“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 lies an untapped ability, (some call it potential) to achieve whatever we set our minds to.
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.
The foundation for my potential was set by my O’level (Ordinary Level) school, Kyebambe Girls School where I was an active teen at school; I played chess, badminton, did drama acting, read news at assembly, participated in debate and fine art clubs, sung in Scripture Union and more. In a nutshell, I did a galaxy of things like most teenagers do when given the opportunity. This was all done between the ages of 13 – 16.
My O’Level was a ‘try-it-all’ phase of my teens but it was during my A’ Level (Advanced Level) Education, at Immaculate Heart High School 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. In my day, this 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 Messiah Radio, a radio station in Kasese my hometown, 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 a teenager excited to learn the ropes e.g. how preparations were done for shows, how the studio equipment worked, how presenters spoke through the microphone, how different they sounded from the News Readers, how they balanced humour on one hand and felt the pain of callers on the other and much more.
I watched the News Manager John Nzinjah (RIP) passionately typed out the news on the old fashioned typewriter with two index fingers despite having computers in the newsroom, as he whistled traditional folk songs while pausing in-between to explain to me the process to me. I observed how quickly radio presenters switched to playing music off cassette tapes as stand by measures when the systems went mute. The staff were fantastic, always willing to help and teach. It was fun and interesting. I gained tons of knowledge and it was a great pass time for the teenager I was. This was my very first job.
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, I was excited 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, newspapers were availed to the student leaders by the school administration and one would be required to write the news on foolscaps after browsing through the day’s news.
Damn, I was nervous! She had 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 had ever had to take but I got up there. I 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 the sound of applause.
That one day, just that day, won me a ticket to being the unopposed communications minister to succeed the prefect who had asked me to read news in front of hundreds of students. . And I did that for 2 years and during that time I often extended the same opportunity to a number of younger students. we called them ‘the early birds’ (F.1 – F.4s). After my form 6, I left high School, took another long vacation before joining University.
When I joined Makerere University, I was admitted to pursue a Bachelor of Information Technology degree as a privately sponsored student. It is important to note that 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. I do not recall the other 3 courses after the third (they were six options). Nevertheless, I went ahead with what I was admitted for – B. IT.
While pursuing this course I always snuck into Mass communication lectures and spent time at the department’s Campus FM studio where I would train each time I got the chance to do so. The head of that 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 and attend my Information Technology lectures in the evening, . I was, as many of us call it, “going after my passion”
(To be continued in Part 2 – Double learning at University)