Uganda


…another woman’s throat will be cut tonight, her naked body dumped in a plantation, by the roadside, in a thicket, a stick stuck in her vagina. But we’ll see no blood, hear no wail, scratch not our heads about the similarity in these murders. She’ll be number 25 or is it 26? a statistic piling up since May. We’ll hear the news from one ear, forget it from the other. Because we are busy sharpening knives to chop another limb of the national bible. We are hungry and the dead are dead. Uganda!

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Of minis & tight pants: Let’s know when to shut up


By penning this blog, I’m probably committing the same sin I’m about to reproach a section of our media for – not knowing when to shut up. So I’ll keep it short like the mini-skirt that is once again dominating our public discourse.

We woke up on Tuesday to a directive by the Public Service Ministry, telling all permanent secretaries and chief administrative officers to enforce a strict dress code.

While some of us were busy scratching our heads over the uncomfortable talk about a possible removal of presidential age limit, the proposed compulsory acquisition of land by government, and pinches from our bleeding economy, other people were rolling on the ground protesting “indecent dressing” among some government workers.  The ministry heard their cry and responded.

In fact, the director, human resources at the Public Ministry Adah Muwanga, explained how horrible the situation is. She said “some female officers are pumping up their breasts…” Stop there for a minute and have a mental picture of that. Hmmm see what I mean?

She added that the same female officers are wearing miniskirts and in the process sexually harassing their male counterparts. And that is where I get really distressed about this mini-skirt/indecent dressing talk.

Every time we accuse women of “indecent” dressing, we insult men in the process. We (unknowingly I hope) brand men as libido-laden creatures with zero breaks in their pants. Andrew Karamagi drove the point home by articulating in a Daily Monitor commentary that it’s not true that men cannot restrain their sexual appetite.  Where are the other men to defend the restraint of their manhood, or is Muwanga actually right? If she is indeed right that your zipper goes gaga at the sight of a mini-skirt wearer, then the problem is still actually yours.

Anyway, I was expecting the media to ignore this “story” and tell us that indeed, the crisis we are facing in this country is not even close to mini. It’s maxi. But what do we see, front page coverage of the issue in both leading newspapers on Wednesday, July 5.

Thursday Op-eds in both New Vision and Daily Monitor were well-dressed but problematic in stance on the issue. The Vision one noted: “While it is desirable to maintain a good public image of the civil service, enforcing the directive as stipulated by the permanent secretary is not practical and could be open to abuse.” What the public needs, according to the New Vision editorial, is sensitization on how to dress “decently” and not a directive.

The Daily Monitor on the other hand, started with an entrapping headline, “People need services, not rules on dressing,” before detailing in the editorial that “Whereas the dress code policy is well-intentioned because it aims at fighting indecency in public offices thus shaping morality there, the question is whether the directive was absolutely necessary at this point in time”. So the directive is actually needed but poorly timed?

Let’s leave the issue of dressing and dress-code alone, people. The indecency that plagues this country and its public servants lie beneath the cloak – it’s in the mind, the hands, the eyes and every body part used to deny ordinary citizens what is due to them. That, is the stinking indecency we should be revolted by. That’s the indecency that should make us speak until our throats dry.

This is not the first time we are being distracted by this miniskirt babble by the way. In 2014, the signing into law of the “miniskirt” Bill by President Museveni caused quite a stir and I wrote about it here.  When Makerere University research fellow Dr. Stella Nyanzi stripped to her lingerie in protest against mistreatment at work, there was a similar outpouring of chatter and I, in this blog, wondered whether there’s anyone still fully dressed in this country.

We never learn, yet we should, and focus on the big picture, if not for anything then for the sake of our country that is facing actual issues. If we can’t, let’s at least remember that before all this came to be, there were once human beings strutting the face of this earth with nothing on, except maybe leaves, figs or animal skin. Did the men in that era mount women indiscriminately because they had no clothes on? Has the dress-code police chief, Fr. Lokodo reported more cases of rape in his Karamoja home area since they stay nude or half-dressed culturally?

Sometimes we should just let sleeping dogs lie!

But since the media decided not to shut up (because one of its roles is to inform), the worst they could’ve done was frame the coverage of this “dress-code/indecent dressing” directive appropriately (challenge, question, dissect) instead of reproducing the stereotype that Muwanga and her ilk are presenting.

And as you can see, this blog is now more than 800 words! So I’ll end here, lest I get accused of indecent writing.

