While a number of retiring professionals often opt to detach from their respective professions, Dr Rebecca Mirembe Nyonyintono an educationist, child protection advocate and researcher in the social sciences has chosen to venture into book writing.
As she retires from academia that she has served since 1971 when she began lecturing at Makerere University shortly after graduating with a PhD in Sociology of Education and Social Psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Nyonyintono is not about to throw away the pen.
Writing is one of her hobbies and she believes that retirement now presents the best opportunity to venture into fiction and academia book writing.
“I did English Literature, Political Science and Sociology but never got chance to practice my English Literature skills after taking on Political Science and Sociology. I continued with the Bachelor of Social Sciences after joining Makerere University in 1965 and graduated three years later with a Second Upper degree. This is my opportunity to venture into book writing after retiring from the university teaching and research career,” Nyonyintono explains.
Often teased but never distracted from achieving her goals as one of the few female academic staff in her earlier career as a university lecturer at Makerere in 1971, Nyonyintono, the first female PhD holder at the time is quick to say that her childhood upbringing in a humble Born Again family always backed her determination to excel in life.
While she has had the opportunity to explore lifetime achievements in research and publication for more than 45 years in academia at Makerere University, Kenyatta University , Nairobi University and as an external examiner for a chain of universities in Africa, the passion to dig deeper into book writing in her retirement is on the table.
“I want to pick this thread and write some books. In my life career, much of the publications are in areas of research work. I want to have more about fiction, among other areas. Writing will not be new because I have already made several publications including Conceptualising the Research Problem: A Step-by Step Guide, a textbook . I still have the energy and time to do the writing. I will not be on pressure to have the books complete but take my time as a retiree,” she explains.
She believes the culture of writing is not very pronounced in Uganda and the need to share the vast wealth of knowledge with the rest of the world is her ambition.
“When you write something, chances of sharing such information are high. There is need to share ideas, expertise from the experience I have in different fields including academia… I cannot speculate on particular topics and titles that will be considered in the next writings but certainly, the books will come out, Nyonyintono says.
In 1971, shortly after getting a job at Makerere University, Nyonyintono was among the unlucky Ugandans that painfully opted for life in exile during the Idi Amin regime. Luckily, her status as an academic was a big blessing. She was taken on by Kenyatta University as lecturer at the department of Educational Foundations, Kenyatta University College Kenya between June 1972 and August 1979.
The mother of two endured the tough life in exile where Kenyans always referred to them as foreigners and insinuated that they were doing them a favour by giving them jobs. The climax of the unfriendly environment came when the Kenyan government finally expelled all Ugandan exiles in 1988. Nyonyintono returned to Uganda, had a stint doing freelance consultancy but also had the opportunity to work with several international organisations.
In 1998, she went back to Makerere University Department of Sociology as a senior lecturer but was retired in 2005 in line with the Public Service policy and guidelines.
She did not take up the many opportunities that came her way for active political life, despite majoring in Political Science and Sociology and even when friends tried to convince her to join politics.
In August 2012, Nyonyintono was appointed director of Research and Innovations at Ndejje University. She had earlier held the portfolio of research coordinator, School of Post Graduate Studies at the same university between August 2006 and May 2012.
“What started as a research coordinator desk in 2006 is now directorate for Research and Innovations. Being a privately owned university with limited resources, we have had to tussle it out the hard way but ensure results and progress. I am finally bowing out, satisfied that we ably did our work. This was team work and cannot be attributed to an individual. We had the support of the university management at Ndejje.”
Early this year, she retired at Ndejje University and will possibly give life another dimension through book writing.
“One would ask many questions regarding the decision to spend time writing books in what a section of the public would term as challenging but what I am retiring into is not new in my life. Research involves a lot of writing and I believe that volunteering into writing at my own pace will be easier,” Nyonyintono explains.
Born in 1943 to Besweri Nyonyintono and Catherine Nyonyintono at Katale near Kajjansi in Wakiso District in a family of eight children, Nyonyintono attended Jungo Primary School and Buloba College Primary School in Mityana District before joining Gayaza High School for secondary education. She would have not gone to Gayaza High School had the parents considered the application earlier made to join Buloba Primary Teachers’ College. But luck knocked on the family door when the Gayaza High School headmistress visited the family and inquired as to why she had not put Gayaza High School as her first choice.
“I was admitted to Gayaza, a school for the rich and well to do families unlike my family yet I excelled in academics ,” she recalls.
Nyonyintono explains that though she had sufficient leadership qualities at an early age to be both deputy head girl and head girl at O and A- levels at Gayaza High School.
Nyonyintono quickly acknowledges the career of her parents as first role models and cites prominent women leaders including Ms Joyce Mpanga, former Minister and politician, Ms Rhoda Nakalema, a former financial officer at Buloba College and educationist have played a big part in shaping her life.
Honours and awards
1999: Prepared and presented the NGO Alternative Report to the 1st Government of Uganda Report on the implementation of the African Charter for the Rights and Welfare of Child. UNICEF.WHO meeting, Geneva, Switzerland.
2000 – 2001: National Representative on the OAU/African Union Committee of Experts for the implementation of the African Charter for the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
August 2012 – March 2020: Director, Research and Innovations, Ndejje University
August 2006 – May 2012: Research Coordinator, School of Post Graduate Studies, Ndejje University.
June 1998- May 2006: Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Makerere University Kampala.
August 1987 – June 1998, 1990: Freelance Consultant in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
July 1984 – June 1987: Sociologist. Maternal and Child Health Unit. AMREF Nairobi, Kenya, among other roles.