Peggy Noll inspires Uganda’s next generation of writers
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2018/10/peggy-noll-inspires-ugandas-next-generation-of-writers/
By Douglas Olum
It was 2:57 p.m. (East Africa time) when I left The Standard newspaper office at Uganda Christian University (UCU), where I work. I sped towards Eunice Guest House, located at the foot of the forested hill on the southeast side of the Mukono campus. I had three minutes to arrive for a folklore lecture due to be delivered by Peggy Noll, the wife of the former and founding UCU Vice Chancellor, Prof. Stephen Noll.
But the venue had been changed to M3, one of the rooms on Maari block, a lecture block at the university. I rushed to the new venue. Mr. Peter Mugume, the acting head of languages at the Faculty of Education and Arts, was delivering his opening remarks.
“We are glad to report to you that the department you started has grown. We now have PHDs in literature, Masters of literature and we teach various languages like French, Kiswahili, Chinese and Spanish as undergraduate level,” Mugume said, addressing his message to Peggy.
The venue, located at the ground floor of the single-stair building, was packed with undergraduate students from first- to third-year and their lecturers. Reading from their faces, I could tell that there was thirst for more knowledge, the kind that Peggy Noll would soon impart to them.
After a few speeches from their staff, most of which were praises and recollections of great roles that Peggy played in transforming their lives, the Rev. Abel Wankuma Kibbedi, who was the Master of Ceremony at the event, introduced Peggy Noll.
She shared books, including various children’s literature, a collection of stories authored by Sir Apollo Gaggwa, an influential political figure in the pre-independence Uganda, and her own literature, “Under the mango tree,” which describes an environment seen by students on daily basis but with little attention.
“I would like to see someone write about him. For instance, why would he be busy collecting and writing these stories when he was Prime Minister?” Peggy Noll said, as she encouraged the students and staff to write and share their stories.
“You don’t have to look down on simple stories,” she said. “Children’s stories are very important.”
The study of literature at UCU started with only one student, a clergyman from the Western part of the country. But soon it grew to seven, all of who were pursuing it in line with the vocation to teach the English language. Right now, there is an entire department dedicated to the study of literature and languages.
Mary Owor, a lecturer at the department, agrees with Peggy on the importance of compiling children’s literature and other simple stories saying, “As Ugandans, it is time for us to get out of the oral story telling and get into written.”
On the part of the students, the lecture that could have started as an option to their program, turned out to be a life-changing event.
Daniel Kishoda, a student of Bachelor of Arts in Education with Languages, said the lecture has inspired him to focus more on his writing projects.
“I always know that all the peace and stability that we long for in this world rely on us because we can influence society using literature, but I had never concentrated on my writings,” Kishoba said. “You (Peggy Noll) have given me a dose of inspiration that will make me focus more on my writings.”
The students resolved to resurrect the inactive “Literature Association,” founded in 2005. They have committed to write poems and short stories and share with their lecturers. Through individual and association effort, literature will grow again in the country.
If you are interested in supporting UCU programs like this one in literature, contact Mark Bartels, UCU Partners’ Executive Director, at email@example.com. Also follow our Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin pages.