Opinion

Monica Ntege; the strict disciplinarian who ‘hated’ jeans in the Library

BY ALEX TAREMWA 

The news of the retirement of the University Librarian, Monica Ntege sparked several memories of my student and staff days at Uganda Christian University (UCU). I first encountered the feared Ntege in 2011 at the Bishop Tucker – now Theological Library. I had come to return a book that morning while playing music through headphones on my iPod. 

One of the library staff heard the music from the earphones I suppose and thought it was my phone that was ringing. I showed her the phone and it wasn’t ringing but she insisted. While we argued, Ntege opened her door and summoned me to her office. She asked that I handover the phone to her for “safekeeping” until when I learn the library etiquette. Contrary to popular opinion, she was nice to me. I was disarmed by her charm. I handed the phone over my MTN Katikitiki and watched her slip it into her desk drawer. I didn’t pick the phone from her all semester but I kept checking in with her every week. 

When the library shifted to the swanky Hamu Mukasa premises, I picked my spot right next to her office on the first floor. Our paths crossed almost every day of the week but whenever she would stroll around the library, students would be ducking and whispering. She is the type that will call your name if you walk past her office door without greeting her. She is nonsense and uncompromising but at the same time, soft at heart and straight as an arrow. Incorruptible! 

When I joined UCU as a Staff Writer at The Standard, she became my best reader. Over lunch at a kafunda in Wandegeya, she would carry for me avocado as we talked about the latest issue together with my colleagues, Ronald Awany, Arthur Matsiko and Doreen Kajeru. We called her “Maama” and she called “baana bange” (my children). We even worked out a relationship where she contributed regular articles about the Library – guides, dress code to The Standard. Every UCU student probably faced Ntege’s wrath over the dress code. It was a very controversial issue that most students – especially females – thought she had a thing against jeans in particular. 

Unbeknownst to them, Ntege also wore jean trousers when she worked as a photojournalist in her early days. When I interviewed her for an Independence article in The Observer, she pulled out a photo album of her youthful days wearing jeans while she covered some of Uganda’s landmark events like Independence Day, the Kabaka’s Coronation Ceremony.

She just knew where and when to wear them and where to draw the line. That is the discipline that she has tried to instil into students and staff in her 33 years of service to the University. She is a strict disciplinarian and she exuded this discipline in her work and her personality. 

If there is one thing that I learned from her is to be brutally honest with myself and the people I work with. In this society filled with double-faced “friends,” we need more Nteges in our lives. But, unfortunately, they don’t make them like her anymore. Enjoy your retirement Monica, we owe you a lot of gratitude. 

Alex Taremwa is an alumni and former staff at UCU.

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