In the two weeks since the death of Rev Ian Cameron Robinson, a much loved former headmaster of King’s College, Budo, the common feeling among Budonians of his time has been that of thankfulness.
We are lucky to have been his charges at that critical stage of our education and development. We are thankful that many of us were able to tell him, in his years of retirement, how much we appreciated his impact on our lives.
That he was one of the best teachers and leaders that Uganda had is an opinion shared by many.
A graduate of Repton School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Robinson had the experience and traditions to transplant from those ivy-league academic centres in England to King’s College, Budo.
His engineering background, his seven years of service with the British Army, including a tour of duty in Ethiopia, and his 10 years of teaching at Busoga College, Mwiri, had prepared him for the task of leadership and hands-on problem solving.
A genuine Christian, Robinson had the moral authority to enforce the rules of a school that was “established on Christian principles.”
A classic English gentleman, he was a firm but kind father figure who earned the respect of students, parents and staff.
His gentle, simple but firm character was his trademark. Dr George Bhima, a family physician in Manchester, England, succinctly encapsulates this aspect of Robinson: “We respected him more than we respect any number of wealthy self-appointed emperors.”
To Kasozi Musoke, who was at Budo from 1959 to 1967, Robinson was a self-effacing man who was yet broader than life. “He changed the school culture, including elimination of ‘mwana waani’ (nepotism) in the choice of school prefects and monitors. He ensured equal academic opportunities for boys and girls.”
Robinson did not work alone. He had a very supportive Board of Governors that gave him great latitude in the management of the school.
He had excellent connections with eminent persons in various fields of the country’s life. Many sought his opinions and, perhaps, approval. In turn, he tapped them to bring a steady flow of guest speakers to Budo, enriching our education and worliew.
He travelled the country to personally interview and recruit students, bringing not just bright kids to his school, but an ethnic mix that reflected the face of 1960s Uganda.
He fostered an environment that upheld the principle of “like opportunities” for all. One did not enter Robinson’s Budo on account of one’s parents’ bank account, but on one’s intellectual abilities.
He sourced funds from anonymous donors, mostly himself and other teachers, to support the education of bright but poor or refugee students.
He enjoyed great autonomy from the Ministry of Education, free to interview and recruit outstanding teachers that suited his vision and expectations. He respected them and ensured collective decision-making.
Colin M. Davis, who taught mathematics at Budo from 1964 to 1977, recalls that during staff meetings, “Robinson listened carefully to all opinions expressed and sensing the feeling of the meeting, made a decisive judgment.”
He offered us resources and a curriculum that was rich and balanced – in class, in the library, in the sports arenas, in the creative arts, entertainment and the world beyond.
He enforced rules with justice and kindness, seeking to rehabilitate the offender, giving second and third chances to many, with an eye on growing each individual student.
Robinson enjoyed the companionship and support of his wife Dorothy, who was a strong partner in their stewardship of the school. Indeed Mrs Robinson, who died in 2002 at the age of 90, was the ultimate boss of The Hill.
Dr Samm Lugalata Bbuye Musoke recalls an incident in 1966. The school maintenance men killed a big python, much to the delight of the expatriate teachers. The teachers sliced the python and shared the meat for their dinner tables.
Word must have travelled ahead of him, for when Robinson approached his house, with a bag of python meat in his hand, Dorothy emerged with a broom. Pointing her deadly weapon at the headmaster of the greatest school in East Africa, Mrs Robinson declared: “That meat comes into this house, I leave!”
Robinson promptly put everything down, meekly walked to his wife and hugged her in humble surrender. A wise man he was!
Their partnership gave Budo a gift that is yet to be fully publicly acknowledged. The old chapel having become too small, the Robinsons launched a drive to build a new one.
Many contributed to the Chapel Appeal Fund. The staff agreed to forego their annual pay increase. An anonymous donor gave more than half of the 12,000 pounds sterling needed to complete the magnificent chapel in 1964.
Forty years later, it was revealed that the anonymous donors were Ian and Dorothy Robinson.
While the Robinsons were not the kind to seek public recognition and honour, it would be a fitting tribute to name that building the “Ian and Dorothy Robinson Chapel.”
Their generosity, thus recorded for posterity, should inspire past, present and future Budonians to make personal sacrifices in services to others. That was the true spirit of Robinson.
Dr Mulera is based in Toronto, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE: Daily Monitor