My Shaping Years

At primary school, I had won, several times; academic prizes in a number of ward as well as district challenges. My mother always told me that ‘you are just like your father; he was a smart guy at school and even at work’. In a way this inspired me and was very eager to meet him. I remember to have written him several letters that I could not send since I had not known his address. Then, I could never even picture out what the face of my father looks like, having seen him for the last time when I was five, and it was at night, transiently, at my uncle’s place in theTabora police quarters.

My story would never be complete if I didn’t mention that I was a student with a strong interest in exploring opportunities for leadership. On several occasions would I be given leadership roles by my teachers or fellow students by means of unanimous decisions or even votes. I would say it is never by accident but rather my conduct was that of a listener, a problem solver, a unifier, an organizer, a team player, and a realist, to say the least. Having multiple responsibilities at school has been my usual life.

At Kitongo, from Standard I, I was a Class Monitor until I became a School prefect at Standard IV, was in charge of projects at mainly the school garden. At Kigoma Secondary School, I was a Member of Parliament for Coy D representing my dormitory in the school assembly and later I was appointed an interim Vice Head Prefect. I remember to have been involved in a big strike and was suspended for 100 days. I faced serious criticisms from my mother back home and on going back to school I went back praying to not be expelled completely.

My formative years at school opened doors for me to engage in the young pioneers group, they are termed ‘Chipukizi’ and are famous to date with the ruling party in Tanzania (Chama Cha Mapinduzi, CCM), and based on that I attended several training and community activity camps that were organized by district leaders. From this I enjoyed training in ideology and community service. This inspired me into leadership and political activities and when I joined Kigoma Secondary School, I immediately became active in the CCM Youth Wing activities until they were banned in 1993; although I was an active participant in the political activities in the region when at Kigoma Secondary School.

One of the most enjoyable experiences at school for me was the sporting and cultural competitions for schools, the UMISSETA, Umoja wa Michezo ya Shule za Sekondari Tanzania. I have always been active in a multitude of sports and artistic performances, as a student and currently as a Parliamentarian. I remember to have trained strongly when I was in Secondary School and excelled to a level of participating in the Nation-wide championships, which were staged in Morogoro. I used to participate in volleyball, basketball and table tennis. I also stage-played drama at school and was in the English club. I remember to have played Waiyaki (from the River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong’o) and many other characters appearing in a number of reading books for literature and just regular drama books, and in most cases I was proclaimed the best. I was able to obtain high marks in English.

The experience in sporting events, debate and drama clubs is, to date, remain cemented on the floor of my heart. It was fun and the bond and networking it created was so strong and up to now I am still in contact with some of the people whom I acquainted with then.

I was a constant visitor and friends to Librarians. I borrowed and read a lot of books then. Today I collect a lot of good books but I can’t read them as I struggle to find time in my busy schedule. As a young man and student then, I loved and enjoyed reading novels and autobiographies of prominent figures in politics, the arts and sciences; like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Thomas Sankara and the list goes on. I loved, and still in love today, history and philosophy, but unfortunately as a student I never scored A’s in History perhaps because I learnt irrelevant history! I read a lot about Adam Smith, John Locke, Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Sun Tzu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Julius Kambarage Nyerere and on. I was thrilled by ideas in their books. I was one of the few students back then who would read Sir Isaac Newton’s history, and his theories in the book Naturalis Principia Matematica. In part, I could say, looking backwards, that perhaps my performance at O’level would have been much better if only I had stuck to reading the books in the curriculum, because I spent much of my time reading academically irrelevant materials and novels than recommended textbooks. As a young student I read a lot more than today and perhaps this contributed positively in a different way. I owe much, my early maturity in thoughts and practice, to my readings.

I passed my secondary school exams with good passes. Our school’s academic performance was deteriorating very sharply those years, quite in contrast to its portfolio performances in the years before us. I did not get the best scores to take me to a school of my dreams, but I got into? a better school. I was appointed to attend my high school studies, majoring in physics, chemistry and biology at Shinyanga Secondary School. I did not like the school as for four consecutive years there was no single record of a high school student passing. It had no high school teachers, no electricity, no regular water supply, and few books at the library. This means that the learning environment was never supportive for students to pass. The news about the school was a nightmare to an ambitious student like me. I made a lot of efforts to change my school but I failed initially, only to become successful when it was too late.

It was this mission that landed me, for the first time in my life, to Dar es salaam. I considered it the most important mission of my life because to me passing my final high school exams was an obligation that had no any excuse, as it was the only way, for a poor boy like me, to go to University. So I gave this task a very serious outlook and had to amass fair to go to Dar es salaam, at the Ministry of Education and Culture. I was confident enough to force an appointment with the Director of Education in charge of secondary education, Mr. Ndeki, then. He wondered why I never ended up low down there to the desk officers in charge of transfers; but he at the end listened and considered my case favourably although too late.

I was to be transferred to Tambaza High School, from Shinyanga Secondary School. The transfer letter came to me too late, I had completed a full single term and was already elected School Head prefect. The headmaster, Mr. Wilson Mbanga, a renowned and dedicated teacher of his kind, summoned me to his office and broke the news and he allowed me time to think before he could encourage me not to move promising that he would bring more teachers at Shy-bush (as it was nicknamed to differentiate it from a commercial school in Shinyanga town that was called Shy-com) and he would turn around the performance, and face of the school. He said, addressing me formally as he usually did; “Mr. Head Prefect, don’t you want to be part of the history of the transformation of the school? I am telling you in a year, students will be shifting again to Shy-bush…” I could never rely much on his advice, much as I liked and trusted him, as he was so much fond of me and my contribution as a student leader, that he felt leaving was a loss to the school. I gave him the benefit of doubt. I was so much in a dilemma for a few days, and finally had no option but to rely on his advice. I stayed. Perhaps today, looking backwards, I could say this was a very important trade-off I made and could probably have changed my destiny considering I had wrongly chosen. I passed my final high school exams with flying colours, scoring the highest grades in my class, despite the hurdles.

