James Odera, 19, an ambitious youngster had, suddenly, at an uncertain moment during his final year in High School, given up. He had, like most of his friends retired with no hesitation whatsoever, and no persuasion by anybody as well. He was certain that even though he lived by his favourite mantra “we run things, things don’t run we”, participated in every co-curricular activity on the school’s calendar, and kept the zygotic cesspool of dating – the sending and receiving of mail – alive, he would make it into a university. His preference, the mighty Makerere. He, in fact, conjured another mantra to illustrate his newly found, casually arrived at goal; “all roads lead to Makerere.”
He did. His dream was realised, without surprise. After all, he was in a top flight school, one of the country’s best. And then, that was when everything changed. Whether for his betterment or detriment, that was something he would sooner or later appreciate. There was much more freedom. No one had to chase him around anymore. No one had to pester him to do anything. He did not have to write mail any for the more. There were better members of the fairer sex to choose from. Much better than he had ever known. There were more activities than he could attend. More places that he could possibly be. There were a range of addictions to adopt. He became a forever engaged young man. Lectures were, as matter of course, an option. He believed that in order for lecturers to see him step in their classes, they had to give him a convincing reason to do so. They disgusted him with their overzealous attempts at reaching out to him by, for example, creating and asking him to sign up for access to their Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts. To him, they were, unlike Dropbox, GDrive, and Box, meant for much lighter content.
While Odera and all his friends had appreciated the idea of going to a University, none had accepted the idea of going to University to get knowledge. To them it was nothing more than a place to get a certificate.
As undergraduates, Odera and friends had done what they set out to do; to have fun, to enjoy their lives thoroughly.
However, they forgot the most important of all, the reason their parents, guardians, wellwishers and family friends did all they possibly could to pay the ever increasing tuition to enable them sail through the close to two decades of their lives in school, a symbol of their benevolence, one they only had to be sincerely grateful for, and highly indebted too: the obtaining of impressive grades.
Even if their sponsors went to the sky, consulted whichever gods, and came back riding on mosquitoes, they would, on graduation day, find not a satisfactory history to celebrate and a hopeful future to visualise but rather an inevitable lesson that most university students in Uganda today graduate with more addictions than well earned diplomas or degrees. And also, that from the day of completion and moving forward, they would not need lecturers – they have never desired them – but counsellors, to help them restore their sanity.
Ongata Rongai, Kajiado.
Sunday, April 6, 2014.