The retired head teacher Stephen Matongo joined the profession when he was 24 years old. His first posting was in 1975 after attaining a Grade III teacher certificate at Buwalasi Primary Teacher’s College in Mbale.
“My journey started in 1961 when I started primary school until I completed teacher’s college and thereafter I joined teaching profession. The start was so bumpy, that I reached the extent of retreating because of poor pay at that time,” he recalls.
He got his first job at Ndandamire Primary School, after the then head teacher requested the district education officer to post Matongo to his school. He taught at the school from 1975 to 1976. He was then transferred to Buliisa Primary School for three years later a host of other schools where he taught until he retired after serving for 31 years as head teacher.
Matongo says their pay was meagre and his salary was Shs501 for the first eight years.
“When I joined the teaching profession as Grade III teacher, we were paid Shs501 per month and many of my colleagues abandoned their career and went into other businesses, especially selling merchandise to DR Congo. Those who left made more money than us who remained,” he says.
The retiree describes his first eight years as a waste of time because he reached a point of failing to buy basics and he had many responsibilities at home.
“Our salary could not afford one any tangible investment and I had many children to educate and this cost me a lot,” he says.
Matongo says 10 years prior his retirement in 2002, he joined Mubende National Teacher’s College where he upgraded as Grade five teacher.
After realising some good savings, he first invested in buying land and, later dairy farming. And, he has also invested in tree-planting.
With his savings, Matongo managed to construct two residential houses, increase his livestock and educate his children.
In his advanced age, he is currently constructing a poultry house.
“These days, I depend on my pension and my poultry house will pay off because I have already bought materials and I have enough time on my hands,”he says.
While still in active service, Matongo says, he blamed himself for wasting much of time in bad groups ,saying they made him waste much of his money on luxury other than investing.
“Sometimes, I blame myself for having joined bad groups. Those groups would coerce one into outings and, automatically it was a place for extravagance. I wasted so much money, that the memories still haunt me. I regret having joined them,” he says.
After clocking 60 years, he retired and says he does not miss anything in the teaching profession. He is comfortable in his retirement saying he has declined many offers to return to teaching.
“When I retired in 2011, there were people who came asking me to join them in private schools. I got done with teaching and I did not want anything like teaching. The day I put down chalk was my last day to teach, I will never go back into teaching,” he says.
He adds that reporting to school every day and making monthly reports at times stressed him.
His two cents to those in active service is that they plan for their retirement early enough and ensure they do proper investment.
“The civil servants need to spend their money carefully and invest because when you retire, you start get a pension less than your salary. And if you have at least five years to retire, start projects that you will manage after retirement,” Matongo says.
Matongo says the first thing he does every morning is check on his cattle. He then has breakfast before going to the farm.
The retired head teacher is currently the chairman of the district land board.
“I sometimes spend my time in the office of the district land board where I am the chairperson. When we have activities to do and when I am home I tend my garden,” he says.
Matongo also has other responsibilities and currently serves as a Bunyoro Kingdom county chief.
He advises civil servants to plan for their retirement early enough and ensure they do proper investment.
“The civil servants need to spend their money carefully and invest because when you retire, you start to receive a pension less than your salary. And if you have at least five years to retire, start projects that you will manage after retirement,”Matongo says.
He adds, “As civil servant you need to retire honorably. You should ensure that you are not interdicted or dismissed from service, because you joined when you loved the profession and when you retire honorably, public upholds you,” he explains.