‘Life was hard’ – Rev. Dr. Mulindwa, new PhD recipient

By Kefa Senoga
For the first time in 15 years, the Rev. Dr. Mulindwa Richard Muwonge is not in a university class. He is also not chasing after a deadline for a class assignment. And this is because he recently completed his education, earning a Doctor of Philosophy in Biblical and Religious Studies from the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

Mulindwa, the Church Relations Manager at Uganda Christian University (UCU), joined Uganda’s Kyambogo University in 2009 to pursue  Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies. Upon receiving that award, he immediately enrolled for Master of Science in Public Health at UCU and thereafter, Master of Divinity, also from UCU. 

Now, there is a PhD for a boy whose parents passed away before he was 12 years old and his grandmother-guardian just four years later. This is nothing short of a miracle for the youth who could hardly afford to eat. When Buule Samson and Mary Katusabe departed, the role of looking after their son rested with the latter’s grandmother who died by the time the grandson was age 16. At the time, he had just completed Senior One at Lugazi High School in central Uganda. 

UCU Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance David Mugawe (left); UCU Chaplain, the Rev. Eng. Paul Wasswa Ssembiro (center); and the Rev. Dr. Mulindwa (right) at the GAFCON conference in Kigali last year.
UCU Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance David Mugawe (left); UCU Chaplain, the Rev. Eng. Paul Wasswa Ssembiro (center); and the Rev. Dr. Mulindwa (right) at the GAFCON conference in Kigali last year.

“After the death of my grandmother, I became independent and survived on my own. Life was hard, tough and full of struggles,” Mulindwa said, explaining how he took up odd jobs to raise money for his school fees.

However, he was only able to raise money for Senior Two. By Senior Three, he was no longer in position to raise the amount of money required for his fees. 

“When the school where I was studying got wind of my dilemma, they employed me,” Mulindwa said.  “I was cooking porridge at school, cleaning classrooms and doing casual work. In return, I would not pay school fees.” 

He notes that despite his commitments at school, he would find two days in a week to work in some garages to earn more income.

Through that arrangement, Mulindwa was able to stay in school up to the second term of Senior Five, when he dropped out because the school got a new headteacher who cancelled the work-study plan. 

Mulindwa kept out of school for the next seven years. During this break from formal education, he found support from the family of the Rev. Capt. Titus Baraka. Their paths crossed when Baraka became the parish priest of Mulindwa’s home area in Mukono district.

With the support from vision for Africa, Mulindwa pursued a certificate program in motor vehicle mechanics at the Nakawa Vocational Training Institute. He was later employed by the  Mukono diocese as a driver and mechanic.

Mulindwa says he seized the opportunity of working in the diocese to get a bursary in the church-founded schools to continue with formal education. He joined Mukono High School to complete Senior Five and later moved to Kisowera Secondary School for Senior Six.

“Studying as an old man was a challenge as I often got mocked,” he recalled. “But I had to swallow my pride and go for what I wanted.”

His bachelor’s degree at Kyambogo University was sponsored by Good Samaritans from the USA, the Master of Public Health Leadership at UCU was sponsored by Save the Mothers while the Master of Divinity was through a scholarship from the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology.

He plans to use his PhD to advance the mission of spreading Christianity through teaching, learning and research to contribute valuable insights to the church, engaging in pastoral work, preaching the gospel, and serving as a role model to inspire others to pursue further studies.

Mulindwa’s area of research was marriage, with a focus on “the drivers of infidelity among members of the clergy in the Church of Uganda.” 

He believes that without the patience of his family members — wife Deborah and children — he would not have completed his PhD program. Despite being sponsored for his education, in many instances, he still had to contribute some funds towards the expenses, thereby depriving his family of some of their basic needs.

He notes that balancing family time with work, and studies was not easy for him. But he did it. Mulindwa also serves as the chaplain for Makerere College School.