 

 

My midro income status


I was just minding my mouth eating a samosa when I saw them. I slowed down as I inched closer to the roundabout and the traffic lights turned red. The rest of the cars ground to a halt and they, like majestic bees scanning which flower has the sweetest nectar, started towards us.

I watched them huddle near windows of cars ahead of me. I saw them knocking on the windows gently, insistently, and stretching out their hands to the man or woman on the wheel.

Knock, look the driver in the eyes, and stretch out your hand or both. It is a pattern. The rhythm rings in the head.

I was too busy chewing and watching the spectacle that I didn’t see him approach.

 Auntie, mpa kikumi. Auntie…

I swear I didn’t have the Shs100 he was asking for.

When I set out for a meeting in town that morning, Shs10,000 was the only cash that stood between me and brokiasis (the highest point of brokeness, according to an important person at Makerere as he briefed us on reckless spending one afternoon in 2006).

Since there was no parking space at my meeting place, I drove to the National Theatre for relatively safe parking. I wouldn’t have to worry about someone harvesting the body parts of my car if I’d parked on Musisi’s roadside parking lot.

Problem is, by the time my meeting ended, the parking machine alleged I owe it Shs8,000. Not that I was surprised (the parking here is pocket unfriendly), my only beef was that the meeting encroached on my lunch time and my purse was gloomy.

With Shs2,000 left, I bought two samosas and two bananas and started back to office. I was enjoying my lunch until this boy (of about 10 years old) happened.

Auntie, mpa kikumi. Auntie…

I turned to look at him properly and said, I don’t have money, with my hands. He gave me that I don’t believe you look, and I think I replied with my eyes too; I swear, I don’t have money. Then his eyes landed on my lunch which was on the co-driver’s seat. Damn!

He asked for it.

I looked at the lights and they had turned green. Phew! But no car was moving. The traffic cops must have decided we won’t follow the lights after all. Their whistle and swinging hands would direct us on when to move.

I turned to look at the boy, standing there, tapping at my window as hunger tapped on the walls of my stomach.

‘I am hungry,’ he said and added a don’t be so mean reprimand with his eyes.

I picked the remaining samosa and banana and gave him.

He smiled, said a thank you and quickly hid the eats under his shirt (away from the prying eyes of other ‘give me Shs100’ girls and boys, men and women).

By the time the cars on my side of the road was flagged off, my fuel gauge was blinking a warning. There was Shell fuel station right across the road but my purse was blinking red. Kyaba too much for this dream of ‘midro (read middle) income status!

Then I remembered what my friend Rosie (or was it Jackie) said, that even if the gauge starts warning, it doesn’t mean fuel is completely done. “See that last bar with an E? Yes, as long as the thingie isn’t on the E, don’t worry.”

Great!

But as I approached Kabalagala, I couldn’t shake off the discomfort that the car could just die for me in traffic jam. I turned off to Shell fuel station where an ATM was (thankfully) located. The savings account will have to be invaded today.

The security guard manning the place smiled at me broadly, followed by an elaborate greeting and a joke. It felt good, relaxing my sulking stomach muscles with a good laugh. I didn’t know I would pay for that laugh.

When I was done withdrawing money, the guard, in between goodbyes and a smile said, madam, something small for lunch. I gave him lunch and reversed the car to a fueling point. When I was done, I looked for a parking spot so I could buy proper lunch (not really proper because junk makes me sick, literally, and I had long gotten over the excitement of KFC).

I was almost done parking when another security guard appeared and started directing me on how far back I should reverse. She smiled and gave me a thumbs up when I was done.

About 10 minutes later, I walked out of KFC with my junk lunch and was ready to go earn my pay for the remaining part of the day. As the car roared to life, the security guard appeared from nowhere, walked casually towards me and smiled. Usually, that is a sign for you to smile back, roll down your car window, call them over,  and press a note of Shs1,000, Shs2,000 or whatever amount, in their hands.

I smiled back and drove off!

…but who is still fully dressed in this country?


Before the people (s) who invented clothes invented clothes, humans were strutting their things in the full glare of the sun – without care, without shame.

Then we were struck by the evolution lightning and suddenly our Lacomi was not big enough to cover our loins anymore and no piece of cloth could wrap our breasts well enough. We needed dresses, gomesis, trousers and all manner of attire to keep our privates out of public eye.

