It was tears of joy for Maria Kemigisa when staff at the Department of Journalism and Communication (DJC), where she is employed,organized a surprise tea-party in celebration of her 50th birthday on 27th February 2018. Kemigisa, a cleaner and messenger, and the longest serving support staff at the Department, turned 50 on 15th February 2018.
The Department Chair, Dr. William Tayeebwa, handed Kemigisa UGX 520,000/= (five hundred and twenty thousand shillings) that staff had collected without her knowledge.
“I pass this humble gift on to you from all of us, with love, appreciation and blessings. Please use it to buy a gift of your choice,” he said.
Kemigisa could not hold back her tears. “I’m overjoyed. I’m a person of few words, but please know that I’m so grateful,” she said. “I remember a time I fell sick and the Department took care of me for more than six months. Two of my children were still so young – four and six years old. I’m immensely grateful for all you have done for me all these years. May God bless you all.”
Dr. Tayeebwa described Kemigisa as humble, hardworking, dedicated, committed, and a jolly-good fellow.
“Most of us here have passed through Maria’s hands; literally. We all attest to the fact that we’ve never heard her grumble or seen her tired or upset. Thank you for the excellent service,” he said. “We thank God for your life and for having given you the grace to raise your children and see them through school even with such humble means.”
Dr. Tayeebwa thanked his colleagues for celebrating Kemigisa’s birthday and untainted record of service, and pledged that the Department would consider improving her income when the next opportunity arises. Other staff members, who applauded their Chair’s pledge, were also full of praises for Kemigisa.
“Maria works all day without taking a break, yet others get tired so quickly and cannot complete two or three tasks without having to take a break. That, for me, is extremely adorable!” said Adolf Mbaine, a member of the faculty.
The celebration was punctuated by a prayer of dedication for Maria’s life, led by Charlotte Ntulume, who is in charge of welfare at theDepartment.
Joining the Department
Kemigisa joined the Department of Mass Communication (as it was initially called) as a cleaner in 1998, when it was established. Prior to this, Prof. Goretti Nassanga, who was the pioneer head of department and Kemigisa’s first supervisor recalls that "Maria was with the Literature Department from 1988 but was serving under the Journalism programme, housed in this Department. When the Department of Mass Communication was established, Maria was transfered too. “Maria is a very special person. I started with her, but I really don’t remember ever hearing her raise her voice or respond to anyone in a rude way. She is a very humble person and I believe she will go a long way.”
Prof. Nassanga counseled: “This Department is home, and we call ourselves the DJC family. Occasionally, we have ups and downs, but Mariais one of those people that have managed to relate well with everybody all the time. While we may have problems at work or home, we should always strive to maintain a conducive work environment.When we come to work, we’re not known to each other in most cases, but we should try to break these barriers and work amicably as family. I hope the Department continues with this work environment.”
Kemigisa, a mother of three adult children, lost her husband in 1996 and has since raised them single handedly. To see her childrenthrough school, she has worked hard at the Department, while doing odd jobs in her free time.
Her only daughter, Susan Kansiime, attended the high-end tea party at the Department. “I’m speechless. I didn’t expect this,” she said, her eyes welling. “Mum started working in Makerere before I was born. I’m now 26 years old. Through Makerere she has educated and looked after us. I’m so grateful to all of you, her colleagues. Thank you for taking care of her.”
Kansiime holds a diploma in hotel management from Sekasi Institute of Catering. Her older brother is a businessman, while the other one and youngest of Kemigisa’s children, graduated this January with a diploma in library and information science at Makerere University.
Kemigisa said she would use the birthday cash gift to paint her single-bedroom house in Nansana, Wakiso district.
Story by Marion Alina
Photos by Tonny Luggya
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