By Pauline Luba
Uganda Christian University (UCU) student, Philip Mugume Baitwa, attests to the fact that life is partly made by the caliber of friends we choose.
At 15 years of age, and while a student of Mbarara High School in western Uganda, Baitwa sought to befriend classmates who he thought would inspire him to social and academic heights. He succeeded in making friends, but did not succeed in gaining positively from the friendships.
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Influenced by substance abuse, pornography addiction and juvenile delinquency, Baitwa says he was violent and a bully by senior four. He led many student strikes at school.
“I was lost,” said Baitwa, who was raised by a Christian grandfather, a canon in the Anglican Church in Uganda. While engaged in negative life choices, Baitwa said there were times he felt uncomfortable that he had separated himself from the religious teachings that his grandfather emphasized.
“Every time I was lost, there was a voice in my head telling me I was in the wrong, though I ignored it,” Baitwa said.
How He Discovered His Calling in Divinity at UCU
The 34-year-old eventually listened to the voice that was showing him the right path. He is now a year-three student pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at UCU.
He said his turning point came when he joined Valley College High School in western Uganda for A’level after many people spoke to him about changing his ways for the better.
In 2010, Baitwa joined UCU to pursue a Bachelor of Laws, a course he says was largely influenced by his father’s desire.
“My father did not study his dream course — law — unlike his brothers,” Baitwa said. “And that saddened him. Someone, however, told him that if he got a son one day, he could live his dream in his son.” Baitwa’s father, Enoch Tumusiime Baitwa, instead studied a certificate course in veterinary medicine.
Upon admission in 2010, Baitwa already had it in his mind to contest for the position of Guild President at UCU. He had been a student leader before. While in Kitwe Town Primary School in western Uganda, Baitwa was a time-keeper, health leader and eventually became the school’s top leader.
In 2013, he was successful in the guild elections. One memorable thing about Baitwa’s leadership was changing the semester for voting for student leaders at UCU from January–May to September–December. And to justify the change, the Baitwas reasoned that in the January-May semester, many of the students are either on holiday or in internships so they would not participate in the voting of their leaders. They, thus, preferred the September-December semester, that had every student at school.
After graduating from his law course in 2014, it did not take Baitwa long to realize that despite the law degree, his heart was elsewhere. “I didn’t like sitting behind a computer for long. I’m an outgoing person and I like to socialize,” Baitwa said.
In 2020, Baitwa said he experienced what many describe as the “call to Christ.” He began to have constant communication within himself, directing himself towards Christ and the service of God. Finally, in 2021, he returned to UCU to study divinity.
Many friends and family members, however, rebuked him for the decision, with some calling it “foolish.” Even some of his church leaders, he said, could not readily believe the decision he had taken.
“Theology is the queen of all subjects,” Baitwa said of the reason for the switch. “We see it in all other courses. The legal framework is from the Bible.”
Baitwa hopes to combine his knowledge of the law with that of divinity once he graduates, to be able to “fill the legal gaps in church.” The father of three children — three years, one year and a three-month old baby — says his ultimate life goal is to see people live for God’s purpose, regardless of what career they are pursuing.
To give his family a livelihood during the time he is in school, Baitwa trained his wife — Peace Mugume — on how to handle investments and how to run the family farm.