Ndishakiye on mission to combat Ugandan illiteracy

By Kefa Ssenoga
When you sit down for a conversation with Caleb Ndishakiye, he does not need to mention his love for literature. His diction validates that. And if you sit with him for a longer time, you also will discover that he has a deep passion for communication, the promotion of literacy and sharing knowledge. 

Ndishakiye has been fortunate to earn a living from his passion. His first attempt at teaching was in 2011 during his long holidays after writing his end of Senior Six national exams. An unlicensed teacher, he nevertheless taught literature at Seseme Girls Secondary School and Mutorele Boys Secondary School. Both schools are in Ndishakiye’s native area of Kisoro, southwestern Uganda.

Despite the passion of sharing knowledge, Ndishakiye did not envisage a career in teaching. Early in his secondary education, he developed a love for law, which he applied to study  at Uganda Christian University (UCU).

“I wanted to pursue a course in law when I joined UCU, but interestingly, I was admitted for education,” he said. “I decided to pursue it and still be excellent at it!”

Ndishakiye and Patricia on their Dec. 7, 2019, wedding day at Thornycroft Chapel Kyaggwe, UCU.
Ndishakiye and Patricia on their Dec. 7, 2019, wedding day at Thornycroft Chapel Kyaggwe, UCU.

He has never regretted the idea of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education. He acknowledges that this move has had a significant impact on who he is now. Ndishakiye began his studies at UCU in 2012 and graduated in 2015. While at UCU, He was in the Honors College.

Barely a year after graduation, Ndishakiye was hired as a teaching assistant in the UCU foundations department. He was primarily teaching writing and study skills, and occasionally teaching in the literature department, particularly course units like the Bible as literature and other English language short courses.

His teaching journey at UCU began in 2016 after returning from a one-year mission and a leadership development program at Nairobi Chapel, Kenya, courtesy of the UCU chaplaincy and the community as a whole. 

“UCU, particularly the Thornycroft Chapel, had a partnership with Nairobi Chapel in Kenya, where two missionaries were sent for a program. I was one of the two,” Ndishakiye says.

He was attached to the Teens’ church, which also is famously known as Club Expressions, an experience he says exposed them to an international perspective to life. 

In 2018, after two years of teaching at UCU, Ndishakiye got a one-year opportunity to teach English language and Literature in English at Seroma Christian High School in Mukono. He needed more time to attend to his newly found passion for literacy programming and children’s literature through Glow-Lit Uganda, an organization he founded earlier that year.  With UCU, he continued to serve until 2020 when Uganda closed schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In August 2020, the Reading Association of Uganda invited Ndishakiye to work on a project that was opening up in Uganda. 

“I was invited as the Programs Specialist to support the national technical portfolio of the association, and support the development of storybooks in Luganda and Runyankore-Rukiga,” he said.

He noted that in the role, his other tasks were “establishing libraries in Government primary schools and supporting their management and use, training of teachers and developing materials to support the lower primary school teaching of reading Luganda and Runyankore-Rukiga.” 

The Room to Read Uganda project at the Reading Association of Uganda is sponsored by Room to Read, an organization that, according to their website, envisions a world in which “all children can pursue a quality education that prepares them to lead fulfilled lives and make positive change — in their families, communities and the world.” 

Working closely with the Ministry of Education and Sports, the project has developed 154 storybook titles, two learner books, and two teachers’ guides in Luganda and Runyankore-Rukiga. It also involves training with teachers, government, publishers, and book value-chain players to build writing, illustration, design, and editing capacity, especially for children’s literature.

Ndishakiye argues that the Ugandan book market has not given sufficient focus to children’s literature. He is now an advocate for quality children’s literature production, distribution and use. 

Ndishakiye is the third born of eight children of Richard and Lydia Ndishakiye. He completed his primary education at Muganza Primary School in Kisoro district. He studied O’level at Chahi Seed Senior Secondary School and A’level at Trinity College Kabale. Compassion International, an international charity organization, paid part of his school fees in primary and secondary school. At the university, he says, the charity paid all the school fees. 

He is married to Patricia and the couple has a son, Jordan, age two.