieves from the city.
Father explained how the men had shouted, “You illiterate farmers, you don’t deserve to own anything. You are good for nothing except digging in gardens.”
They beat father to the ground, rounded up the cattle, and disappeared over the hills.
My father knew we had to do something to stop this from happening. He looked at me, his tired eyes concerned, “Son, I’m sending you and your brother to school in the city. This pillaging and stealing must be stopped. You must get educated to protect the family rights when you grow up.”
Caught in War
I was completing my last year in high school when, one morning, I awoke to police shouting. Our neighbor had been killed. We didn’t know the reason. People were crying and shouting next door. One lady ran down the street, banging her head in her palm. My legs shook. My mind ran fast. Things soon escalated. Shouting and gunshots rang out as an all-out war broke out. People were being killed all over the town.
“Brother, we must flee too.” I grabbed my brother by the arm.
We took nothing with us except the clothes we wore. We ran. And we ran. We ran along with hundreds of others fleeing the town. We heard a refugee camp had been established in Uganda. We headed East, surviving on the food we’d begged from truck drivers and a little change people gave along the way.
Hungry, thirsty, feet blistered and exhausted to our knees. We walked for three weeks. Until one day, up ahead on the road, we saw the border. Workers unloaded cartons from a small supply truck. As we drew closer, Ugandan officials assigned to register refugees waited at the gates.
We crossed over, grateful to be safe, relieved to be alive. Many of our friends hadn’t made it.
Registered as a Refugee
My dreams as a boy while sitting under the tree overlooking the hills now seemed impossible. My father’s target had been destroyed. The study I had done, all the work to get an education, had been blown away by war. I hadn’t finished high school, and to make things worse, here in Uganda, they spoke English. I had been schooled in French. That meant I had to go back to lower-level primary school and restart my education. The only thing I had to look forward to was food on the table every day. Still, I kept vigilant for an opportunity. The opportunity to work. The opportunity to learn English the quickest way possible.
‘God Given’ Opportunity
One day I noticed a man visiting the camp. He spoke English very well, and I saw an opportunity …
“Mr God Given” (that was his name), “Will you teach me English?” I asked.
“Hmm,” he said, scratching his brow. “I could teach English. But I have no classroom. I tell you what. You agree to come and work. Make the bricks, lay the bricks, construct my house, and I’ll use a room to teach English.”
I thought for a moment. That seemed like a huge undertaking. But, I said to myself, “Mugisha, you can stay making excuses and blame your environment, or you can stand and fight for a better life.”
“Agreed.” I shook God Given’s hand. That day, I went out and organised 10 other marginalised youths who wanted to learn English but lacked opportunity like me. Together, we made over 2000 bricks. Some of the youth who joined me had construction skills. We constructed a house for Mr God Given. English classes began.
I studied hard and learned quickly. I also started to teach other students at lower levels. In 2016, seeing a greater need to help other young refugees, I established my own English training centre.
I established my training centre not just to teach English. I wanted to encourage, educate, and fully empower young people to transform their difficult life experiences into a strength that transforms society.
Today, I honour my dream. My father’s dream. While I haven’t been able to return to my village, over the past five years, we have helped hundreds of refugee kids join Ugandan secondary schools. Many have won scholarships due to their excellent performance in class.
I am proud of all our children… Seraphain Balume, Josue Katanga, Jeremy Katembo, Jospin Bisimwa, Iren Mupe, Kakule Eric … the list is too long to mention them all. This year we have 500 children who joined our education programs.
And it’s not just the children learning. I personally have transformed from registering as a refugee to being selected as a global school advocate to help teachers and educators teach children about sustainable development. I was elected as President of the QS world merit council in Uganda, Ambassador at their world. Certified as a trainer of the learner centred learning approach, and certified as a business coach and trainer by the street business school. I am happy for a long list of world standard experience I have developed to transform the education system.
I want to tell people – especially young people – it doesn’t matter where one came from or the environment around us. Realise who YOU are, not as you’re told you are, not as you think you are, but as YOU REALLY ARE. Anything is possible as long as we learn how to avoid making excuses and decide to start making progress.
This is possible through education.
Meet Mugisha Namwangwa Christophe
Hi. I'm Mugisha Namwangwa Christophe.
My journey has taken me from registering as a refugee in Uganda to being selected as a global school advocate to help teachers and educators teach children about sustainable development.
I was elected as President of the QS world merit council in Uganda, Ambassador at their world. Certified as a trainer of the learner-centred learning approach and certified as a business coach and trainer by the street business school.
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