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Telling of God’s Work – The Story of Brother Joseph Tinkasimire

When we arrived at SMACK for S.1, I knew that the headmaster was Brother Joseph Tinkasimire but I didn’t know what he looked like. So, when a portly tough-talking Brother, dressed in a white cassock addressed the new boys, I was sure he was Tinka.

He pointed at two tall trees towering over the library and said, “In St. Mary’s we sore high like those trees, we reach the pinnacle. We want 90s. If you get 70, we shall expel you.”

There was another unassuming lean gentleman in a cream Kaunda suit who had earlier addressed the assembly and I figured that he was the deputy headmaster or something.

After the assembly, the tough-talking brother in the cassock gave us a tour of the school and took pictures with his miniature camera while at it. Next morning, the brother in the cassock was literally kicking us out of our beds to attend morning prep.

“P.P boys, punctuality is the virtue of princes, princesses and great men,” he stressed the virtue of timekeeping. I was sure, this was Brother Tinka.

Fast forward to a few days later, the brother who had taken the photos had developed them and was “hustling” us to buy them. In my head I was like, there is no way Brother Tinka can be on a “side hustle” of being a school photographer. It then dawned on me and probably a few others that this wasn’t Tinka. This was Brother Martin Kalungi (his story and list of acronyms like P.P, N.N and M.M is for another day).

The unassuming brother in the Kaunda was actually Brother Tinka the headmaster. There are so many things people pick on subconsciously. Little wonder many students who went through his hands, even when in positions of responsibility don’t carry themselves with the braggadocio that always infects some people when they “fall into things.”

I recently read Brother Tinka’s autobiography “Telling of God’s Work”. It deepened my understanding of the man and his methods of being in charge of one of the best boys’ schools in the country.

People sometimes describe people based on the schools they attended. If you are from school x, you must be proud. If you are from school x, then you are a hustler, if you are from school x you must be this or that.

It was from reading Tinka’s book that I understood why SMACKISTS are largely referred to as and carry themselves as gentlemen. It is from that book that I came across his concept of “formation”. As a headmaster to young teenage boys, Brother Tinka was deliberate about formation (forming boys into gentlemen). No wonder he always referred to us as gentlemen.

Coming from a “ghetto” primary school (St. Mary’s Nabbingo), one of the things I immediately noticed on joining SMACK was that the school campus was so beautiful. Tarmacked walkways, well-manicured lawns with beautiful flower gardens and decorative shrubs.  This was the work of Brother Tinka and as he writes in his book, “I believed that a serene, clean and physically attractive environment was an incentive to healthy social relationships, to have a calm mind for studying more easily, and uplift the spirit to the Lord.”

“A great problem I had observed was how much mud the students brought on their shoes into the classrooms and the dormitories. I decided to tarmac the roads and lanes on the compound …”

His “masappe” was criticized by some members of the board who thought he was wasting money on beautification but to Brother Tinka, the aesthetics are as important as the function.

There are many things I learnt about my headmaster from reading his book. For example, I never knew that he was one-eyed! And probably many students didn’t know. One day as he was collecting firewood as a boy, a dry stem of a shrub hit his left eye and it was blinded. Later in life after a motor accident, the man developed back issues which caused him a lot of physical pain, but all this was never seen during his time as our headmaster. He was dedicated to his job.

Brother Tinka has contributed a lot to education, from SMACK and other schools of the brothers of Christian instructions and Uganda as a whole. His telling story is an interesting read.

People like him contributed to the firm foundation of traditional schools like SMACK and no wonder to this day, many parents will do anything to have their children go through such schools.

To read his incredible life story, from a village boy in Fort Portal to experiences across the world and contributing to Uganda’s education … and how he was summoned to State House to give Muhoozi a place at SMACK, get a copy of his book.

The book is available in bookshops, or you can contact Jimmy Odoki Acellam to hook you up.

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Written by Henry Ssali (0)

Communications consultant, filmmaker and entrepreneur

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