For most women, the longer the outfit and the more skin you covered up, the more claps you got – for being morally upright, self-respecting, a real ‘mother’ etc. A woman who wears a mini skirt or bares her skin beyond ‘acceptable proportions’ earns herself the title of Apoli, Malaya or a cheap, desperate seductress and many more.   

Among my people, a woman could only reveal her nakedness when she is really angry…like when her son starts behaving like an asshole and ignores all advise, his mother will wag her breasts at the son, invoking a curse; or if the woman feels wronged, she’ll strip before her kinsmen – to express her frustration and helplessness. Nudity thus became a weapon, a trumpet that once sounded couldn’t be unsounded. But that too is now frowned upon by many.

That’s why when in April 2015, women in Apaa, Amuru District stripped  before ministers, government officials and investors in protest against the grabbing of their land, the nudity weapon had been taken out of the granary; only that many didn’t feel amused by the action – it was an outdated practice, uncalled for.

I won’t go to neighbouring Kenya where in 1992, environmental activist Wangari Maathai led a group of women who protested nude against the detention of political detainees by the Moi regime, or the 1992 police station invasion by a group of women led by Muthoni Nyanjiru in protest of the jailing of Harry Thuku.

It’s important to note that behind most (if not all) nude protests by a woman, there is a man. Which begs the point that while has society fashioned women as the weaker sex, nudity makes them slap back the cheek of their male tormentor, it strips their aggressor of their power (at least in many cases).

So when I woke up to a video of Dr Stella Nyanzi protesting naked against her eviction from office at Makerere University, I was not very shocked, mainly because I know Stella is not one to be caged. Her only option is to die fighting, it doesn’t matter how.

The commentary that have followed Stella’s nude protest is what has amused me.

  1. Many have said striping was not Stella’s last resort, that she has a pen, a brain (a PhD for god’s sake!) and many other ‘civil’ and less shameful avenues through which she could have sorted out her employment problem. So the point is, a PhD-holding woman is over qualified to protest nude. Leave it for the Amuru women whose butts hardly touched desks in school.
  2. Then there are those claiming temporary blindness because of Stella’s breasts – the breasts have ‘fallen’ and should not have been exposed to the public, they say. Actually a friend of mine says if those were his breasts, he would bathe with clothes on. Another is utterly disgusted at the professor for spoiling his week with her unpalatable breasts! In other words, if you want to protest nude, make sure you have pointed breasts, firmer than adolescent oranges. But there’s no guarantee you will pass this test with ‘saluting’ breasts though. Some may find them too small, too big or just not their type. See, even Anita Fabiola hardly passed the boob test when her nudes leaked!
  3. And of course most people will think the strings in your brain have been eaten by weevils, or that you are a pathetic attention-seeking loser, a disgrace to womanhood. So don’t console yourself that maybe some of those condemning your nudity during day have the quickest hands to tear off clothes behind closed doors. And in this era of nude pictures and Rihana-style outfits, don’t imagine that just like most people bow to nudes in the comfort of their phones, they will bow to your day-time nudes.

Anyway, when all is seen and said, no one, especially in this our republic, should pretend they are not naked. When an MP votes to have their pay exempted from tax, they take off your blouse; when the ruling party holds a billion-shilling celebratory party while you try to touch the bottom of your pocket, they take off your pants; when you go visit your sick mother in hospital and there’s no blood for transfusion, no machine to scan their aching bones, or no radiotherapy machine to burn cancerous cells from their body; they take off your undies; when you wake up to headlines that your taxes have been eaten by termites or that it’s become a debris in a shoddily built dam or road, they leave you bare to the stare of a government that doesn’t care…

Unlike Nyanzi and the Amuru women who have the luxury of taking off their clothes, ours is an involuntary by a government blind to our nudities. And even those eating from the table with the emperor, may not realize they are naked, but when god comes to their Garden of Eden one day, their eyes will open to their nakedness.

The act of stripping is always deeper than what we see on the outside.

While you cringe over nudity by the Stellas of this world, have the clear-headedness to realize yours too is an Adam suit, just in another colour maybe!

Want Museveni to lose election in 2016? Have him kiss Janet


Once upon a time in 1996, Norbert Mao and Betty Bigombe (fondly called Atuku) wrestled for the Gulu Municipality MP seat. I was in Primary Four at Gulu Public Primary School, a short distance from Kaunda Grounds in Gulu town where Mao and Atuku would woo voters during their campaign rallies.

