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Interview: Mohammed Musoke

Updated Wednesday, 25th May 2005

An interview with head of art and design Mohammed Musoke, part of BBC FOUR's African School series

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Mohammed and his mother Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Production team Mohammed Musoke, 34, is head of art and design and the disciplinary committee at Masindi Secondary School. In the programme Sex Education, his wife Aminah gives birth to their first son and we discover he runs a farm to support his wife and three children under the age of five, which is impossible on his teacher's salary alone.

Initially, Mohammed was against the idea of being filmed because he thought the school would be exploited. But the experience has changed his view of white people for the better.

"I had never interacted with whites before and I thought they had hidden motives. Now, due to the internet and interaction with the crew, I have realised that we have the same feelings as them and that they feel from the bottom of their hearts. The world is a global village and we are the same despite our colour."

Mohammed grew to trust the film crew and gave director Nicki Stoker access to his home, and the birth of his son Ibrahim - one of the most intimate moments of his married life.

"The crew were so friendly. They came into my home and left their cameras behind. They exposed themselves and we shared food and they talked to my wife. I realised what I thought of them before was really wrong. In fact, they were so open to me that I unknowingly opened up 90 per cent of my life to them! "

Mohammed is very proud of his newborn son, who he expects to bring security to the family when he is older.

"In our culture it's very important that you get a boy. He will be like a brother to me and he will offer security to his parents and sisters, just as I'm building a house for my mother because she laboured to educate me. As a child, you need to contribute to your family."

Mohammed sells his farm produce to Masindi Secondary School to supplement his family income.

"As a man you have to struggle hard to see the family stands. The farm has assisted me so much. I have 500 acres, with cattle, cassava and aloe vera seedlings" .

When Mohammed married his childhood sweetheart in 1998, he promised her parents that he would allow her to work. Her earnings helped to pay for his two-year degree in art and design teaching in the capital, Kampala. The tuition fees cost $1m shillings (£300) a month alone, three times his teacher's salary. Since Aminah lost her job as an accountant at Coca Cola in 2002, Mohammed has been the sole breadwinner. He hopes to supplement the family income with revenue from a stationery shop, which he plans to open this summer with Aminah in charge.

"In most Muslim marriages the woman is kept at home. Aminah's parents protected her by getting me to sign an agreement not to keep her indoors. It's a good thing because she helped me to do my degree. I have promised her I will open the shop by June"

Mohammed does not intend to follow his father's example and have four wives because it is too expensive. It cost him around $8 million (£2,400) Ugandan shillings to get married. He paid Aminah's parents in kind with cows and goats to show his appreciation for having a well-mannered woman.

"You really value your wife because of the money you have invested. I have not dared to annoy her or beat her because it will cost me a lot. I think divorce rates are so high in England because you don't put money in. I am happy with one wife. I want to have holidays and visit national parks and you can't afford that lifestyle with a big family."

Mohammed only sleeps six hours at night and always prepares his lesson in advance. But, he says poor salaries and bad teaching conditions are affecting the morale of his colleagues.

"When you have 70 in a class, and only one teacher, it's impossible to cater for individual needs in a 40-minute lesson. I am lucky because my students love art so I don't have to labour as much as other teachers."

Mohammed is acutely aware of his low socio-economic status and has lost touch with many of his school friends who have better paid jobs.

"Our peers have become lawyers and doctors and erected bungalows. We have the same degree qualifications as them, but they laugh at us so we don't socialise with them any more. Lots of teachers are changing professions and becoming civil servants. They get vehicles and their salary triples immediately. If I had the chance I'd change jobs."





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