Industry: Education services
Years in Business: 12years of existence, 3years as CEO
My name is Amelia Kisakye Kyambadde, married to Mr. Kyambadde with two beautiful children, a girl and boy. I am a woman in business. I hold a Bachelors degree in social works and administration and level 2 of ACCA. I have been in the education business for last three years, as a managing director of Seroma Christian High School. Previously, I worked as a banker until I found my passion.
I finished university as a top student and I was requested to be retained as a lecturer but didn’t take up the opportunity. I think it is by God’s calling I ended up in Education. Seroma Christian High school is a family owned institution. We have been in existence for the last twelve years. I run it with a staff of 102 and I am proud of the team and the progress we are making. As a woman in business it’s quite a big task because very few women are in Education and the school has 1,600 students.
Education is the best gift you can give anyone. Finding a school that offers holistic training is not easy to come by. Seroma Christian High school was started to help the community as that is the smallest gift we can give. For sustainability, we must collect school fees. But if you visit here and see the smiles of the over 1,600 students we have, you feel good. As a mother and businesswoman, I feel proud with the kind of interventions we are making. It is great to have a partner like MTN supporting our efforts, and recognizing our existence. We are now focusing on having live broadcasts of on-line video streaming education resources on Khan Academy and Coursera. That is where MTN is coming in handy.
Managing a school is not easy. Keeping it going is tough. The school was more or less informally run by the time I joined, most of the directors did not have management skills. I can proudly say that we have put systematic management, clear structures and reporting lines, efficiency and effectiveness and this goes back to even the way teachers teach the students. The student numbers has gone up to 1,600 in a short time but the most important thing is that we fine-tuned the school with the best education system.
We have done a lot of ICT empowerment both in the students and the teachers and have moved from black board teaching to the cyber which has enabled more understandability in students. We are among the top 50 schools in the country in the recent announced UNEB Examination results.
Seroma is the two time winner of the Junior Achievers Award
Uniqueness of the product/service provided
Our school offers holistic education. We make sure that we provide education to nurture the heart, the brain and the hands. We believe that since the students spend most of their time at school, we have to act as their parents. Each teacher is attached to a maximum of thirty children, they have to know how they are doing academically, emotionally, follow up on their requirement because these are critical areas for a child to succeed. Any normal person with these areas may succeed academically but also you may have others who are challenged emotionally who need to be helped.
We have the spiritual aspect which is well known. We are born again Christians and have put up in place structures that empower our children to have their spiritual life nurtured, we try to interact externally in that you can’t work as one, you can run as one to a certain distance but if you are together you run further. We have associations we interact with like British council, externally we have partnerships in UK and German where we believe their experience in technology and sciences is advanced. Our school has a partnership with one of the best schools in sciences in German where we send our students and teachers to have an experience of a life time. Their students and teachers also come here in Uganda to visit our school. We have also moved to improve on the arts subjects; we are trying to build a team of both teachers and students who are exposed. We go ahead to train our teachers because at the end of the day they are the ones who instill knowledge and skills to our children.
How have you managed to stay in business amidst competition?
- The education in Uganda has become business and not a service. Myself as a mother, employer, and a director feel that education should remain a service much as we need some profit to survive.
- We have put in place net work and communication systems to enable our children learn more from others and also have the school being knowledgeable on what is happening outside the school.
- We have strong management to run the organization to keep it afloat, our board of directors is highly empowered with much signified individuals in the area of education system and provide us advice in education system.
- Internally, we make sure that our teaching goes beyond just teaching, our teaching is that we have associations of which these associations are formed amongst the strong institutions in the education system where we share values principles to shape the children future. Our values/ principles as an institution; excellence, Lordship, we also have respect of ourselves and systems. We keep in touch with the Ministry of Education on the national curriculum development center which all the time changes a number of things, we are stable enough and dynamic to give the right services to the people.
What have you done as a woman in business to develop/empower other women?
- Charity begins at home, internally as a woman leader I have come up with groups within our staff that provide finance knowledge. With my banking background, you will notice that the biggest challenge for most people is finance management and no matter how small your finances you can’t imagine how the best principles can turn around your finances. We try to make financial empowerment within the school settings for the teachers and the non teaching staff.
- We have skill based training for the teachers and the women in the school neighborhood. we have an association of virtuous women in the school where we encourage the ladies in the neighborhood bring their handcrafts to school on a school market, they can sell to students but also go ahead to teach them a couple of things.
- We as a school also have programs for the girl child where externally we bring people who can talk to them and also internally on our home management program, the knitting, the tailoring and basket work. We usually have exhibitions where student display the products and earn money, they now know that when you work you can earn but also teaches them to account for the businesses because they must procure what they need and at the end they must post it and see if it is worth it or not.
- Externally we normally encourage ladies in our area to bring their supplies to the school given that most of them are involved in the informal business like food and firewood. We also educate them on financial management.
