An educationist, marketer, farmer, and family man
BY ALEX TAREMWA
It is told that in the 1800s, an African warrior set out on a journey never attempted before and he was away for so long that his family lost hope of him ever returning. On a fateful evening as the sun was setting, he returned carrying beef on his back. As he interacted with his son around the fireplace after supper, he said to him, “Against all odds, the hero must come home in time for supper.”
Godfrey Sempungu’s life story is analogous to that. Born on April 8, 1979, three days before the overthrow of President Idi Amin, Sempungu has defied the odds to become Uganda Christian University (UCU)’s first alumnus to rise to the position of Associate Dean, Faculty of Business and Management.
He was born in the middle of a civil war, at home, with his grandmother as the midwife.
Hard knocks of life
A visit to his home in Kazinga, Kirowooza, Mukono District, gives one a glimpse of his many accomplishments. The spacious home, which he modestly refers to as a ‘hut’, has a well-kept compound, a poultry farm and plantation.
“But none of these would be in place without sacrifice. It has taken me many years to get here. For instance, I once maintained people’s compounds to earn a living,” Sempungu said. The other odd jobs he undertook include walking many kilometres every day during the 2001 census as a numerator.
“Not once did I go to school with even a quarter of my fees in hand. From Lugazi Community Boarding Primary School to Bishop’s West Primary when I sat for the Primary Leaving Examination, the fees were elusive.” “In fact when I joined UCU in 1999, my father, Godfrey Musisi, pleaded with the acting Vice Chancellor at the time, Bishop Eliphaz Maari, to allow my brother David Kibuuka and I to study as the tuition was being mobilised.”
Armed with only Shs200,000 of the required shs800,000, Sempungu and his brother reported. Although Bishop Maari gave this proposal a nod, the story would change in 2000 when Prof Stephen Noll was appointed the university’s first vice chancellor. “Prof Noll introduced a 10 percent charge on students who paid tuition fees after acertain deadline, a fine I had to contend with until 2002 when I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Concurrent Diploma in Education.”
“I paid penalties the whole time. Every time the administrators in the accounts department saw me, they knew it was problems … again,” he told The Standard. Upon graduation in October 2002, a call for teaching assistants at UCU was made and he applied to the Faculty of Education. Sempungu was recruited: he graduated on a Friday and the following Monday, he was in class teaching. “Fresh out of the university with big dreams and aspirations, I was however not comfortable with a job that paid Shs120,000 at the time.
I thus boosted this income by teaching commerce and economics at Our Lady of Africa Secondary School, Namilyango, for Shs70,000 a month. “My first month’s salary there went into buying a bicycle to cut on transport costs to and from school so as to save some money for the Master in Business Administration (MBA) programme at Makerere University, which I started in 2004.” Sempungu said that this academic boost enabled him to join Muteesa 1 Royal University in 2007 as one of the lecturers who laid the foundation for the business department, now a faculty. “I worked on their first curriculum for the degree programme and diploma in business management.
In 2008 I became a visiting lecturer at Uganda Martyrs University (UMU), Nkozi, until 2009 when I got a scholarship to study at the NLA University in Norway,” he narrates.
Born to teach
Sempungu’s teaching career did not begin at UCU though. The profession spans generations in his family. Both his grandfathers were teachers and his mother, Margaret Musisi, was the proprietor of Mukono Hill Kindergarten.
When he completed his Senior Four at Bishop’s Senior Secondary School, his mother tried to get him into Shimoni Teacher Training College but Sempungu was defiant saying teaching is not a profession he was willing to pursue. Despite the lack of school fees, he manoeuvered through A-level at the same school and was later left as a caretaker teacher at his mother’s school. Still he was reluctant to become a professional teacher.
“I told my brother: Where are we going with this teaching thing? Our grandfathers were teachers, our mother too. Their reasoning stops at teaching. Should we really take the same direction?”
Road to associate dean
Upon his return from pursuing another MA in Norway in 2012, Sempungu decided to settle at one university, UCU, to build his career.
He was appointed by the then Dean, Mr Vicent Kisenyi, as the in-charge of marketing for the faculty. In 2013, he became a fulltime member of staff, after ten years of service at the university. He currently chairs UCU’s Committee on Communications and Marketing.
In 2015 he was appointed coordinator of the MBA programme, and later associate dean of the Business and Management faculty in July 2016. “Working on the various committees gave the powersthat-be the confidence that I could handle. I have been tested and given my time atthe university since 1999, I have so much knowledge. I believe that is why I was appointed associate dean,” he said.
“Among other things, I have seen the transformation of the business faculty grow from a mere department of just one degree programme in 2002 to a faculty of over 13 degree programmes now.” Family man and farmer Sempungu is married to Proscovia Namyalo, an administrative assistant at UCU, and the two have three girls: Favour Tricia Kiwummulo, Splendour Emmanuella Tusuubira, Isabella Zoe Mirembe and a boy – Joshua Blessing Naggagga.
They lost their firstborn in a home accident in 2008. When not playing with his children at home, he is on the farm rearing guinea fowls and poultry, and growing maize and cassava. His other hobby is emceeing, something he does under Equator Function Managers, an events company he cofounded.
He also does consultancy work, public speaking and staff training for several organisations. Asked what his best life achievement has so far been, he points out his family vowing to raise his children in a manner that appreciates the good in people.
“I want to bring them up as people of character who will work to be transformers, a breed that will be sensitive to other people’s feelings and people who will go a long way to shape our society,” he said. Sempungu’s advice to others: “You can limit your success by limiting your thoughts.
Take the risks, stay focused, trust in God. If my faith was limited, I wouldn’t have made it this far.” Sempungu’s mentor, Vincent Kisenyi, Formerly dean of the Faculty of Business and Administration, described him as a hands-on man, hard-working and resultoriented individual who is always available when called upon to serve.
“I was not surprised by his appointment. In fact I always told him to prepare for such responsibility. He is a people-person, openminded, someone I could rely on whenever I needed things to move,” he said.