By Pauline Luba
Ordinarily, when a student studies Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics at A’level in Uganda, chances are they will opt to pursue a course in medicine at university. That was not the case with Emmanuel Okia. He says even before he completed A’level, he knew his heart was elsewhere.
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The turning point in Okia’s career journey was a presentation made when he was in high school. For A’level students, Okia’s school, the elite St. Mary’s College, Kisubi in Uganda, invites professionals to explain to students what it means to pursue a career. On the day Okia attended the career talk, Ugandan lawyer Mathias Sekatawa made a mind-blowing presentation, arguing why a career in law was the best that could happen to anyone.
“Sekatawa’s speech is what convinced me to go for a career in law,” Okia said.
Of the bar course
And he is soon realizing that dream. Okia recently completed his Diploma in Legal Practice at Uganda’s Law Development Center (LDC). At the most recent bar examination that LDC conducted, Okia emerged as the best student, with a Grade Point Average of 4.9 out of 5.0. A bar examination is a written assessment that a student must pass if they are to get a certificate to practice law as an attorney. To practice law in Uganda, all lawyers must acquire a Diploma in Legal Practice.
And what other better way to launch into the law profession than with the man who swayed Okia away from a career in sciences? The 24-year-old has just completed a clerkship in Sekatawa’s law firm, MMAKS Advocates.
The news of Okia topping his class in the bar examination could easily shadow the fact that his journey to the helm was not as straightforward as many would think. First, he failed to meet the requirements for the pre-entry exams to get admitted for a Bachelor of Laws at Makerere University in Uganda.
“I had scored (lower) points in UACE, which meant I didn’t qualify for the Makerere pre-entry exams,” Okia said, noting that, however, he was able to sit for the exams at Uganda Christian University (UCU), which he passed.
During a virtual interview with Uganda Partners, Okia said for a large part of his studies at UCU, he often topped the law class. He recalls spending long hours revising and benefiting from UCU’s arrangement of the lecturer–tutor format of teaching. In the lecturer-tutor set-up, after class with the lecturer, the students would also meet the tutor, who would break down the issues learned and explain how they apply in the practical world. Okia said if one didn’t understand the lecturer, then they would understand the tutor, which was a great aid to overall academic excellence.
On student/ campus life
He is grateful for the fact that he was able to form close bonds and friendships with classmates he met at the university. From that bond, he was also able to get a fiancée. Okia and Christine Leah were part of the same discussion group and eventually became friends for life – and more. After years of dating, Okia proposed to his fiancée early this year. The two are planning for their marriage later this year.
He considers his keys to success as the discussions he was involved in and having good lecturers who were also practising lawyers.
Okia is the son of Alex Okurut, an accountant, and Esther Katalikako, the headteacher of Kakoro Primary School in the eastern Uganda district of Pallisa. He attended Nkonkonjero Primary School and St. Mary’s College Kisubi for his O’ and A-level. Both schools are located in central Uganda. While at Kisubi Okia says he was a leader in many school clubs. At UCU, among the leadership positions he held was being the vice-chairperson of the Moots Committee in 2019. At LDC, he was the student leader in charge of academic affairs.
As Okia looks forward to contributing to jurisprudence in the country, he also wants to have a firm grip on accounts-related issues. He is currently pursuing a course for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.