Seventeen years ago when Peter Mwanje Ssenoono started teaching, he did not know that he would one day be ranked the best primary school teacher.
But it happened recently in an exercise initiated by the Ministry of Education and Sports as a way of recognising teachers in the country.
The function that was presided over by President Museveni and Education minister Janet Museveni saw Ssennono walk away with prizes among which a land tittle.
This special recognition was because of his excellent way in which he teaches Mathematics using music, an art some of his former pupils admit inspired them to pass the subject many consider difficult.
If you walked into him teaching, you may not easily differentiate Ssennono’s Mathematics lesson from that of music. He has more than 40 improvised songs which are composed relating to the topics on the syllabus.
Born in Kibaale-Ssanje, the then Rakai District, on August 30, 1979, to Xavier Mwanje and Brenda Nalubega, (both deceased), Ssenoono started school at Kirembwe Primary school in Nabigasa Sub-county, later joined Mayanja Primary school and later St Joseph, Ssanje Primary school where he sat Primary Leaving Examinations.
The 38-year-old then enrolled at St Mary’s Ssanje for O-Level and later to Biikira Teacher Training Centre where he was awarded a Grade III certificate.
While at St Mary’s Ssanje, Ssenoono says he developed a talent of composing songs for primary schools which saw them compete even in singing competitions at national level. This was a source of pocket money for him during secondary school and at the teacher training institute since none of his relatives had the ability to give him money.
After college, Ssenoono, currently a teacher at Kyotera Primary School, in Kyotera District, first taught at St. Cecilia Boarding Primary School, Buyamba in Rakai District in 2002.
Teacher with a difference
Jimmy Walugembe, a statistician at Rakai District local government, says while at St Cecilia, Mathematics had become his most dreaded subject until Ssennono joined the school. “When he started teaching us, I gained love for the subject. I also started believing that one day I could become a great mathematician,” he recalls.
This is also echoed by Olivia Nalinda, a midwife at Kalisizo hospital, who believes her current profession was mainly determined by the Mathematics she was taught by Ssenoono.
“I always enjoyed the way we danced and the music we played while in Ssennono’s class. I could hardly forget anything we learnt. During exams, my only trick was using his songs to recall concepts which helped me excel,” she said.
For Baker Kasagga, the head teacher of Kyotera Central Primary School, many schools would love to hire Ssennono’s services but he is limited by time.
“He is like a servant sent by God. Even when he teaches our children for just two weeks, they cannot forget him because of the skills he applies in Mathematics and it really makes a difference in their grades,” he said.
A worthwhile talent
Ssenoono said he has so far earned more than Shs1.6m from schools around Kyotera that hired him to offer special lessons to Primary Seven pupils going to sit PLE this year.
But the Mathematics teacher admired priesthood in his early stages of life. In fact he says, he had given up on education after Primary Seven, and had opted for selling bananas had it not been for a sympathetic Joseph Ssegirinya, a trader who learnt about him and offered to pay his school fees in O-Level.
When he later joined the teaching profession, he says he realised that composing songs related to Mathematics could be a more effective way of teaching after realising children learn best when taught relating to day-to-day activities.
He observed that many pupils fail or fear Mathematics due to the teachers’ failure to carry out a study on how to handle different children at different stages. He advises them not to generalise while teaching.
Ssenoono says a teacher should be creative and able to motivate pupils but all the while aware of why such topics were put on syllabus.
He further advises students and pupils that to love Mathematics, they should see the teacher as an entertainer using the activities within the local environment such as stories and songs as a guide.
For Ssenoono, interest in Mathematics started in school and as such he would even offer help to fellow pupils that found difficulty in the subjects. “We had a teacher near our home whom I befriended. He used to teach me the difficult numbers in Maths which I would in turn teach to my classmates,” he recalls.
This, he says, gained him popularity among the students and teachers that he even started taking lunch with the teachers. And this latest achievement shows that popularity follows Ssennono to date.