Elisha Z. Bwanika
As the common saying goes; “not all hope is lost until one enters their grave,” Steven Okello, a police officer who dropped out of school 13 years ago has lived to testify to this.
In the early 90s, the Pen Pal trend hit Uganda. Then, young Ugandans would get connections to people abroad to sponsor their education or even adopt them. Today social networking is the in-thing and many hopeless Ugandans have had their lives take a 180 degree turn through such Connections.
Okello met Brian Oller, a high profile American Oil and Gas business men through Mr Isaac Kigozi, Lync Africa’s Chief Executive.
Lync Africa is a global consulting leader in cross- border investment, functioning to create a linkage for investors, on which business sectors to invest in, and advise government on the different investment needs, alongside guiding it on which investors to bring in and entrepreneurs both locally and internationally.
Brian, who is now in the country alongside Mr. Tamez Christopher Jose and Mr. Roylance Mark Duane, first met Okello in April when he came to Uganda. Okello was assigned to Brian as a body guard.
Okello put on a 90 degree joyous smile upon seeing American businessman Brian, but what stuck as more sincere was the tight but warm embrace the two shared when they met again at one of the penthouse suites at the Mestil Hotel & Residencies in Nsambya.
Brian is the founder of Vega Chemical Corp, a company that manufactures lubricants and additives for heavy fuels and diesel. He alongside his team were invited to come and do business in Uganda and when Brian came for his second leg of the preliminary visit in June, he met Okello again before flying back home.
On both occasions, Okello, a police constable was part of Brian’s security detail. The first time was part time, but in June, he was with Brian all the time.
The lanky cop says that, “They came to Muyenga police post where I was stationed at the time. I was the only free policeman. So when she asked for someone to escort Brian, I was readily available.”
Initially, Okello’s role was to guard Brian as the businessman, who started Vega Chemical 12 years ago, held meetings with several government officials about the possibility of investing in Uganda’s oil and gas sector, however a couple of days later after they became acquaintances through visiting different offices, Okello says Brian asked him what he wanted? To this he replied, “If only I could go back to school, all will be well.”
Okello’s Brief Background:
Born in a family of six and raised by a single mother, Okello who is the third born but eldest son, dropped out of school after his A’level exams due to insufficient funds. However he always dreamt of going back to school, though he knew it would always be that; just a dream.
Reality is yet to struck
“Thanks to the current leadership under H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the war in Gulu ended, though our lives will never be the same,” Okello notes
“My mother raised six of us single handedly in Gulu, and we struggled through school. So, after completing my High School 2005 I knew that was the end of my education since there was no money to advance,” he laments.
Two years later, he joined the Uganda Police Force. And for 11 years he has protected and served the country diligently moving from Mobile Unit through to Counter Terrorism Unit.
The ‘Mesiah’s’ Meeting
Before flying back to the USA in June, Brian had a seemingly casual chat with Okello and he has this to say, “I saw the way this young man treated others, and in him I spotted a person of character. One day, as I sat down to have lunch at the restaurant, Okello sat outside as usual to wait for me. I invited him to sit with me and we started talking and that is when I realized we had a lot in common, such as being raised by a single mother and growing up poor.”
This is when Brian asked Okello what he wanted, a question that would change Okello’s life forever.
“We did not talk about the subject again. But when I returned to my hotel room, I vowed to make sure that Okello could go back to school.” Brian adds.
The next day, Okello was received the good news through Mr Kigozi, who has dedicated the last two years off his Tv Production company in the US so that he can help better the lives of his countrymen by tapping into his connections like Brian and team.
An Overwhelmed Okello wasted no time, so he picked admission letters and bank slips from Team University.
“You see, with my police salary, I have tried to make sure that my siblings also go to school. There was no way I was going to university when the younger ones are struggling,” he says.
Upon touching base in the US, Brian deposited Okello’s tuition fees to the account of Team University.
“I did not have a bank account. In fact I was the first student to clear tuition in my class,” Okello says, proudly displaying the tuition receipt of Shs700,000 and an examination clearance card. The first semester commenced in August.
Old Habits Die hard
Despite knowing that the reason his tuition was sent to his school account, six moths down the road, he still does not own a bank account. However when he met Brian again on Tuesday, Okello promised to have an account opened soon.
“I am grateful to God. I am happy that I met Brian. I want to thank my supervisors for allowing me return to school,” he said.
When he is eventually done with his diploma in two years, he is sure that better things lie ahead.
“In this world, if you are not learned you will not achieve anything. That is why I decided to go back to school. Now that I have received this opportunity, I will not disappoint Brian and Isaac. But I know that after I graduate, I will grow in rank and maybe move to the ICT department of the police force,” Okello optimistically said.
His supervisor ASP Atanansio Dokchen has also promised to support him throughout this particular journey, allowing him to work on weekdays and study on the weekends.
When God says Yes……
After our interview, Okello was set to receive a mega surprise. He could not believe his fate when Brian handed him $1000 in cash. On top of this, Brian gave him a brand new Microsoft Surface laptop valued at about $1,200 to which he added, “When I promised that I will make sure you have everything that will enable you to go through school without any hindrances, I meant it.”
As Okello tore the laptop’s plastic wrap, he reiterated his promise to work harder, and never disappoint Brian. To this, Brian responded, “And that is what hard work does for you,” before suggesting that the scholarship project will be extended to female police officers.
In response to Brian’s commitment to the promise he gave Okello, Kigozi said that, “I am happy that our President has ensured there is a conducive environment for good natured and big hearted human beings like Brian and his team, to do business in our motherland. This is why my company Lync Africa is committed to continue attracting more such investors to Uganda who will not only add to the country’s economic growth but also help better the lives of many marginalized Ugandans through their CSR.”
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