Being Young and Adventurous
“I get quite a number of emails asking to share my story, mentorship requests and some seeking advice. I thought to share where it all began for for me. The very beginning” – @JoyDoreenBiira
In each one of us lays this very untapped ability, some call it potential, to achieve whatever we put our minds to. So, When I was asked to write this article by one of my High School Teachers “Ntaka”, short for Ntakarimaze, I thought to myself, “What will I write about that will inspire young people?” And then I remembered that it was at an early age in my teens precisely, that I had the freedom to explore my abilities outside the academics.
In my early teens at school I played chess, bad Minton, I did drama acting, read news in school, participated in debate and fine art clubs, sung in the Scripture Union – a galaxy of things I did like most teenagers would. This was all done between the ages of 13 – 16. My O’level (Ordinary Level) school called Kyebambe Girls School laid the foundation.
My O’Level was a ‘try-it-all’ phase of my teens but it was at Immaculate heart High School where I did my A’Level Education that I was given the platform to do what I loved doing besides academic studies. And that was telling the school what was making news around the country and world… It was a form of entertainment, actually!
Allow me take you back a bit. During my F.4 vacation (the long break taken between F.4 & F.5 in the Uganda Education System), My Father thought I was idle and needed something to keep me busy besides helping Mom at the Tea shop/Restaurant she ran. He took me to a radio station in Kasese my hometown, called Messiah Radio, spoke to management there and asked if they would let me learn some of the things that happen at a Radio station. I was asked a few questions and asked to return the following day to learn. A week later I was asked to read news at 5 & 6pm.
I was 16 years old. I read news for about five minutes three times a week. For me it was the ideal pass time during F.4 vacation – for every bulletin I read I was paid less than dollar. In fact my transport fare to the station was more than what I was paid. I didn’t pay much attention to the pay – I was just looking to learn the ropes e.g. how the studio equipment worked, how presenters spoke through the microphone, how different they sounded from the News Readers etc.
This was my very first job. I watched how the News Manager John Nzinjah (RIP) passionately typed out the news on the old fashioned Type Writer with two index fingers even with computers in the newsroom, as he whistled traditional folk songs while pausing in between to explain to me the process, to how quickly radio presenters switched to playing music off cassette tapes as stand by measures when the systems went mute. It was fun and interesting. A great pass time for a teenager with tons of knowledge gained. Months later, my vacation was over and I had to go back to school.
When I enrolled for A’Level (Advanced Level) at Immaculate Heart High School, it was exciting to be in a new school. Weeks into it, the then Communications Minister (Prefect) came to my class (F.5 Arts) and asked me to read news the next morning during assembly. Back then in school high school the news was hand written on foolscaps after browsing through national newspapers of the day. These were availed to the student leaders by the schools administration.
Damn, I was nervous. She’d written the news and handed me the foolscaps a few minutes before the assembly. Assembly time came prayers were said and the next thing on the agenda was “Joy Doreen Biira reading news”. Walking from where I stood to the stage/podium up there was the longest walk my teen self in a new school ever took. So I got up there introduced myself and read the news for about 6 minutes. And as soon as I was done reading, even after ‘swallowing’ some of the words, all I could here was an applause – and that one day, just that day, won me a ticket to be the unopposed communications minister to succeed the then minister. And I did that for 2 years, during which time I gave the same opportunity to the early birds (F.1 – F.4s) to do the same before leaving High School to join University.
When I joined Makerere University, I was admitted for Bachelor of Information Technology as a private sponsored student. Remember I was a HEG/A student in high school (History, Economics, Geography & Fine Art). Even I wondered why I was admitted for a science course when my first choice was Mass communication, Industrial Fine Art the second, and Information Technology the third. Nevertheless, I went ahead with what I was admitted for – B. IT.
While pursuing this course I always still sneaked into Mass communication lectures and spent time at the Department’s Campus FM studio training my voice when I got a moment of time to do it. So the head of department noticed my interest and encouraged me to keep going to the station. I’d make time in the morning hours to sneak into the mass communication radio department then in the evening, attend my Information Technology lectures. I was simply doing what a lot of us call “going after my passion”
(To be continued Next week in Part 2 – Take Risks)