Quote: "I sold my car to set up my business. Even my first secretary, who unlike me had a vehicle, did not believe in me along with a number of friends who thought I would not succeed in Menlo Park as it was a 'white area'. Today we have eight staffers and teach 250 multi-racial students a year..."
Born in 1970, Stephen Twinoburyo grew up in the Western part of Uganda in a town called Mbarara. After high school, he enrolled in Makerere University where he pursued a four year degree in Electrical Engineering.
"My father and the headmaster insisted I should pursue medicine instead of law or journalism which I had a passion for. Engineering was the eventual compromise," bemoaned Stephen when interviewed by this magazine in November 2012.
In 1994, soon after South Africa held its first democratic elections, Stephen got the opportunity to travel to Soweto with South African veterans who were stationed in Uganda. The ten day visit made him fall in love with the country compelling him to return in 1997 and he has never looked back.
"I was fortunate to have friends from Uganda living and working in Pretoria so life was not that lonely. My aim was to further my education in the capital city and pursue a career related to my studies. I initially struggled to get these plans going so to keep busy I started teaching maths and sciences and surprisingly I ended up enjoying it."
What began as a simple effort to earn an extra buck became a decade long career tutoring students in various colleges including Progressive College in Pretoria CBD, Boston House College in Cape Town and most recently, from 2008, Montessori College Pretoria. He also managed to complete a part time Bachelor of Sciences degree in mathematical and statistical sciences in 2007 through UNISA following advice from friends that mathematical finance courses were lucrative in the job market.
"In 2008, I completed a science honours degree in financial engineering at University of Pretoria (UP). I soon realised that, like engineering, finance was not my thing and that I will probably never pursue employment in this field. A year later, I decided to register my own maths and science tuition centre christened Scimatics Solutions (SS) but was unable to give it much attention due to the formation of the Association of Ugandan Professionals of SA (AUPSA)," Stephen remarked.
The road to the formation of AUPSA began on 30th May 2009 when Stephen convened a meeting of a number of like-minded Ugandans in Sandton. Those present agreed that this was a good idea, with benefits for Ugandans in South Africa, Uganda as a country and SA the host country. It was therefore decided to spread the idea beyond the confines of friends to all other Ugandans in the professional Diaspora in SA. Stephen was asked to communicate this and through a vast network of emails, ideas flew and this association started taking shape.
"In July 2009, the association had a formal launch at Inkwazi Hotel in Kameeldrift and was subsequently registered as a non-profit organisation with me as the chairman assisted by a hard-working committee. The website was soon established courtesy of Peter Mugisha. We also managed to organise a number of events including a business and investment expo in Melrose Arch in September of the same year."
A year after its establishment, Stephen decided to step down as chairman and was replaced by Allen Mutono, the proprietor of Inkwazi Hotel. Mutono served for a year and stepped down as chairman in the subsequent election where Emmy Muzamil was elected to the position.
"In those two years, I managed to focus my energies on my college. I resigned from Montessori in 2008 and took up a teaching position at UP's Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics."
Stephen is a frequent blogger on www.ugandaspeaks.wordpress.com. He had this to say in one of his posts about his experience in opening up his own institution:
"I sold my car to set up my business. Even my first secretary, who unlike me had a vehicle, did not believe in me along with a number of friends who thought I would not succeed in Menlo Park as it was a 'white area'. To some extent they had a point because although most black students would book classes for long periods, white parents would first do a trial run. One mother even insisted on sitting through one of my classes to test my ability, something I rejected insisting that if her daughter found the lesson worthwhile, she would tell her. At the end of the year, the girl was so happy with the tuition that she bought me a gift to show her appreciation."
From a few students and one sceptical staffer, SS today has eight members of staff and teaches about 250 multi-racial students a year as well as conducting special matric classes at UP. Stephen's vision also encompasses contributing to research in the areas of maths and science and improvement to teaching methods in these disciplines amongst disadvantaged groups. He notes in the aforementioned blog post that his success could easily be viewed as accidental given that when he began high school, he averaged 15-19% in these subjects, and furthermore, teaching was never part of his plans.
"With SS fairly established, I have now re-joined AUPSA as chairman. There was a feeling that the organisation was beginning to drift into inactivity. Having been instrumental in its formation, I would not like to see the association die. I am passionate about it because I am distinctly aware of what people can achieve when they come together; it is the reason why blocs such as BRICS or the European Union are formed," explained Stephen.
There has been a visible revival of the organisation with a number of events having been organised by the recently elected committee including a spring celebration at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg and a very well attended Uganda Independence dinner at Mokha Restaurant in Pretoria. These events addressed the association's objectives of social cohesion, education and national heritage. At the time of this interview, well laid plans were in place to conduct a charity event in December 2012 in support of two orphanages, one in SA and another in Uganda, and to organise a business and investment expo in early 2013.