By Irene Best Nyapendi
Winning the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Kampala campus guild presidency did not come as a surprise to Zedekkia Ssekyonda. The fourth-year student in the School of Medicine (SoM) has had a history of leadership.
“I heard a voice telling me that I can do it,” he said. “I think it was the voice of God.”
Ssekyonda was emboldened by a desire for challenge, overcoming obstacles, previous victories and experience in shepherding others.
“I had never lost an election,” he says, adding that he served as a president of a debate club, minister of education and editor of the News link club, which he founded while in high school at St. Henry’s College Kitovu, Masaka.
Ssekyonda credits God for all of his success, saying, “In a very short time, I was popular in law school, medical school and the school of dentistry. That couldn’t be my own making but God’s.”
It’s not that his life has been without adversity.
He lost his father in 2005, then an uncle in Namibia who had picked up the financial burden. A pioneer student at the UCU SoM that started in 2018, Ssekyonda was forced to drop out after the third year.
After his uncle died, he studied on borrowed time for three years without a tuition source, suffering from depression and uncertainty of ability to sit for exams. After the third year, his worst fear happened – he was discontinued for failure to clear tuition. He had to register for the dead year.
He applied for part time work in some companies around the city hoping to raise his own tuition, but was not successful.
Ssekyonda lost hope as chances for him to become a doctor diminished. At the same time, his mother suffered two strokes. He was physically disconnected from his friends (classmates), and every time someone asked him what he was up to, he had no answer.
He struggled to stay afloat and used that time to reflect about his life, improving his faith through prayer and fasting. Once in a while, he would open his medical books, but every time he did, he got depressed.
Ssekyonda found some solace in an old companion in the form of reading and writing. He drowned himself in reading novels and writing.
“I have never written more than I did during that time,” he recalls.
He crafted his writing prowess at St. Henry’s, where he also practiced amateur journalism. In June last year, he published an online, long form piece titled “Waiting on Fate.” He also published a novel, “Nile River,” a fictional mystery story set in an unnamed African country and USA.
God showed up for him yet again this year when he received a call from someone he did not know, Reverend Eric Fenton of Christ Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas. The priest, who also was sponsoring another SoM student, Emmanuel Mugoya, offered to clear all of Ssekyonda’s fees balance and also pay his tuition for the remaining two years.
“This is someone I didn’t know and never met,” Ssekyonda said. “We only communicate via email and whatsapp. He says when he heard my story he was touched. Someone approached him and told him my story.”
With this unexpected encounter, he believed more that Jesus indeed paid it all.
“After Fenton made a background check about me, I was notified of his decision to support my education. He did not even look for me. It’s me who got his email address for purposes of making acquaintances and thanking him,” he says. “I know all this sounds miraculous, but that’s it. He cleared my arrears and paid upfront for my first semester fourth year before any communication had been established between us.”
As guild president, he has pledged integrity and transparency in order to earn the trust of the students. As president, Ssekyonda has an ambitious plan of installing a solar powered water purifier for his constituents. He says it is costly for students to keep buying safe water for drinking.
“One needs like 1.5 liters of water a day, but we spend a lot of money buying yet we can harvest water here, purify it and make it safe for drinking,” he says.
He hopes to enlist the partnership of water organizations as sponsors because guild funds alone are insufficient.
He also plans to use student co-curricular activities such as sports and the cultural gala to foster unity and cohesion among students from the different schools of law, dentistry and medicine. As these schools located at the UCU Kampala Campus are geographically separate, part of the new president’s plan is to bring them together in groups to compete as students, not schools.
“Students across the campus will be distributed among five groups, irrespective of faculty,” he said. “It is within these groups that they will vie for the top prize. Imagine law, medical and dental students in one group strategizing to win the set prize.”
He has further pledged to invite expert guests to talk to educate, inform and inspire the young professionals.
With the new lease on life to study at UCU, to become a doctor, and now this leadership role, Ssekyonda is grateful.