Business graduate sold charcoal and reared pigs to raise tuition

By Yasiri J. Kasango
A business degree was not Jonathan Mbabazi’s first choice for his post-secondary studies. He had his eyes on medicine, envisioning a career of restoring health to patients.

However, when preparing to apply for the course at Uganda Christian University (UCU) in 2017, Mbabazi discovered that he did not have the financial resources to sustain paying the tuition for the five years he would be studying for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

He opted for Bachelor of Business Administration, whose tuition was comparatively cheaper and for fewer years. However, even with business courses, the 29-year-old had no stable source of income for the tuition. He established two enterprises – piggery and charcoal-selling – to help pay his bills.

Mbabazi usually had 10-15 pigs, whose piglets he sold at a profit. The married father of two says it was difficult for him to multitask in running his business, looking after his family, and concentrating on classwork. However, he says that God enabled him to surmount the challenge.

On many occasions, he lacked money to buy classwork handouts, something he says many of his classmates found affordable.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent education shutdowns in 2020 increased Mbabazi’s worries about school. First, when physical learning was stopped in March 2020, to reduce concentration centers that would accelerate the spread of the coronavirus, Mbabazi resigned to fate, thinking he would not graduate on schedule. He also started making plans for how to get more money to cater for a longer stay in the course.

However, UCU quickly introduced online learning, to ensure studies were not interrupted.

“I thank God that UCU continued teaching during the lockdown. We managed to do coursework and also write our exams through the online platforms,” says Mbabazi, who studied at the Kabalega College Masindi, one of the affiliate institutions of UCU, located in western Uganda.

However, he says online learning, though convenient for the circumstances, also offered a fair share of challenges.

“It was tough because one had to do a lot of research on their own, but I managed to complete my final semester,” he adds. Mbabazi was able to graduate on October 22, 2021, with a First-Class Degree.

He says he could not have had a better choice of an institution for his undergraduate studies. At UCU, Mbabazi says, Christian faith is extended to students through certain course units, such as World View, New and Old Testament. He believes this has enabled him to become more grounded in his spiritual life. 

With the knowledge he has gained at UCU, Mbabazi intends to expand his business enterprises, and even establish more, in order to be able to provide employment to some youth in his community.

Mbabazi is the third born of 11 children. His parents – Moses Byaruhanga and Jackline Kugonza –  live in Buliisa, western Uganda.

Before he joined UCU, Mbabazi pursued a diploma in business, specializing in accounting, from Uganda College of Commerce, where he, again, excelled with a First Class Diploma.

He attended Kibengeya Primary School from 1999 to 2005 and then Mukitale Development Foundation Secondary School from 2006-2009 for O’level. For A’level, Mbabazi attended Premier Secondary School Hoima from 2010 to 2011. All the schools are found in western Uganda.

Mbabazi is married to Charity Jovia Kobusingye, with whom he has two daughters – Smiles and Shanice