I don’t remember much from the political muscle-pulling then, but a chant coined by Mao against his rival, stuck in my mind, not that I knew its significance then.

Cam Atuku, bol ki Mao .i.e., Eat Atuku and vote for Mao, became a political courtship chant, urging voters to eat whatever money or goodies Bigombe would give them, turn up at her rallies even, but when it came to ballot day, they should cast their vote for Mao. The voters did just that: They ‘ate’ Atuku and voted Mao to Parliament.

Watching the crowd donate money and other items to presidential candidate Kizza Besigye on his nomination day reminds me of 1996. The only difference is that Ugandans eat Museveni during campaigns and get eaten at the polls.

But, will Ugandans eat Museveni now and give Besigye the ballot in 2016, or will the good old Doc only go home with a sofa, avocados, and bananas come 2016?

I’m no seer, so I will let you answer that.

But, there’s another way out. In 2012, Museveni let a huge secret out of the bag. He said if he kissed Janet in public, he would lose an election. How about Besigye, Amama and the other ‘wanters’ of the presidential seat do some magic and have Mzee kiss Janet the next time he shows up in Namboole, complete with Tubonge Nawe ballads in the background!

Hmmm! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the politics of crowds and watch as others give, and others are given.

If you must die, MP Ekanya, die properly


Hallo Mr Ekanya,

How is your neck? I hope you didn’t sustain a dishonorable 80-degree bruise after your attempted suicide.

See, after those saboteurs like Cecilia Ogwal, Ken Lukyamuzi the man, Mama Mabira Beatrice Anywar and others, stood in your way of making history on the floor of the August House, the least you could get away with is a spotless skin. For what is the use of picking pawpaw from the tree when it will come landing hard and wet on your head?

Your constituency Tororo Country surely deserves a district status. We have 112 districts already and Cabinet recently approved 22-new ones. So how could they leave out Tororo County again? Not even a protest by rat-eater in your area in 2005 could move these people.  How heartless!

Then in 2021 they will upgrade villages into districts and still leave your area out. But don’t worry too much, considering how liberal this country becomes every day, applications for individuals to become districts may just be announced. And what a perfect opportunity you’ll have! Geoffrey Ekanya District! See you’re even nodding at the sound of it. Let’s just hope they don’t put stupid requirements like having strong knees to kneel, some real energy to carry cash sacks or being loud-mouthed enough to sing songs to the man in a hat! I doubt they will go that far!

In the meantime, don’t even think about the dishonorable advice from Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah that you should go perfect your acting skills at the National Theatre. He can’t understand your pain. How can he, when Cabinet has given a nod to his constituency, Omoro County to become a district?

Look here honorable, I come from Omoro County, in Gulu District, but now with Omoro becoming a district, I’m in a dilemma. What will I tell people? That you see, I used to hail from Gulu but home has since migrated to Omoro District? Confusion just. Does that sound like consolation enough, MP? Does that give you an alternative idea that having a new district may not be the in-thing after all?

Okay, I see you tightening the tie around your neck again, and Anywar is not nearby, so I will not try to persuade you further. But look; we know you are in Opposition, and things can never be easy. Ask Besigye. Even with Ugandans trooping to his rallies and donating money, avocado and bananas to him, they have not upgraded his status to president of Uganda. Three attempts since 2001, zero. Now that he is trying to be president again they can’t even have mercy and make him sole candidate!

But don’t lose hope, Mr Ekanya. Try again. Someone even said you didn’t only attempt suicide but to undress as well. See, you had a proper opportunity to beat the protesting Amuru women to this nudity thing. You could have even become a better hero than the rat-eating Omoding.

You can still do this! Don’t tighten the tie around your neck and look around expectantly for rescuers. We need a proper hero in this country. Surely you know that!

So next time you want to die for an important cause like having a new district, die properly Mr Ekanya. Tororo County and Uganda shall be forever grateful.

eknay1Tororo County MP Geoffrey Ekanya. Internet Photo

Let’s allow The Monitor to die in peace…and resurrect


Black smoke has been billowing from my former workplace – the Daily Monitor. Those who have been keen enough to follow the developments will realise that the Monitor has been sinking and stinking, notably since government closed it down for 10 days.

Matters were not helped when, instead of taking advantage of public sympathy against its closure, the paper signed an ‘agreement’ with government. The public viewed that as a swap for their loyalty and trust in a paper that waves the flag of ‘independence’ and ‘truth every day’.

