The Earliest Origin of Our Centre
In the first years of the Salesian Society when several communities began to spring up Don Bosco used to tell his sons that
“Every brick of our houses is build by our Blessed Mother Mary.”
In the same Salesian tradition we can say that our presence at St. Joseph Vocational Training Centre, Kamuli is existing as a miracle from our Mother Mary. Indeed every noble work for humanity has interesting origin. They all begin with the people with a heart and having people at heart.
Rev. Fr. Wijnand Huys, a Dutch Mill Hill Missionary was the parish priest of Kamuli Catholic Mission from 1981 to 1994. His tenure as the parish priest was a boon for young people. Salesians can rightly say that he had a Salesian heart. During those years of political instability he found hundreds of young people who could not continue with studies and were idling around. He tried to keep them busy with music and other activities. One such activity was offering them vocational training in life skills.
At this time Mr. John Stephen Dizaala was the manager of Christian Children Fund (CCF) an organisation working for children’s well being. Fr. Wijand teamed up with him to initiate an informal training with carpentry, masonry and tailoring. His home parish, St. Peter’s Marstricht in Netherlands assisted him with secondary hand tools. With 8 sewing machines, 10 hand saws and few other carpentry and masonry tools the training started under a large mango tree in the Kamuli parish. They were six boys and two girls of the locality who could not continue with academic studies and found learning vocational skills useful in their life.This earnest project went on within the parish premises for two years—1987-1988.
As more students joined the programme, books were purchased and local carpenters came to offer help. A room in Father DeCock Memorial Hall was used as office and housed the tools and books. The first students were boys of the Kamuli Brass Band and the parishioners. They were jointly sponsored by CCF and Fr. Wijand.
“The Village Polytechnic”
The parish felt that this worthy cause deserves better accommodation and recognition which would help the project to grow. Hence five acres of land was carved out of the parish land which is the current site of the school. When the school came to the new site it was baptised as “St. Joseph Village Polytechnic”. (In 1997 the students who hated the word “Village” destroyed the school sign-board). To give a professional touch to the institution Late Mr. Athanas Byansi, a native of Buyende and an instructor from Kaliro Technical Institute was identified as the first Principal. He worked for five years until 1993. In the new campus the centre used the office of CCF which is the current band store and another office was built for CCF across the plot so as to compensate them.
At this juncture the diocese stepped in to assist the centre. Bro. Boroham, a Mill Hill Missionary who headed the Development Office of Jinja diocese (JIDECO) was of great help. In 1994-1995 classrooms and workshops were built with the help of German aid agencies. The structures of the current boys boarding was originally the carpentry and masonry workshops. Thanks to the visionary leadership of the Late Bishop of Jinja of venerable memory Rt. Rev. Joseph Willigers appointed Late Fr. Andrew Isabriye to oversee the construction and the organisation of the school. Mr. Patrick Byansi was its Principal for about two years.
When the structures were completed, the school grew in strength but it struggled a little to manage and improve in academics and daily organisation. Meanwhile Fr. Wijnand Huys was also transferred from Kamuli Mission. At this juncture the bishop invited the Salesians of Don Bosco to take over the school and run it.
The Salesians who had a large Mission in Bombo, comprising of Parish, Vocational Training Centre and Secondary School sent two missionaries to work in Kamuli. Fr. John Marciniak and Fr. Waldemar Jonatowski pioneered the Salesian works in Kamuli. They began their work in 1996. At this time the Salesian works in Uganda belonged to the Salesian Province of Eastern Africa having its provincial headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. The current Director of St. Joseph VTC, Fr. Lazar Arasu later joined them in 1998 to 1999.
It was an uphill task for the first Salesians to take over the school and put in place various policies for the growing institution. Soon after their arrival they organised to put up a residence for the Salesian staff. It was officially opened in 1997. In December 1999 Fr. Richard Jozwiak and in April 2000 Br. Robert Dias came to work with Fr. Waldemar.
In the following years several Salesians laboured the community and worked towards its progress.
The institution is grateful to the contributions made by Fr. Antony D’Souza, Fr. Devasia Manathara, Fr. Danilo Lisjak, Fr. Gianni Uboldi, Fr. Callixte Ukwitegetse, Fr. Ndayikengurutse Jean Paul,Fr.Lazar Arasu,Fr.Denis Habamungu and others. They have made the institution what it is. In any case the frequent transfer of Salesian management hampered the progress. But the continuous presence of Rev. Brother John Njuguna compensated several other setbacks.
Brother John joining the VTC is the real moment of “Pentecost”. Just as the Pentecost of the early Church it has been the time of God’s grace and providence. In many sense indeed he is the father and founder of this institution. His vision, his guidance, his managerial skills and more so his fatherly and brotherly approach to issues and challenges can never be forgotten.
During his stay from 2001 with the help of several other Salesians and the support of the Salesian superiors and the donors, Brother John was able to achieve many development projects. Some of them are extension of the boarding, square-shaped large workshop block, office and class room block with a large multipurpose hall and other smaller classroom blocks. He also acquired additional land and created a functional farm. Besides renovating other workshops Brother also introduced new courses such as Hair-dressing, Motor Vehicle Mechanic, Catering and Information Technology which are timely and market-oriented plus a number of projects which he left when they where almost starting.
Brother John is Currently the Provincial Economer AGL Vice Province of Salesians of Don Bosco, PDO Director Planning and Development in Kigali Rwanda.
Father Denis Habamungu took over the principal’s office in 2014 upto 2016 July after being Transferred to Don Bosco Vocational Training Institute Bombo and replaced with the former principal Don Bosco VTC Bombo Fr.Eugene Florence. Fr.Eugene did not stay for so long as a principle as he was replaced by the Current Principle Fr.Philip Gbao in August 2017