By Enock Wanderema and Jimmy Siyasa
It’s never too late to pursue what you want.
That’s the message from Sylvia Nabayego, a married mother of two and the oldest in her undergraduate class pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication at Uganda Christian University (UCU). It’s a career path she wanted more than a decade ago, but one that did not have the quality reputation it holds at UCU today.
Sixteen years ago, Nabyego pursued an Undergraduate in Human Resource management and graduated in 2008. Shortly thereafter she got married to Peter Kauma.
In 2019 and with her in-law , Dr. John Senyonyi, serving as Vice Chancellor, she returned to what was still her passion – journalism and communications. She surprised herself and those around her with a first semester Grade Point Average of 4.07 of 5.0.
“Being out of school after all these years, then I get back and I’m able to get the grades I did, especially in semester one!” said Nabayego who juggled her studies with being a wife, a mother to children, ages 10 and 7, and an off-campus student living 15 miles away.
“I had to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every day, bathe the children, make them breakfast and then get them ready for school,” she said. “Their dad would drop them at school on his way to work. After that, I would then prepare to leave for school.”
Nabayego has many lessons to impart, including that mothers and fathers can and should return to school.
“I never start what I can’t complete,” she said, grinning widely. “Besides, what have I to lose? It is only a three-year course…when you’re intentional, you find a way to make it work.”
Her lean physique and amicable personality bely her seniority in class. Her experience in many aspects of life over many of her classmates gives her the courage to joke that she is old enough to be a mother of some of her classmates.
“Be confident about your decision,” Nabayego continues. “If you have decided to go for it, then carry on. If you have a support system, lean on it. Get all the help you can from your lecturers and classmates.”
Coming to UCU with a perception that the institution is too restrictive on students, especially on their dress code, Nabayego reminds us that the core values and policies set up are to guide a student into being a better citizen. Attired in formal pants and blazer, she shares her enthusiasm for sports, music and movies, admitting these topics might have helped her better blend into the circles of many of her classmates, many of who speak highly of her.
“She is kind and generous,” says Dalton Mujuni, a student of journalism and a friend of Nabayego. “In fact, she helped pay tuition balance for a colleague, in order to be able to write exams.”
For Nabayego, the most difficult part of her student role is being away from her children after being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years.
“The hardest bit was not being present in their lives as much I used to be and having to worry about how the children would adjust,” she said in a quasi-British accent. Nabayego spent over 13 years in the UK, living with her mother. There, she worked and also studied.
Unlike younger and single students, the onset of the Covid-19 was, for Nabayego, a blessing as the virtual learning allowed her more time with her family. The children, too, were home during two lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus.