Mayi, mulembe naabi.
This is my first letter to you. All my letters have always been addressed to Mzee Yoweri Museveni but this time I am writing to you.
Uryena mayi? Wanyala naabi buli shesi ukhola buli shesi unyala khukhuyeta fesitsana.
It is just after midnight in my time zone. I just finished helping Natasha with her home work. The topic was Mesopotamia and we had to learn about ancient history (well she had to teach me). She got to the point of explaining to me about social classes and one thing struck me really hard. She said something like in the ancient times they had scribes. Then she proceeded to tell me about the importance of scribes. Were people unable to write, then we would not know our history.
Were my daughters educated in Uganda, they would attend St. Mary’s Namagunga just like I did because that school can teach young ladies to write. Were they to attend none Kampala schools, they would attend Ntare School and likely be suspended this term like the S3 kids from that school. The girls are not in Uganda and have received all their education in Canada and if that were not to be, they would be attending school in France but they keep asking about their cousins in Uganda.
There is a bit of arrogance for us to say we went to the best schools and our kids are also in the best schools no matter how expensive since us parents will do anything for our kids to get the best education for their future.
What has been bothering me is some of the things you apparently say in media in Uganda. Do you know that the majority of parents can no longer afford to send their daughters to Namagunga like you did or like my parents did? Do you even know that not many can send their children to Namugongo primary school like some of our parents did?
Our parents were civil servants. Their salaries were paid on time. Their salaries were enough to send us to the best schools in the country and the schools were not terribly expensive. We got into those schools just based on our grades. If the salaries were insufficient, our parents sold coffee and managed. The Uganda we are living in now has little for an average parent. Cooperatives were killed off and so were the parastatals where most parents worked in order to feed their families and educate their children. I have a list of all the parastatals which were sold or killed. One example is UPTL which father used to work for and it is no more. I am a product of Uganda Posts and Telecommunications and naturally I followed in my father’s footsteps and went into Technology (ICT).
I never went a day without a meal. But there was that one time when there was a war to take down Idi Amin. Our school still managed to feed us 3 meals daily. Breakfast – chai, no milk or sugar. Lunch – porridge with no milk or sugar. Supper – one potato. All snacks were the mapere from the nearby woods. We never went a day without eating. We used to get our water from that pond. No one bothered to tell us that the pond was full of the blood of the Uganda martyrs. The horror of it!
Now I see you in media telling parents to buy food flasks and pack food for their children. But how is this possible? Parents cannot even afford one meal a day for their family. Do you know that every market or street vendor that is arrested or evicted means families which go hungry? Then so many many schools in some of the good schools are not in school this term because we put their parents out of work.
The other day you said that parents must walk their kids to school and avoid boda bodas who are dangerous or simply buy cars. I assure you that I never took a boda boda to school. I was driven to school and that is what I am doing now with Natasha and her sisters. But then I look at Uganda, people who have no food, no fees for their kids, no rent and then you make no sense telling them to buy cars and drive their kids to school. OR walk the kids to school when they are scrambling to go sell something to just have supper for that day!
In our comfort and arrogance, we often forget that people are really suffering. I would then like to beg for a bit of humility from you. I promise to also become more humble. We cannot tell starving families to buy food flasks and buy cars. We also cannot tell them to walk their kids to school and avoid boda bodas when most boda boda drivers are like family and do care for the kids as if the kids are theirs. We must also realise that parents do not have much flexibility to walk the kids for 4km to school because they will likely show up late at work and lose their jobs and then the cycle continues.
It is preposterous for us to not think about the majority of Ugandan parents and kids. I want you to know something. When I was doing homework with Natasha, she refused to use her iPhone 7 and her laptop to look up Mesopotamia. Kind of also shocked me. Till she told me “I am sure you remember this so tell me what you learned and I will draw for you what the scribes said”. I am looking at that kid and thinking she is up to something. Then “Mom, one thing you need to know is that if there were no writers, you would not have learned about ancient civilization”.
Then took off with her phone and hasta la vista!
Mama Janet, the Uganda government makes a very big mistake to silence writers. In fact, it is not a mistake. It is a very BIG mistake. Do you want to surround yourself with silent people who tell you that all is okay while they laugh behind your back? Because that is what is going on right now. I beg you to take on all challenges full force and be the mother of all of us. You know you can. Please, no more castles and high chairs. Be you as humble as possible. I will in return stop telling some people that they are IDIOTS but some always have it coming though.
Martha Leah Nangalama