|St. Mary‘s School was founded by Reverend Father Raux Modeste of the White Fathers Congregation in 1906, and was named after its Patroness ―Saint Mary‖. Today, the Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala owns St. Mary‘s College Kisubi (SMACK).
In looking through the annals of St. Mary‘s College, to quote Brother Maurice Lambert a former Headmaster of SMACK, in his article in the Uganda Teachers Journal Vol. 1 1939, I quote, ―1899 seems to be the year from which to start its history. It is fitting to mention, from the very outset, the name of Stanislaus Mugwanya (a Buganda Regent) of pious memory who did much for the foundation of the College. This grand patriot, when addressing a meeting of the Catholic Chiefs, held at the beginning of 1899, put this question quite bluntly before them: ―Don‘t you think the time has come for us to provide our young Catholics with better schooling than that which they have so far received?‖
In 1906, the Council of the White Fathers‘ Congregation officially decided upon setting up a Regular English School and financial support was given to start it in the capital town of Uganda at (Rubaga) where young men from Catholics families would be given sufficient education to enable them compete fairly well for important appointments of responsibility introduced by the Protectorate Government.
On June 29, 1906 Father Raux Modeste was appointed Headmaster of St. Mary‘s School, hence becoming its Founder. He began by concentrating his activities on the work of the School and to learn Luganda. As part of his preparation, Father Raux took time off to study the Crucial Question concerning schools in their relationship to public life in a Protestant environment.
His Lordship, Bishop Streicher (W.F) granted a plot of land for the school. The building which used to accommodate the Office of the Cardinal and the Chancery Building, are where the original St. Mary‘s School Rubaga Campus was located. Where the Cardinal‘s Residence is located used to be the parade ground for the school.
In 1912, the pioneer finalists of the then Rubaga based St. Mary‘s School completed their courses in English, History, Arithmetic and Luganda Grammer leading to an Award of certificates by the Colonial Government. The school at this time was one of the happiest places in the world.
The school evolved from the equivalent of a Lower Primary section, to a College status where teaching of Commercial subjects (1922) was incorporated and eventually to a Higher School status after 1956.
St. Mary‘s School supplied many boys during the war as soldiers, interpreters, and stretcher-bearers while others worked in the supply, transport and telegraph services. 105 students of St. Mary‘s School served in the 1914-1918 war. 5 were killed while 66 served as African Native Medical Corps. Among these were; 4 Sergeants Majors, 8 Sergeants, 10 Corporals, 2 were decorated and 4 were mentioned in the Dispatch. St. Mary‘s School provided as many as 59 interpreters to the Military Staff at Bombo.
To cope with the ever-increasing number of students, the White Fathers decided to open feeder schools so that St. Mary‘s would specialize in giving higher studies. During this time, 4 schools were founded to feed St. Mary‘s School.
St. Henry‘s High School – Kitovu.
St. John‘s High School – Nandere.
St. Leo‘s High School – Virika.
St. Joseph‘s High School – Nyamitanga.
In 1922, the parent school, St. Mary‘s School was then named St. Mary‘s College; this was as a result of the school offering training in commercial aspects which development was geared to employment.
The Rubaga school site was handicapped in two ways; there was no adequate room for the expansion of the school, and the place was found to be infertile. On two occasions there was famine around Kampala and Uganda as a whole, that is, in 1914 and 1918 forcing the Superiors of St. Mary‘s to carry out a survey around Nkumba (Entebbe Highway), hoping that it was fertile. In 1922 Brother Martin of the White Fathers Congregation was instructed to start work at Kisubi, where Kabaka Mutesa I of Buganda had given the White Fathers, 41/2 square miles of land in 1884.
In 1923, St. Mary‘s presented 5 candidates to Makerere College top section that is Medical. All 5 succeeded, they got the first 5 places. Only 5 scholarships available: all 5 went to St. Mary‘s boys.
By 1922, the White Fathers were in short supply for the vast missionary field in Uganda. Bishops Streicher and J. Forbes realizing the problems brought about by the rapid development of St. Mary‘s College asked Rome to find a Teaching Society with trained and certified teachers to take over St. Mary‘s and hence free the White Fathers for Pastoral Work.
On 12th May 1924, St. Mary‘s College was transferred to Kisubi, after Bishop Forbes commissioned the new College buildings.
After the transfer of St. Mary‘s from Rubaga, the College was attracting most of the attention because it was forming the elite of the nation and Kisubi usually meant St. Mary’s.
On the 4th of August 1926, Fathers Michaud and Nadon handed over St. Mary‘s College Kisubi to Brothers Charles Jules; Joachim-Leon; Eugene-Paquette and Stanislaus Taillefer of the Brothers of Christian Instruction who were from Canada. This ended the 20 years administration by the White Fathers.
In 1936, SMACK registered the first class of Cambridge School Certificate (C.S.C) initially covering 3 years, and later extended to a period of 4 years.
Credit – A History of St. Mary’s College Kisubi (1906 – 2006) by William Kituuka