Last week, President Museveni launched celebrations to mark 100 years of scouting in Uganda with a pledge to help improve the main Kaazi grounds into a national monument.
The president, who is the national patron of scouts in Uganda, advised the National Organizing Committee to use the opportunity of the centenary celebrations to develop Kaazi Camp site to a permanent place with all the necessary facilities that can be used to host a variety of activities and social occasions, in order to raise income for scouts.
“I ask all government ministries, departments and agencies, the private sector and general public to strongly support the successful organization of this important international event,” he said.
The president’s remarks came at the start of the International Scouts Centenary Jamboree Uganda 2015, expected to run until October 28, with some 14,000 delegates expected to descend on Kaazi grounds, at a cost of nearly Shs 17bn, according to a statement from the president’s office.
The scouts association, as an organization, is responsible for raising some of the very best leaders in Uganda.
The who is who of scouts includes Prof Maggie Kigozi, currently the Chief Scout, Chief of Defence Forces, Edward Katumba Wamala, Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo, a trustee of the association, Richard Okello, Susan Anek, president of the Uganda Netball Association, former MP Manuel Pinto, former Katikkiro Ham Mukasa and former Ankole Prime Minister Noa Mbaguta.
Today, there are approximately two million young scouts from across the country, according to Richard Okello, a member of the National Executive Committee. Most of these are still in school.
The scouting movement was founded by Lord Robert Baden-Powell of Gilwell, England in 1907 when he organized the first experimental camp at Brown Sea Island near Poole in Dorset.
For Uganda, however, it is an Anglican missionary Rev Canon Henry Myers Grace, who introduced scouting in 1915 at Mbarara High School. Ham Mukasa, the then Katikkiro of Buganda and his Ankole counterpart Noa Mbaguta backed Rev Grace and supported the movement’s expansion. Over time the scouting spread to Mengo SS and King’s College Budo.
Baden Powell later visited Uganda in 1939 and attended a camp there. He also laid a foundation stone for Uganda Scout headquarters at Wandegeya, Buganda road, presently the home of the scouts all over the country. However, the president has pledged to upgrade the headquarters with a 14-storey building whose construction is set to start later this year, with support from the Chinese government.
Over time, the national jamboree was held at Kaazi grounds donated to the scouting community by the then Kabaka Muteesa I (great grandfather to the present Kabaka). The Uganda Scout Association was established by an act of parliament in 1922 and is today under the ministry of gender, in the youth department.
The scouting movement has since spread to more than 500 schools across the country, and is set to spread even further. According to Moses Mpuuga, Director Africa Scout Conference Uganda Scouts Association, the scouting movement is deeply rooted in schools.
Mpuuga explains that the movement has greatly evolved, but maintains some of its basic tenets of honour, discipline and community service. One of these is the special scouts pledge, which Mpuuga recited for us.
“On my honour, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty, to God and my country, to help other people at all times and to obey the Scouts’ law.”
Today the association is involved in a number of youth projects, including agriculture and food production, the promotion of proper nutrition, literacy ventures, environmental education, as well as promoting good adolescent reproductive health.
For instance at Kitante primary school, the scouts and guides there are running a poultry project, now four months old. The school’s scouts and guides mistress, Sarah Mujaasi, explains that she hopes that the project will instill in the members, much needed entrepreneurship skills.
“I believe when they grow up doing things like rearing poultry they will never be jobless in future,” Mujaasi says.
As far as the future of scouting in Uganda is concerned, Mpuuga is very optimistic that the enrollment will keep increasing as well as progressing in other projects. There is something special about the scouts’ khaki uniform. Although it has been in use for over 100 years now, it remains popular even with today’s youth. Take Musa Hassan Omoya, a senior five incoming troop leader at Kitante Hill School.
“I love the uniform because it gives me confidence among the people around. I joined scouting in primary five after the inspiration I drew from the ‘redbunner’ who came to train scouts,” Omoya explains.
Unlike Omoya, Mariam Bukirwa, a girl guide leader and teacher at Hillside Nursery and Primary School Naalya, joined the scouting fraternity at a, rather, late age when she was recruited into the school four years ago. She speaks of scouting with profound passion and zeal.