No hurdles could stop Masagazi from PhD dream

Dr. Joel Masagazi Yawe of Uganda Christian University (UCU) during his PhD graduation
Dr. Joel Masagazi Yawe of Uganda Christian University (UCU) during his PhD graduation

By Yasiri J. Kasango
Some people put the label “school dropout” on Joel Masagazi Yawe because after his A’level completion he stayed home for two years. The negative label was ill-placed as Masagazi faced hiccups in his education journey. The biggest barrier – not unlike many young people – was lack of tuition funding, blocking him from further education. 

Masagazi opted to do farming with his parents – Mr. and Mrs. Mukasa Kabanda – so he could raise the money that he needed for university tuition. The Kabandas were primary school teachers in Mityana district, found in central Uganda. Once he started his university education, Masagazi did not close his books until he achieved the apex qualification, a PhD. He got his doctorate in education management from the University of South Africa (UNISA) in May 2021. 

The 43-year-old is currently a lecturer in the Department of Education at Uganda Christian University (UCU). For overcoming a very torturous education journey, Masagazi’s children adopted the title “doctor” in their everyday reference to their father. To Bukirwa Mary Precious, Nankabirwa Annah Leah and Kabanda Joel Masagazi, their father is now “Dr. Daddy.” 

Dr. Joel Masagazi Yawe and family
Dr. Joel Masagazi Yawe and family

In 2002, Masagazi, who was 24 years at the time, joined UCU to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Education. To supplement the income for his tuition, Masagazi combined both work and study, like many other needy students at UCU often do. The work-and-study program was introduced by the university to help needy students raise money for their fees. 

“I worked both in the cafeteria and at the library to raise my tuition,” Masagazi said.

Oftentimes, he found it hard to balance work and books, but had limited options. He worked very hard during day and always spared time at night to read his books. He also had an understanding with his supervisors at work, who allowed him to attend classes and only work when he was free. 

In September 2005, Masagazi reaped from his sweat, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education. 

“I was overwhelmed with joy,” he said. “I couldn’t thank God enough that I had graduated despite the hurdles I had had with paying tuition fees.” He said his parents, too, were excited that he had not disappointed them.

Masagazi attended Turio Primary School in Mityana and Kasubi Church of Uganda Primary School in Kampala. Mityana and Kampala are in central Uganda. For his secondary education, Nyakasura School in western Uganda was his choice. 

Upon completion of his bachelor’s degree course, Masagazi was employed at UCU as the alumni relations officer under the Department of Development and External Relations. He also was a tutor in the Department of Industrial Art and Design.

Since Masagazi was not content with just a bachelor’s degree, he continued searching for education opportunities. Two months after graduation, he was admitted for a Master of Human Resource Management course at UCU. Two years down the road, he was a holder of an MA. But he felt he was not yet done with school.

When he applied at a university in Australia, he said he realized that the tuition fees he needed to pay were enough for him to survive in Uganda for the rest of his life. He was admitted, but he did not bother to attend any lectures. 

Masagazi later joined UNISA in 2014, where he had an opportunity to study as he worked. For the six years Masagazi was at UNISA, he says on most of the days, he woke up at 4 a.m. to attend to his books. He says he was lucky that his family, especially his wife, Susan, understood the amount of sacrifice he had to make to achieve his dream.

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