Although management came out to deny that the agreement was not a sell-out but a move at sticking to ethical and professional journalism, reports of stories about Muhoozi, Sejusa and Museveni, being plucked out of the press or from the stands, helped worsen the PR. At that point, management remained silent. Those who needed serious stories camped at the Observer and even New Vision.

Inside the newsroom, apathy and tension set in. Reporters and editors were no longer sure what stories to write/publish and which ones not to, because they weren’t sure if it’ll be ‘recalled’ or killed. Again, management took its time to calm the nerves of its employees and in the meantime, certain stories were not touched, notably stories on Sejusa. The paper only resumed consistently writing about Sejusa before, during and after his controversial return from the self-imposed ‘exile’ in the UK.

Of course the closure affected the company financially, Shs120 million was lost daily for the ten days it remained closed. That, in addition to the just receding economic crisis, saw employees sit on the edge of their chairs as reports of downsizing (or restructuring) spread.

Those who saw the ship tilting early enough, jumped off since they knew they could neither swim in the deep waters or save the vessel.

So what should really be done to save this ship from a wreck?

First, what the Monitor needs is a sober and effective management. Monitor needs a manager who understands the history and internal politics of the paper, the philosophies of why the paper was established and how it can adjust in relation to economic, political and rapid technological changes.

Otherwise, for now the paper is starving because of insufficient number of ‘adults’ to run that place; the young ones are either clueless, sucked up in intrigue, cliquism and passion for power rather than journalism or are lost because of the absence of mentorship. The good ones are doing their part, albeit with eyes at the window for an opportunity to jump.

Secondly, the Monitor needs to take a step back and reflect on where it went wrong, and find out who/what ‘bewitched’ the once mighty newspaper. That reflection can help the paper understand why it’s innovations and rebrands never delivers much.

That reflection will help the paper accept that there is a fire, so do you use water or sand to put it out? The paper’s reactive attempt at ‘increasing sales’ and ‘improving journalism’ has been seen in the paper briefing all stories from regions and at another time assigning a page per region; The paper’s clamour for survival, has seen it reallocate pagination and introduce two ‘editions’ but all this somehow falls along the way. So a reflection on what really happened, will be useful.

Thirdly, if the Monitor can’t improve its management and reflect on its existence, then we should allow it to die. The paper has been limping for a long time and the public plus its workers have been clutching on that tiny thread of ‘independence’ and ‘truth every day’, hoping it’ll survive – somehow.

Keeping the paper in that limping state won’t help. Its radicalism and an internal institutional coup that needs to happen. That coup should take with it unproductive employees (unless their usefulness can be reworked), and also do away with those who have accepted and are wallowing in mediocrity.

I don’t know if the recent sackings and ‘restructuring’ is a move to sweep the dirt at the place, but all will agree that the way issues around the poll story was handled, as well as the subsequent consequences, leave a lot to be desired. For an organization that deals in communication, an explanation to the public would have sufficed, maybe it will, but like my people say, the poop of a dog has to be cleaned when it is still hot (and not as smelly). Where is the accountability and transparency demanded so much from government and public officials, if readers can’t receive the same?

There are passionate, competent journalists at Monitor and in Uganda, but is the paper investing in them or attracting those with excellence? Is it rewarding and let alone recognizing excellence? Does it concern the paper when its reputable journalists leave the company in disgruntlement; or do the exits just serve as an opportunity to employ job-hungry graduates who will then be paid peanuts as a buffer for the company’s twitching financial muscle?

The media landscape has changed and keeps changing for the better or for the worse, depending on how one embraces it. The newspaper is particularly not in a comfortable place, especially those who have embraced sleaze and commoditised journalism instead of turning to enterprise and Day-2 journalism and milking online platforms for breaking stories and reader engagement.

That is why the Monitor, despite seeking to be financially viable, must also address journalistic gaps it is facing. People won’t buy the paper because Monitor employees took a month off to wash cars in public garages or clean city streets; they buy content, they buy valuable content, and unless the paper realizes that, we can only wish it a peaceful death, and hope it resurrects, healthier and stronger.

Give us this day our daily emotions, Dear Intellectual!


Dear Mr/Ms Intellectual

While the rest of us held our breath and wiped tears  after watching Jolly Tumuhirwe thrust, whip and step on baby Arnella*, you were intellectualizing the incident. REASON and RATIONALE is what you subscribe to.

