I remember my mother one morning, readying me in my favourite white shirt and white shorts. The white shirt was a bit silken with different shapes and colours, reds, blues, pinks. Did I know they were shapes then? Colours? It just looked good. And leaving home with mom then was always exciting. I couldn’t wait to get on the road, see the big yellow and green buses, the strange faces of people on the street and whatever new gift I’d be given to see. I loved it.
We left early that day. It was unusual. Perhaps that’s why I missed most of my journey. After we had got into the bus that day, next thing I recall was Mum tapping me gently to wake up.
“Tuli kumpi kutuuka, zukuuka.”
I got up to explore where we were but nothing was familiar. There was a road on the left leading to huge compound where the car stopped and we got out. I started to worry a little. There were lots of other kids there on that day and I was led to sit with them. Mom left with a file and entered an office with a grey door. When she came out she said
“Bagenda kubuuza ebibuuzo naye totya, obidamu bulungi”.
I began to really get anxious now. Why was I here? Why were these people going to ask me questions? Why were there other children here?
“You’re going to start school soon” she said, this is your interview.
Mum had been saying that word intavyu quite often in the past few months. She would smile, touch my chin and say “You’re a clever boy. You can even read and colour. You will pass”. She loved reading to me stories from the Bible, especially the one of Benjamin. I would follow her fingers as they marked each word on the pages. Maybe in a way I learnt through that way.
Yet here sitting on the bench seeing other children go in, come out, go in come out, of that office with a grey door, I wondered if I was clever. I wondered what passing meant but knew it was important. And that’s when the pressure must have started. I knew somehow I needed to be better than the others. Nothing else came up. Not even discovery and meeting new people.
Years later I ask myself about each time I went to a new school. Was there a reason I was in school? Why did I have to be in school? Was it something written in cement, that once one was 3, he had to go to school and be with other children? Did the children ever know? Do they ever know why? Or are they just being herded because it is the norm?
At Nakasero, at Makerere College, the pressure was always on being the best. Passing challenges. The future was very far. If you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, the common answers were, “Doctor, Engineer…” Even I at one time said I wanted to be so without understanding what it was.
I never fell in love with learning, I focused on passing. The things I excelled at were things I found myself loving somehow. The words. The pictures. The numbers I hated.
There seemed no purpose. And when university approached, the future came closer. You needed to get a good degree for a job, a wife, kids and a good place to live. Again, being better than others seemed more important than learning because it would solve a future problem.
I recently wrote a review “Ebifananyi 6: Duc in Ultum”, which briefly chronicles the roots of St Mary’s College Kisubi. Why their motto is Duc in Ultum – cast into the deep. I felt as I wrote the review that in going to school, there must be a purpose brought before the one becoming a pupil or student. Why learn? Where are you going? What are you going to find? Why should I cast my nets into the deep? We cannot just go to school because it is time or someone said so.