Abby Ayebaze, 31, is an Eco- tourism Manager at Rukararwe Partnership for Rural Development and Managing Director of Bushenyi Municipal Academy, in Bushenyi district, south-western Uganda. She is a mother of two staying in Kicwamba, Ishaka division, Bushenyi-ishaka municipality.
Ayebaze got married to Hillary Musinguzi (RIP) a media personality in Ishaka town. The year was 2014. Like other couples, the couple sailed on smoothly, and dreamt big to realize a bright future. They invested in several projects including a primary school (Bushenyi Municipal Academy) in 2015 with a mission of providing their community with education. Hardly three years together, Hillary passed on in a motor accident, an unfortunate incident that painfully ushered Ayebaze into widowhood at twenty-eight.
By the time Ayebaze’s husband passed on in 2017, their school had taken shape, but with primary one and two. Life has not been the same again. Managing the school and grief made the widow’s life hard.
The first days after Hillary’s departure were a complete blur, and saw Ayebaze’s life turn upside down as she faced new, but bitter reality.
“Life became harder because previously we were two directors, and now I remained the only one to manage everything. I had to revise strategies to make sure that our aims and objectives set from the beginning would be sustained even when I was alone.” Ayebaze recalls
They had planned to add another class but with what happened, Ayebaze paused a little until 2019 when she added another one after recovering from the shock. This pause helped her to first understand the dynamics of school management and cope with grief.
The wave didn’t sweep everything. Ayebaze’s school project kept growing as more parents kept trusting her with their children. The enrollment has since then grown from 150 to 250. The management of school didn’t not become too hard because, the deceased had involved his wife in day-day running of the school.
“I was directly involved though we used to part-time. I would go to work as he attended to the school and vice-versa, unlike now when I must give more time to the project because I want it to grow.” She affirms
After finding that she couldn’t manage the school alone because she had no formal education management training, Ayebaze set up a strong management and PTA committees to help her make meaningful consultations on school management.
The school management committee has since its inception undertaken critical responsibilities including proper coordination of school programs, making policy towards pupils’ progress, whereas the PTA has actively facilitated encouraged all aspects of parental involvement in the running of the school.
“I wouldn’t have managed the school alone. We had these two bodies put in place so as to sustain the school. I also got in touch with widows who are in the same line of investment so that they could give me tips on good management. They have empowered me penetrate and maneuver.” She points out
Ms Ayebaze has worked hard to see the dream of the two come true even when the husband had departed. She also felt the need to leave a legacy and in this, she arranged a memorial service and fundraising drive in 2018 which was organized in collaboration with her late husband’s friends and in the end realized a memorial block. Ayebaze had been asked by the ministry of education to separate nursery from primary section, but was limited by finances. The fundraising drive put in place a three-classroom block (Hillary memorial block), which currently accommodates the nursery section.
She has also been able to manage the school using her training in management. Her experience as a manager has helped her manage the school as well. Being close to people who are good education managers in the community has also seen her move well.
“I have closely worked with education officers, inspectors, and headteachers around so that they can advise me accordingly. I have used some of the experienced education managers in the management of the school, who have advised me technically,” she adds
Living at the face of single life
Being a young and single mother in her 30s, Ayebaze is not prone to world temptations because she is a human being as she admits, but she has chosen to give her life to Jesus Christ to be able to guard her life against many life-ruining attractions of the world. She has since 2017 been engaging in time-time counseling at church and in the community.
Ayebaze is also careful with which people she moves with in her single life. She has surrounded herself with responsible people. She makes herself busy at work and school management to ensure that her mind doesn’t yield to temptations.
“After the death of my husband, I joined new groups because some old friends had some other targets. I had to move with developmental groups. In weekends and some evening time, I join social clubs that are developmental like Lions Club of Bushenyi where I fellowship with visionary and influential members who can help me. My counsellors have encouraged me to keep focused if I am to realize a better future,” she explains
She has navigated storms in life to gain a stable and rewarding experience at the end.
Financial management can be tricky and problematic for new widows, but Ayebaze is swimming through. She is and has been able to prioritize her obligations, avoided irrevocable decisions, and methodically made plans to be able to sail through.
She is slow to act in the line of spending considering that running a school through its baby steps requires some good amount of money. She avoids unnecessary expenditures and manages the resources sparingly since the school has not yet reached a level of supporting itself financially.
Her project is a demanding one and she sometimes takes manageable loans from financial institutions to keep it going.
Making a contribution in society
Ayebaze, who is a mother of two has provided a stable home for them. She has challenged marginalization and stood up to serve her community, most especially in Ruharo where she resides and operates a school. She is a self-made woman who has taken time to know herself and is enjoying her life.
Her school has given Ruharo village a good and visible face. Different people around the school are able to supply it with services for its daily running.
Ayebaze employs about twenty-one staff at her school. These employees get salaries and improve their lives.
The school provides education to the people in Bushenyi and beyond thus fighting illiteracy and contributing to national development.
Being an eco-tourism manager at Rukararwe, Ayebaze ensures actual running of eco-tourism operations and this is a contribution.
She is an active member of Lions Club of Uganda, Bushenyi branch where she touches humanity through involving herself in sets of activities.
Being a young widow, Ayebaze gets challenges of economic hardships, loneliness, little difficulty in social interactions, absence of husband’s will, and other unique challenges.
Managing a school comes with challenges like fees defaulters, high operational costs, competition, but she has hardened to meet her targets, but she has addressed the challenges by surrounding herself with responsible people who give her moral, spiritual, and financial support when and where necessary.
“In school management. I plan ahead when making my budgets, take small loans to cover extensions, call parents meetings where I table challenges and we look for solutions altogether.” says Ayebaze
Advice to fellow widows
- As a widow, you must carefully make a selection of the people that you move and associate with, see what they advise you because your friend tells the public what you are.
- You must give yourself to God and know that with God everything is possible.
- Believe in yourself and have self-confidence and motivation, knowing that you can make it. If you believe in yourself, and feel confident in yourself, you can do anything.
- If you are in any business or project management, you must lay strategies and work with others. You must be a good listener, lest you will clash.
She is determined to make more plans for bigger milestones, stay in the present, and take care of herself and her children, and put off the things that stand on her way to having a better life.