- She got married as a senior one drop out, repeated senior six but she never gave up
By Billy Bayo
Milly Maturu Erema will go down in history as the first Uganda Christian University PhD graduand. She is among the 1,024 graduands who graduate during UCU’s nineteenth graduation ceremony scheduled for Friday July 6th, 2018. Her road to academic success hasn’t been an easy one. Her life is a tale of struggles, failure, resilience and eventually success. Her story shows that one can succeed in life irrespective of their background and failure as long as they don’t give up. It also shows no matter how bad or dark, one’s past is, their future is bright.
“I studied my PhD at the time when my husband had no money. I was a wife but I had made my mind to go back to school”, says Dr. Maturu, a mother of five. Paying her tuition was a struggle, “I battled paying my school fees and educating my children.” She would take two semesters off and pay her children’s school fees.
Born in Oleba village in Maracha District in West Nile, Dr. Maturu went to Ediofe St. Mary’s Girls in Arua District for primary one to primary five. Following the death of her father, her family moved to the home village where she enrolled at Oleba Primary School where she did her Primary Leaving Examinations.
Marriage as a senior one drop out
She thereafter joined Maracha Senior Secondary School but she dropped out in senior one because of an ongoing war in the country in 1979 that didn’t spare her home area. Her area is in West Nile, home to former Ugandan president Idi Amin Dada who was ousted in 1979.
Because of the liberation war, her family fled, first to the Sudan and then to Congo where she joined the Germany emergency doctors to work as a nursing aid - helping refugees. While in Congo she got married to her husband Rev. Sam Erema as a senior one drop out. On return, she still worked as a nursing aid stationed at Maracha hospital.
Determined to continue with her education, Dr. Maturu registered as a private student in 1985 to sit senior four. She was studying from home and she passed in third grade. Like the profound biblical verse quoting Ruth in Ruth 1:16-17, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay, your people will be my people and your God my God,” she followed her husband who was studying Theology at the then Bishop Tucker Theological College, now Uganda Christian University.
She fails and raises again
While in Mukono, she registered to sit senior six at Mukono Town Academy. She again sat as a private student. She failed all the subjects and only passed General paper with credit three. On the head master’s recommendation, she re-sat, this time studying History, Economics, Divinity and General paper. She got E in History, F in Economics, E in Divinity and 3 in General paper.
That opened doors for her to join Bishop Tucker Theological College for Diploma in Theology. She thereafter joined Makerere University for another diploma and degree in Theology. She went to Western Theological Seminary in the US for a Master’s of Arts Degree in Theology.
The rough PhD journey
Dr. Maturu studied PhD in Theology with a bias in Old Testament. This was a joint academic program between Uganda Christian University and Asbury Theological Seminary during her time of study. She should have graduated in 2015 after completing her research thesis at Asbury Theological Seminary but her graduation was delayed because of unavoidable circumstances including delays in getting an external examiner.
Looking back, she says that her PhD journey was not easy, “I battled paying my school fees and educating my children.” She would take two semesters off and pay her children’s school fees. She sought langham partnership for a scholarship. “When they learnt that I was studying Old Testament, they just gave me the scholarship,” she says with a smile.
The two years scholarship took her up to the end of her PhD.
Dr. Maturu has been lecturing in Masters of Theology, Master of Arts in Theology, Masters of Divinity classes and Bachelor of Theology mostly Old Testament courses at Uganda Christian University.
She looks forward to imparting knowledge, skills and values to as many students as possible in the area of Biblical languages and Old Testament knowledge. Her wish is to have at least one of her students is uplifted to PhD in the short term.
Such is the story of an achiever who never gave up and who didn’t allow failure to impede her aspirations.