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Illicit CP - August 2004
Sunday Monitor, Kampala, 8 August 2004
Wesonga Was Caned for Cash
By Grace Naisamura
He used to offer himself to be caned by pupils who came from rich families. Reason? To earn his daily bread - some money. "My parents died before I started school. During my primary education in my village (Butua), I hardly had anything to eat," he told Sunday Monitor recently.
"The pupils who were better off would tell me to first lie down so that they would give me some money. I would earn ten cents for every five strokes," says Bubulo West MP, Edward Wesonga Kamana.
He was born in 1945 to Mr Festus Matanda and Ms Kezia Mwemesa (both deceased) in Butua village, Bugimanayi parish, Wagogo sub-county in Mbale district - formerly Bugisu district.
Butua is situated under a hill called Sigunga. It is slightly a hilly place but awash with green vegetation. Locals here grow mainly coffee, matooke, millet and beans and Malewa (bamboo shoots). The bamboo grows wildly in specific areas around Mount Elgon.
When he was 13, Wesonga was an illiterate herds boy, rearing his uncle's goats and cattle. "See I had no one to take me to school until the village chief, Mr Kamot Apire intervened and took me to Butua, a mud and wattle grass thatched sub grade primary school - to start my primary one in 1959.
According to Wesonga, donning school uniform, at the time, was not a must. One could even dress in tattered clothes, as long as they were clean.
Any pupil was also obliged to bathe in the morning, keep fingernails short, and also be humble when addressing elders.
"I learnt reading very fast and anyway, I was too clever and too tall for P1. Actually in that same year I studied both P1 and P2 in different schools. In 1960, I joined Singunga which was a fully fledged mud and wattle primary school for my P3," Wesonga says.
All of a sudden he was left on his own; getting school fees became a nightmare.
"This was when I had to lie down for pupils who were better off than me (from affluent families) to cane me. These pupils actually derived fun from it. They would beat me in turns, at the rate of ten cents for every five strokes," Wesonga reminisces.
He partly spent the money on eats, like ripe bananas. His tuition fees for primary three, four and five were derived from hard work; he constructed the school's mud and wattle kitchen. Through this toil, he earned Shs 27 per term to pay for his education.
In Primary six, he was appointed the head prefect. His new duties, however, did not offer him time to concentrate in class - resulting into poor marks at the end of the year. He had to repeat the class the following year.
Wesonga, however, emerged as the best pupils in the Eastern region, earning him a scholarship for two years at Nabumali Junior School. But this was not without pain. He had to walk 14 miles to and from school. Most folks in Butua had to foot, since only two people in the village (chiefs) owned bicycles. In 1967, he joined Equatorial Pillais, a private secondary school for his senior one and two education.
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