“Makerere buried me alive” – Galogitho’s 25 year agony

Stephen Galogitho has lived to tell a story of agony and frustration, navigating through a future that was dashed after his dismissal from Makerere University 25 years ago.

The journey of his ruined hope started on October 1996. Galogitho was the in his final year of Medical School, and Guild President of Makerere University.

At that time, the government had considered introducing cost-sharing measures and abolish free university education for the best students in the country, a move that Galogitho opposed as a student leader.

He mobilized students to protest the government’s decision and the student protests went on and on until the move was abandoned.

To many, he was the voice against social injustices meted on students by the higher institution of learning and to others; “a small man with a big voice and a convincing tongue.”

It is this protest that led to his dismissal, alongside 34 other students. It was the hammer that sealed his academic journey.

Galogitho says his expulsion shattered his dreams of being a medical doctor and completely closed him out of the world. In his view, he was “thrown in the shambles between hell and heaven, left dangling in the middle of nowhere.”

To date, he says, he has never understood the motive for his expulsion because, even though he was left with just weeks to complete his course, he was never given a fair hearing.

Born in Peita village, Mulanda Sub County in Tororo district, Galogitho started his primary school in Siwa Primary School a few kilometres from home where he seldom attended class for lack of school fees. He later joined St Peters College Tororo, and still, had a rough journey.

“I performed so well that the DEO then Mr Lumonya had wanted to get a government sponsorship but it wasn’t possible when I failed to raise the fees, I went back to the village to shoot the birds, it is here that the deputy headteacher and some two priests ‘excavated’ me from, first of all, to take me to the seminary and later to school,” he recounts.

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It was at the Seminary that Galogitho’s life changed, completing his O ‘level in 1988. He was later admitted at St. Mary’s College Kisubi-SMACK for his A ‘level, where he excelled in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. Galogitho believes that his journey to SMACK was paved by his outstanding O’level performance.

“In fact in the whole of my clan, I am the only one who has ever passed through St. Mary’s, so that was groundbreaking for the whole clan, in fact, if I had moved on with life, that would be very good for the clan, but now with this sinking into the rubbish pit of existence I sunk with them, that is how painful it is,” he told URN in an interview.

In March 1991, Galogitho completed Senior Six and joined Makerere University to pursue a career in medicine. Even though his dream was to be an Engineer, he enjoyed and loved the medicine course especially because it involved saving lives.

Although he joined Makerere on government sponsorship, Githo, as he came to be known, was concerned with what goes on in the lives of others and would always fight for their rights especially those who came from less privileged families.

In 1994, he was elected Guild Minister for Academic Affairs, a portfolio he personally called Minister for Cognitive Affairs. He recollects saving some medical and law students who were about to be expelled and stood with them until they completed their studies, serving under the government of the then Guild President Issa Bantalib Taligola, another Medical student with whom they were terminated.

Today, Githo recalls the time in 1995, when he was elected speaker of Lumumba Hall and later Guild President of the university, where living conditions were very poor, and students were ‘fed on more stones than rice.’

Galogitho says his reign at Makerere was full of challenges, a tough call to be a guild leader at a time when social injustices and economic apartheid were the core across Africa. According to him, the University Administration only aimed at siphoning money from the students, while running the university like a giant nursery school.

He says that during his time as guild president, Lecturers went on strike twice demanding for salary increment which prompted the University to levy a fee on the new students as a way of raising money to pay the lecturers. This according to Galogitho did not go well with the students sparking demonstrations across the campus, and the resultant expulsion.

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“I left that University first of all with less than nothing! Less than nothing, but the only thing I carried with me was pain, I had nowhere to go and remember now you are going back to the village, first of all, people had a lot of hopes in me, you are the one who was supposed to help them, now you need help from them” he recounts.

After the expulsion, Galogithos’ started a new journey at St. Paul’s College Mbale where he was accommodated by a Catholic Priest and joined the classroom as a biology teacher. He taught there for two years and started flipping from school to school in the districts of Mbale, Jinja and Tororo in pursuit for greener pastures.

Although his dreams had been shattered by the university, he never lost hope. Eleven years after his expulsion, a European couple offered to take him back to school to complete his studies; this time at Nairobi University. But Makerere University denied him a recommendation, a prerequisite for him to join Nairobi University.

When this failed, Githo decided to go for a construction job where he worked as a site supervisor in a construction company.  He says that if his life was left to follow its natural course, he would have been in a position to help communities.

The fire that gutted Makerere University’s Iconic Ivory Tower in September dug Galogitho wherever he had been buried. According to him, when he had about the news of the fire at the university, he borrowed a smartphone from a friend to log into his Facebook account and commented on one of the photos that were posted.

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He Posted “Instead of building for the future, we are now burning the future” this post, Githo says, a person who asked for his WhatsApp number and mobilized friends who unearthed him from the jungles and instantly bought him a smartphone.

That person is James William Mugeni, a medical clinical officer living in the US and a longtime friend to Galogitho.  Mugeni has since then launched a campaign dubbed “Friends of Githo,” to restore Galogitho’s life to humanity.

“After my search and appealing to well-wishers we have connected Galogitho Renny Stephen to the world and I am now launching a worldwide search for doctors, lawyers, social workers to restore Galogitho,” Mugeni’s Published Opinion in the East African Watch reads.

Engineer Emmanuel Mudali, a member on the steering committee aimed at restoring Githo’s life explains that they intend to connect him back to the world and live a kind of life he would have lived if he had not been expelled.

Mudali who also went to St Peter’s College for his secondary education described Galogitho as a darling to the entire school fraternity because of being ‘wizardly.’

“The things that Galogitho fought for rattled all students in higher learning institutions in the country at that time, the student’s position was that yes we may recognize that the state may not have sufficient resources to meet the services but at the same time the population was not able to meet these costs,” he said.

The friends now aspire to construct an institution of Social Justice in the names of Galogitho which they say will help to fight for social justice among the least advantaged people across Africa.

Source: URN