Attending my first assembly at Ntare, I overheard a colleague mumble something -in a hushed tone- that went like: “Guys, Kamu is around”. For a moment, I did not understand what a certain Kamu had to do with a Monday morning school gathering. I was not to wait for long.
Two long anthems and a few addresses later, a well-built, bespectacled bloke took to the dais, and cleared his throat. He, in distinct baritone, started his address with what we would soon learn was his trademark salutation: “Good morning Batabani (Runyankole for “sons”)”. It was Steven Kamuhanda, the school headmaster. His name had been shortened to ‘Kamu’ for easy and quick reference, especially during post-class chitchat that revolved around him. We also called him “Uncle”.
While that had been easy to decode, I later came across another nickname that I found quite interesting. It was “Bonshasha”, the then Deputy Headmaster and who, among many duties, was responsible for identifying fees defaulters. He also taught French, a then compulsory subject at the school for the first two years of O-level, but not fancied by many a student.
Wild legend has it that after he had meted out the dreaded subject’s questionnaires in an end of term exam, he wished everyone good luck. The trouble was that he had said it in French-Bonne Chance! It soon became his name, but most students had difficulty in pronouncing the name. A more convenient alternative was adopted. And thus the name “Bonshasha” was born. It would later get abridged to what we believed was a funkier version --“Bonshe”.
One of the hurdles we had to cope with at Ntare was morning prep, a dreary chore that required us to be in class by 5.45 am and scream our voices hoarse: “present” whenever our names were called by the prep supervisor. We would then either dose off, or do some meaningful revision on the cold furniture in the name of desks, many of us in anticipation for the breakfast gong, an hour later.
Our legs oft quivered in the face of the biting cold, but the consequences of missing this prep were quite dire. You faced either Kamu or Bonshe’s wrath, a couples of encounters after which you would invite your parent or guardian to whip your prat in the headmaster’s office. Many a student bought alarm clocks to counter this. Others requested a neighbor, or classmate to tap them up just in case the dreaded time found them in dreamland.
A memorable incident happened to a then S1 student who shall be called Eddy. One evening, he was requested by an S4 candidate to do the honors the following morning. As the usual time drew near, Eddy duly obliged, issuing a light pat on the fast-asleep candidate. As he was wont to do, our hero swiftly jerked out of his bed, spanked Eddy, and slumped back to bed.
What transpired between the two, thereafter, could not be ascertained by third parties… It was already rush hour as we tried to catch up with the roll call and all. But what became known for a fact was that the candidate missed the morning prep --and the roll call. And how he survived Kamu’s wrath? Ask me another!