Against All Odds: Sacred Heart alumna Betty Ogiel Rubanga's passionate pursuit of education

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Mrs. Betty Ogiel Rubanga inspired Sacred Heart Greenwich Upper School students and faculty October 18 as she shared stories about her life in Uganda and the impact of a Sacred Heart education. While growing up in Uganda, Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga attended two institutions in Sacred Heart’s international network of schools, Kangole and Kalungu Girls’ Secondary Schools. Now, she is an author, motivational speaker, and award-winning Senior Human Resources manager at Total Uganda, a petroleum company.

Students involved in diversity, community service, and campus ministry met with Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga to discuss her book and their experiences at Sacred Heart schools. Emily Coster ’18

In her presentation, Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga spoke about her recently published book, Against All Odds, which chronicles the challenges she faced in her pursuit of education. Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga grew up in Karamoja, a rural region located in northern Uganda. When she was still a child, her father died, and she began living with her uncle and his family.
When she was 14 years old, Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga’s uncle and his family abandoned her, leaving her as an impoverished orphan. While Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga was living on her own, her neighbor frequently offered her meals but eventually poisoned her. As an abandoned orphan, she had to illegally brew gin that she often smuggled to Kenyato pay for her own school tuition. Despite these numerous challenges, Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga continued to attend school and was an accomplished runner.
However, she soon faced even more obstacles. While attending Kangole Girls’ School, a Religious of the Sacred Heart school, she suffered from a poisonous snake bite. After school administrators discovered that she had no present family members or emergency contacts, they helped her receive financial assistance for her school fees.
In light of this experience, Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga emphasized the potentially positive results of hardship. She explained that had the snake not bitten her, she would not have received the financial aid that she needed to pursue her education.
After finishing her secondary school studies, Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga studied social sciences at Makerere University in Uganda. Although she struggled to finance her education, she continued to pursue it. Without enough money to pay for room and board, she slept on benches in the university’s sports pavilion while a professor paid her tuition.
After graduation, Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga embarked on her career. She eventually became an award-winning Senior Human Resources Manager at Total Uganda.
Mrs. Betty Ogiel Rubanga speaks to students about her life story, her experience attending Sacred Heart schools, and her book, Against All Odds. Elisabeth Hall ’18

In 2006, however, she was involved in a car accident that left her completely paralyzed and unable to speak for six months. To this day, regaining her speech and physical abilities has been an ongoing process. After making miraculous improvements in her recovery, she was eventually able to return to her job.
In addition, Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga established the non-profit Betty Ogiel Foundation to support and advocate for girls’ higher education. She acknowledges that her Sacred Heart education helped to instill the moral principles that fuel her passion for making a difference in the world.
“I learned important virtues: hard work, integrity, and honesty. Not everywhere do you receive that information,” Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga said. “‘Dare to be true’ was our motto at Kalungu [Girls’ Secondary School].”
Mrs. Ogiel Rubanga’s poignant personal story touched Sacred Heart students and faculty. In particular, her perseverance in the face of insurmountable challenges resonated with senior Bettina Hervey.
“I thought Betty Ogiel’s unfailing optimism was really inspiring,” Bettina said. “Most people would have given up on their pursuit for education or career after experiencing such negative circumstances.”
– Emily Coster, Editor-in-Chief