The Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) has asserted a claim over the ownership of Mariam High School, a private girls-only secondary school located in the Kisota zone, Kisaasi in Kampala. The school in question is one of those that have been selected and approved by the education ministry to be coded as grant-aided schools.
According to Sheikh Juma Bakhit Cucu, the Secretary for Education at UMSC, a thorough examination of documents by his department has revealed that Mariam High is one of the schools owned by the council but has been taken over by several individuals under dubious or illegal circumstances.
Sheik Cucu says the situation came to light when the council received a notification, flagging the attempted alteration of Mariam High School’s ownership by a group of 11 individuals. He adds that the eleven registered a new entity, Mariam High Ltd as the owner of the school before fronting it for government aid.
Cucu explained that existing records indicate a generous Muslim donated land for the construction of the school for the Muslim community under the leadership of UMSC in the 1980s. He further added that the then council leadership collaborated with partners from Sudan’s Munadhamat Dawat Islamiah, which played a pivotal role in funding the construction of the school—resulting in the establishment of Mariam High.
While researching the subject, our reporter found that Cucu’s narrative on the early days of the school aligns, to some extent, with the information found on the school’s official website. The site states that Sheikh Rajab Lubega donated approximately 5 acres of land to the Muslim community for the construction of a school.
“Lubega wished to have a school constructed preferably for girls, and also if possible together with a vocational school and with health center, which could serve the (sic) community of Kisaasi. In 1984, Sheikh Rajab Lubega invited Muslim leaders from UMEA and handed over the land to Sheikh Rajab Kakooza, the Chief Kadhi,” information from the website reads in part.
Our reporter has also acquired a copy of the certificate of title indicating the transfer of land measuring 2.02 hectares Situated at block 214 plot 472 of Kyadondo from the name of Rajab Lubega to Uganda Muslim Supreme Council on 09/04/1984.
Meanwhile, the school website further states that the Uganda Muslim Education Association-UMEA became the trustee of the land and built the school, with funding from a prominent businessman and Sheikh from the United Arab Emirates, Abul Majid, sent through Munadhamat Dawt Islamiah, an organization in Sudan. However, Cucu claims that some of the information on the school’s website is distorted but acknowledges certain facts. To him, internal conflicts within the UMSC complicated the situation.
Cucu notes that during transitions in leadership, specific individuals retained ownership of properties initially designated for the Muslim community without informing subsequent leadership. He added that over time, these individuals, either collectively or independently, not only continued to occupy these properties but also made improvements to them, including Mariam High School.
According to him, the school was under the education department of UMSC, given that the Uganda Muslim Education Association-UMEA closed shop in 1964 when the government nationalized schools through the Education Act. He further asserts that the current, UMEA did not exist as it was only registered in early 1995. He contends that this association is unlawfully occupying several other Muslim schools.
UMSC has taken a significant step in addressing the matter by formally reaching out to the Ministry of Education. In their communication, they have requested the ministry to suspend aid to Mariam High School. Notably, the letter to the ministry doesn’t explicitly assert ownership of the school itself; instead, it focuses on claiming ownership of the land on which the school is situated.
“You are hereby informed that Maryam High School has unresolved issues of land ownership between UMSC, UMEA, and the office of the supreme mufti of Kibuli. The genuine land title of Maryam High is in the names of UMSC unless fraudulently changed otherwise,” a letter from the UMSC Department of Education reads in part.
Additionally, URN has gathered information suggesting that the school land was previously used as collateral by former UMSC leadership to secure a loan from the now-defunct Greenland Bank. Reportedly, when Greenland Bank ceased operations, the certificate of title for the land was transferred to another company, which subsequently listed the school property for sale.
Cucu acknowledges this unfolding situation and adds that UMSC took legal action by going to court to intervene. The court successfully halted the sale of the school land and placed a caveat on the property. However, Cucu indicates that he lacks information about the subsequent proceedings or the outcome of the legal matter.
“Our legal department will keep us informed on the progress of the case and any updates related to it. As for now, I am confident that the certificate of title for the land is still registered in the name of UMSC,” he noted. Attempts to obtain information from the school leadership proved unsuccessful. Our reporter visited the school, where he was directed to speak with the headteacher.
However, upon contacting the head teacher, it was communicated that she was currently in Mombasa and unavailable to discuss the matter. Following this, the reporter contacted Hajji Abubaker Kakembo, the General Secretary of UMEA, who affirmed his awareness of the developments. However, he added that updates on the situation could only be furnished by the headteacher.
Not the first conflict
The contention over school ownership involving UMSC and Kibuli Muslim faction-backed UMEA is not an isolated occurrence but rather part of a broader trend. Similar conflicts have emerged in different areas, particularly in the central region.
Institutions like Bwala Primary in Masaka, Kasawo in Mukono, Nateete Muslim High School, Kampala High School, and Kololo High School have all become focal points of such disputes. The resolutions have been diverse, with some schools transitioning to UMSC control, while others continue to operate under the control of UMEA-backed leadership.