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Naboth Namara

Higher Diploma in Remedial and Special Education, University College Dublin (2002)

Naboth Namara is from Uganda and studied a Higher Diploma in Remedial and Special Education in UCD in 2002. Ireland became his second home as he came back to complete his Masters and PhD in latter years. 

I would recommend the Ireland Fellows Programme. ICOS was a wonderful organization that cared for all students. My advice would be, once you leave your country, concentrate on your studies. My view would be that if you go to Ireland for this fellowship, stay, work, do what took you there, but make sure to come back home to help your community and apply the skills you will have learned. 

I am Naboth Namara from Uganda.  I am married with four children; they are adults now. I have a private consultancy firm, and I'm running a charity NGO and that takes up most of my time.  

I first started a diploma in secondary education. I taught English language and religious education at secondary school level. I come from a socially disadvantaged background, because I lost my father when I was only seven years old. In patriarchal settings in Africa, when my father did not have an education, a government job, my mother did not have either. In such a setting, when my father died, he was the breadwinner. My mother then struggled with school fees as they are quite expensive here. When I reached A Levels, the government was able to pay for my diploma. After that, I taught at secondary did a bachelor's degree. After two years, I did a mature age entrance exam to university. I passed and studied English language and English literature at a high school. That is when I saw an opportunity to study in Ireland, a special needs education course in UCD, and I grabbed it by the horns. I had taught in various forms of schools including very low level, socially disadvantaged schools, and high level middle class schools, which were a little bit better run. One of these schools was a mixed sex school, the other a single sex girls’ school, and two were single sex boys’ schools. So, I had realized the disadvantage in the classrooms that the various pupils, boys and girls faced. I was really trying to understand the gender differences in classroom behaviours, in performance in class, in answering questions in a class, in dressing and cleanliness, and the way people cared about how they looked. I think I needed to understand my students more, and this course about special needs education could help me. 

There is so much that I gained from the course. I had an assignment to create an individualized education programme for a 16-year-old boy whose mental age was just that of a six year old. We had a wonderful time together. I taught him English and mathematics. I also conducted psychological assessment of him and produced a report on same. For almost five years after I left Ireland, we stayed in contact. It was a wonderful experience to have because I realized, in our culture here, he may not have been treated well or fairly because of his disability. I did not teach a lot after completing the course, but I have used everything I learned in my own life experiences. The course really informed my philosophy of equality issues in education.  

I made great friends in Ireland. The few Irish friends that I met, we still communicate today. The ICOS meetings and get togethers were some of the most memorable things. I made friends from many countries such as Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, and India and others, which was wonderful.  

One of the strangest things about Ireland was that there was snow in September. I did not know what snow was. In Uganda, we have hailstorms but no snow. It was colder than I have ever experienced. Also, seeing women smoking and seeing people kissing in public. I knew the food would be strange, but once I knew there would be milk and meat, I knew I could live there. It was also strange to see the name McNamara in lots of places, my name means something different, but seeing my name everywhere was interesting coming all the way from Africa to Ireland. 

When I returned to Uganda in the year 2002, I taught communications skills in a technical college for some time, and then returned to Ireland to do a Master's in Women and Gender Studies in UCD. My family all chipped in to help me pay my fees. I got a job cleaning in St. Vincent's Hospital while I was studying. I successfully got a 2.1 in my masters and returned to Uganda to the technical school to teach there once a week, while doing some consultancy and training work too. Later I applied to the University of Limerick to pursue a PhD in Gender, Education and Development. I was awarded a place on their doctoral programme with a full tuition and stipend. In October 2006, I reported to the University of Limerick for my PhD. When I got there, I was given a course to teach on equality and diversity in education practice. That's where everything I learned in UCD comes in. I designed the course and was a tutor, I was managing the grading and everything myself.  

When I completed my PhD, I came back to Uganda and became a research coordinator in a young university for a few months, then went to work in Rwanda in the Centre for Gender Studies, University of Rwanda where I taught masters students and supervised post-graduate research. I then started a development consultancy firm specializing in research, training, project development, implementation and monitoring, as well as policy and strategy development and review largely in the social sciences. I have focused largely on research and programmes that empower women especially rural women. I have advocated for the eradication of gender-based violence. I always wanted to start a charity and build shelters for women. It has been hard to get it set up, creating funding proposals and trying to source money, but I'm not giving up. I run a program for young people where we talk about goals and values, and teamwork. We train young people to focus on their life goals, identify them, focus on them to become better people. We ran it online during the covid lockdowns and it has transformed lives of young people. We also help young people to start building their CVs earlier by volunteering, among other strategies, and it is all for free. I will keep applying until I get funding to implement projects in sexual health and reproductive rights, gender-based violence and in improving access to girls' education among other vital areas of focus. The aim is to dismantle all these gender stereotypes that make parents withdraw girls from school to get married while boys continue with their education.  

Lots of people around here call me Dublin. Ireland is a part of me. When I land in Dublin Airport, I feel like I am coming home. It is my second home. We will have to come back and visit again and bring all the kids and show them Limerick and Dublin. In the future, it will be my daughter, she wants to apply for the Ireland Fellows Programme and to study in UCD.  

I would recommend the Ireland Fellows Programme. ICOS was a wonderful organization that cared for all students. I remember them taking us to open bank accounts and giving us all sorts of tours and having meals when we first arrived in Ireland. My advice would be, once you leave your country, concentrate on your studies. I am probably talking like this now because I am a parent, but you really need to concentrate on your studies. The second thing is the idea that you can only succeed in Ireland. My view would be that if you go to Ireland for this fellowship, stay, work, do what took you there, but make sure to come back home to help your community and apply the skills you will have learned.