Challenges experienced in Business
- It is hard to balance stakeholder expectations. There are those who find it hard to understand that principles of excellence in academics also come out from personal management. We have to strive to encourage parents instill some behaviors in their children so that we can complement each other. The literacy levels of our stake holders somehow hinder the progress, most of them want value so much the academic part and see no future in extra- curriculum activities.
- The communication infrastructure is poor in this area and yet we need it a lot to keep up to date. Most of the current communication operators have found it hard to put up the infrastructure needed. Our kind of business needs constant communication between students parents and also academically, keep up to date with events happening throughout the world. Government introduced ICT to the curriculum, and we need internet to understand certain programs. The transport infrastructure is also poor though we have managed to work on part of the road that connects our school.
- The economic setting and the government policies have come with them financial constraints. We are being required to withhold 6% Withholding tax on all supplies to the school which most people (local suppliers of our food stuffs, firewood, and maintenance) do not understand and have resisted. This has brought with it a lot of mistrust which can damage the institution’s image and at times making the cost of education is high.
What are your future plans/ where would you like to see this business in the next 3- 5 years?
Our future plan is actually driven by the need of society as I emphasized that we are not business people who just want to get money from the business. We have not withdrawn a single coin from profit as return to investors, we want this institution to grow and become global. We are planning to start up a vocational training school for those students who may not move to the next level.
We are also looking at setting up a lower knowledge management the primary or a nursery where we can nurture our children and impart the basic values and not to just try to shape them as teenagers. We want to bring out people who would have a positive influence on business so that we churn out doctors we are doing work not for money, if we churn out journalist you are doing the truth not just media or what the media is interested in so we want to change the atmosphere for the generation to come so that they are much better citizens and we see our Uganda grow from a developing country and to possibly a developed country if people are surely people.
- We have given the locality here in Kyetume an impression of what good education is and they call an international school which we are not, if you take a little water in the desert you will feel the quench I think that’s what they feel so that means there is a little education standard this side most of the education is on the main road.
- We give out bursaries to educate the community, we spend around 250m a year in bursaries within this area, central Buganda and also up country. We work with the area MPs in northern uganda to identify the actual needy students, other critical areas we consider are those places that have little education These include Bududa , kamuli, Kibinzi, Kitgum to mention but a few.
- We have built houses for some needy people specifically the elderly
- We usually have a community day where we go and clean up our community up to the town area for students to also know that they are actually responsible for having a clean environment but also to give back to the community.
- We also worked on the road leading to the school and the community around us have at have ease accessibility. There have been developments around and their properties have a meaningful value.
What challenges do you experience as a woman in business?
Being a woman in business is my number one problem in our Uganda today because women are not seen as strong beings in society it very hard for women to lead men that is why I would say that her lordship Madam Kadaga has been at least my inspiration.
There areas that may be hard to actually break through as a lady;
- The demand for work and family, as a lady there certain hour that you have to work yet the demand for you elsewhere is actually needed. I actually work up to 1am because of the students and teachers needs, in case of an emergency, but you still have to take care of your family- husband to report to and children
- Financial planning has been a challenge given the current economic conditions. You cannot force a parent to pay a lot of many or even faster and yet you have teachers who also need their salary. You also have to take care of supplies to the school, so you have to put an extra skill to make sure all stake holders are managed then the critical areas.
- The big problem is not the woman in business but the education sector. We have noticed that tomorrow we may have little numbers of women in business or outstanding. I have seen that many girls join senior one and a few finish senior six, We have separate dormitories for each of the levels but it’s amazing how the higher levels four, five, six drop in numbers. We need to work hard and encourage the girl child for tomorrow.
What advice do you have to the women out there?
- Start with the skill you have acquired and utilize it well to start up or manage a business. If you are employed I would say utilize your opportunity and earn the best out of it. I appreciate most the skills from banking because they have helped to sustain a business. Also have a plan, most women do not have a plan. Think of what you would do or how you would survive if your husband was not there, if you are employed, give it your best so that when you go out that same net work is what you’re going to have in your business.
- For those who are not working I would request them to wake up, even if your husband gives all the money you need, even if you can afford through the little money they give you it is very hard for a man to appreciate a woman who is sitting at home and secondly it is very hard for you to have any contribution in knowledgeable people because all you are surrounded with is housekeeping. If there is a business have a helping hand at least try to be involved in the business.
- I would encourage women to be entrepreneurs, join developmental women clubs and women’s network for skill based training, go and learn something new so that tomorrow you can contribute something, tomorrow if you husband dies your able to keep up, t if he is physically challenged, you can also do and also if you are graced with business someone can also ask you for advise, so am also urging ladies to actually wake up and take their opportunity because now is the time.
How has MTN contributed to your achievement?
- They have really enabled us in communication, they have installed booths that help students in communication, most of the times where you see students striking is because sometimes they are not able to communicate their need. We also use their internet to stay connected and has helped in ease facilitation of the ICT subject.
- We use their CUG for staff which has enabled at least my staff to communicate cheaply. We do not spend a lot on Airtime
- Also we use their mobile money platform to do many things.