Mr. Balitta Joab retired from University service as Senior Foreman-Carpentry, Estates and Works Department in 2004 after 49 years of dedicated service. Mak@90 had a chat with the 82 year old 1955 graduate of Carpentry and Joinery and now brings you Part One of the three-part interview.
I was born on the night of 10th March 1930, in Bulamogi, in the present day Kaliro District. I am the eldest of thirteen children from a polygamous family. After completing my 4 year course in 1955 and securing employment at Makerere College, I decided to wed. I met my wife in my hometown Bulamogi, Kaliro. There were no female students in the Technical School at the time. We got married in April 1955 and on 28th December 1955 we got our first born son. Together we have nine children, 6 boys and 3 girls and we have been blessed with over thirty grand children.
Five of my children are Degree Holders from Makerere University. The first studied Agriculture at Makerere University and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in the same field. The next studied Social Work and social Administration, and the one that followed a Bachelor of Statistics. The fourth also opted for Social Work and social Administration and the fifth Mass Communication. The four remaining children pursued courses outside Makerere University. One of my sons takes after me and is at Kyambogo University pursuing Carpentry.
My eldest son who works as a Lab Attendant in College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-Security (CoVAB) will in 2015 attain the retirement age. My other son also works in the Finance Department, bringing to three, the total number of my family that have gone through and worked for Makerere University.
I went to Namwiwa and Gadumire Primary Schools and thereafter for my P.6 at Mbale Dinnery. I then went to Kamuli Secondary School for Junior 1 and thereafter Secondary one to three. The Education Officer of British origin advised me to go to Iganga for further studies. At the time, there were no Ugandan Education Officers. My father had wanted me to pursue further studies at Busoga College Mwiri. However being mindful of his financial situation, I opted to pursue professional work. I applied to Kampala Technical School and was successfully admitted.
I came to Makerere on 30th March 1951 to Kampala Technical School by then. Transport from Kaliro to Kampala then was by purely publicly run. The Uganda Peoples Transport buses would ferry passengers from Kaliro to Jinja and thereafter transport to Kampala was by passenger train. The University then usually gave return tickets to her students from distant locations. The fare was only 3 shillings. From the Kampala Railway Station there was no Public Transport. Students and Staff had to walk with their luggage atop their heads all the way to Wandegeya and then up Makerere Hill. I was 20 years old and the average joining age at the time for students was 25 years. They came to study as adults. I can recall Prof. Kamya, Prof. Odong, as some of the medical students at Makerere College.
We were here from 1951 to 1953 before Kampala Technical School preferred to transfer its campus to Kyambogo institute. The first bunch to go to Kyambogo in 1952 were the blacksmiths, and we carpenters and builders emigrated to Kyambogo institute in 1953. I stayed in Kyambogo Institue from 1953 to 1954 until I completed my four-year course in Carpentry and Joinery.
Other courses offered at the time were Bricklaying, Blacksmiths (present day welders), Mechanical Work and Plumbing. Plumbing work was mainly done at Kisubi and when Amin expelled the Asians, the Kisubi Technical School; headed by the Missionary Fathers, played a key role in training plumbers to meet the Nation’s needs. The Technical school was intended to educate people to be self reliant. Technical School was a practical-oriented school. People were trained to do things practically and theoretically.
Makerere had a Uniform at the time. It consisted of shorts and a blazer, complete with socks and shoes. Students at the Technical School wore Khaki shorts and short-sleeved khaki shirts
My Carpentry class had 50 students and the Technical School had over 100 students then, the majority of whom studied carpentry. When the Technical College was later shifted to Kyambogo, we often had to walk across town to the campus. Occasionally, I would need to pick a 1x14ft piece of timber from the Timber Yard (Hotel Equatoria’s present location) and ferry it all the way to Kyambogo Institute. This was hard but we found this lifestyle bearable as we had no comparison at the time.
Unlike today’s classes, our training was majorly practical. Whereas the training lasts only 2 years in the present age, our four-year course was comprehensive. In the first year, we studied theory and measuring methods, in the second year, we embarked on making models and joints, in the third and fourth years, we made real furniture. Owing to the wholesome training we received, apprenticeship was completely unheard of. The practice was only introduced later after the course durations had been shortened to two years.
End of Part One of Three