I remember at Shy-bush a lot of our classmates had transferred to other better schools and the few who remained behind became lonely, and perhaps this was our strength that we chose to adapt and help eah others. We became like a family of brothers and we lived so close to one another, sharing study materials, comparing notes and tackle difficult problems together. Each week end, we would find some past exam papers and set time as if we were in an exam situation and answer it, and later mark each other’s papers. This built our confidence, speed as well as improved our skills continuously.

I remember our second master, Mr. Kisandu (a.k.a Mwananchi) devoted his efforts to making it possible for us to pass Biology, while Mr. Mbanga, the headmaster, had to convince Mr. Prudence (then a young graduate from the University of Dar es salaam) to accept to come and teach us Physics and Chemistry, he accepted; and when he came our hopes were reinvigorated for we now had teachers for all the three principal subjects. At this moment, we had remained with only one year to cover topics for form five as well as form six altogether. I wouldn’t forget the mentorship we received from the laboratory technician Mr. Mugitta from whom we learnt quite a great deal. We became so friendly to our teachers and our discipline finally paid off. We all passed and continued to next stage.

Being from a humble family, faced with a lot of financial challenges was in itself ‘Bachelor’s degree’ training for me. My needs for cash that would enable me the capability to buy school text books, to have photocopies, some extra income for tuition and pocket money for upkeep when back to school forced me into entrepreneurship. I figured out the possibility to do some business and expand the money that I was given by my mother. Soon as I completed my O’levels I asked my mother to give me some capital which I will turn around and slowly use the margin to buy some items I will need for high school. I engaged in a business of buying clothing (wax) from Kigoma and sell in Nzega. My business paid me very well and I managed to save some money in my Postal Bank account. I got used to the same arrangement in the end of term holidays, but this time buying paddy from farmers, process it and sell on retail. You can imagine, while doing this in the afternoon, at night I would be busy copying notes, also past papers and solutions, from students from other good schools, like Mzumbe, Ilboru and Tabora Boys and also from those who had attended tuition classes in Dar es salaam from famous teachers. The notes copied would form an important reference material when back to Shy-bush.

My grandfather had taught me that ‘thank GOD for everything that happens to you since everything happens for a reason’. If I had passed with flying colours at O’level I perhaps could have been over-confident at the A’levels and this could have reduced my performance to the most important exams of my life. Although I passed at O’levels, I was never happy with my final results given the fact that I always was among the top three in my class.

I love playing basketball, volleyball, football and even table tennis. I am a seasoned playwright, director and storyteller. If you ask me about the next thing I would have loved to do apart from being a politician, I would probably tell you I love being a researcher and a tutor but I could have difficulties choosing the third thing, whether to place social justice activism, entrepreneurship or working as a clinician.

I could say that I was one of those students who would have time for everything else but little for studying, but I knew I had a responsibility to pass my exams and so I would pass just like that. If you ask me when I would read, it would be a difficult question to answer but if you give me a question I would assist you with finding a solution. I was indeed quick at memorizing facts and figures and keeping the memory glued to my brain. As a researcher in 2007, I had an opportunity to have worked with a PhD student from the University of Bergen, Julie Riise Kolstad, on her PhD research and one day she told me ‘you have a glue head.’ I don’t know why she saw me in that way but I can’t help to think of me the same way, as it has repeatedly been told by many people that now it has become almost a belief to me.

After high school was over, I came back to Nzega and started giving tuition classes to students who were hopeful of joining high school in Science subjects. I was earning a decent amount of money though the job was as demanding as some parents would want me to teach their children at their homes at an extra income. I soon would become known and some private secondary schools would offer to employ me on a temporary basis. I agreed to a position at Badri Secondary School. I nonetheless continued to give tuition classes. I was saving a lot of money in my account. After few months, I joined Bulk Mining Explosives as a Store Keeper where I was getting four times the salary as a teacher. I learnt a lot of new things including drilling, blasting, machine operating, driving, and management control and supervision.

After almost one year and a half post high school, I learnt of being selected to join a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree course at the University of Dar es salaam. I remember to have chosen only one option in the application forms. Initially I hesitated, from putting LL.B. as my first option to Medicine until my grandfather compelled me to settle for medicine, which was my long-time ambition. Law became an option following advice by my uncles and fellow teachers who saw some potential in me for being a politician or a businessman, so they thought law would have given me the background needed to prepare someone into those undertakings. They almost convinced me but at the last minute when I consulted my grandfather, he said ‘follow your heart, choose what you love the most’, and when I weighed between the two, I chose medicine.

I matriculated at the hills (University of Dar es salaam) and my long journey into earning a degree started.

I did a lot of things that today would be considered a strong foundation for building the Hamisi Kigwangalla you see today. I feel today, since I have signed in for public life, perhaps I am obliged to tell the story of Hamisi Kigwangalla myself, and to tell it all. It is rare to have this kind of an opportunity, but since I have it, I better make full use of it.

Part II is coming soon!

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