Which is Ok and it wasn’t a problem, until you criminalized our own reactions to the incident. You said we were being EMOTIONAL. And being emotional is a terrible thing, something common among the brainless, those without intellect.

You tried hard to convince us that maids like Jolly are treated so bad and paid so little by their bosses, the reason they batter children entrusted to them. And for that alone, you were ideally justifying and rationalizing what caused us goose bumps and nightmares.

We are also still trying to believe your arguments that if one pays a maid highly (up to how much, you don’t say) and treat them well (whatever that entails) they will automatically treat children better than Jolly did.  Jolly! What a waste of name!

Anyway, we of #TeamEmotional would like to inform you that so many maids are not Jolly. They didn’t emerge from hell and they, like us, shed tears when they watched the gory video. That makes them emotional, too I know, but why should we care?

Why should we buy into this, your reasoning, this ‘legal’ mind of yours that, even for the most obvious crime, insists on shouting that Jolly is innocent until proven guilty? Really? Who needs another dose of evidence other than the one we watched? To hell with your white-collar law!

We ceased fire when you insisted the 22-year-old could be mentally perturbed and when police declared she is of sound mind, you covered your face in shame.

That point lost, you turned your gun on mothers, telling them to stop relegating their duties to maids. So all mothers should stay home, look after their children and no Jolly shall befall them.

You don’t care that not all mothers can leave their jobs and stay home, that some mothers are actually sole bread winners for their children and families. No, to you, if we want to avoid a repeat of the Jolly madness, all working mothers must tender their resignations like yesterday.

We hear you, but is that really a solution? Since you reason with your head and us with our hearts and whichever feeble body part, we thought you would jot a line or two on having the wage bill in place and a policy or legislation that regulates the work and welfare of domestic workers.

We also waited for you to argue that this incident should make us mull over the need to take extra precaution – buy nanny cams if possible – and do more background check of house helps we employ.

We don’t know what your next line of rational thinking will be, but as we figure out whether Jolly and LRA’s Joseph Kony are related in some way, allow us express our distaste at this barbaric act and your twisted thinking.

And lest we forget, we are aware that you and your ilk usually argue that, oh police officers are paid so little, that’s why they are the most corrupt, teachers are paid so little, that’s why they don’t teach, midwives are paid so little, that’s why they strangle babies and slap mothers etc etc.

You forget to admit that all these people are not employed at gun point. And if indeed they are worth their name and professions, they would let their actions show for it.

This legalization of wrongs, advocated by you and your disciples, under the guise of being rational is just lame, it is shallow. It is this blatant disregard for emotions and conscience that your lot pick and plunder. Such acts like looting cash meant to lift up the poor and buy medicine for the sick don’t make you itch.

You are rational. We recognize that. But give us this day our daily emotions.

Schools are killing our children


It was April 18, 2014. Layibi Village, the place I call home, slept peacefully. Outside, one could be sure the moon was sprinkling its rays on the village, goats and cows moving lazily about, or sleeping – waiting for the next day.

But at 5am, the story was different. The shrill cry of an infant snapped me out of sleep and got me sitting up – in astonishment. I could hear the sound of a car speeding away and a man running after it – screaming: “Driver wait, driver, you have left him.”

The child continued crying, but soon he started running after the car and pleading. I could hear his footsteps and that of his father. “Driver, wait, driver you have left me…” the child pleaded.

That three-year-old boy is in kindergarten. He wakes up at 4am, Monday to Friday, ready to be picked by the school shuttle at 5am. If he is not ready by that time, the driver will not wait for him. The driver moves around areas within and outside Gulu municipality, collecting children to take them to school.

When school is done by 12:00pm, 1pm or 5pm, depending on what time-table the school runs, the children will be dropped at their homes. The child who stays furthest from town is picked first but dropped last after school.

My brother Daniel has a three-year-old son. He was recently taken to a new kindergarten after his previous school relocated to a place outside town. On his first day, my nephew told his teachers: “I don’t like this school. Call my mum and tell her to come pick me up.” For a three-year-old, the boy has quite a brain and words.

His teachers were stunned, but one of the things he hates about the new school is that he has to wake up so early.

I told mum this nonsense must stop. For Shs35,000 per month in shuttle fees, a child’s childhood cannot be messed up like that. Gladly for my nephew, he will stop boarding that shuttle when the month ends. His parents will drop him off at school at a fairly decent hour of 8am.

For what sense does it make to wake up a child at 4am for school when he won’t start singing nursery rhymes or learning the alphabet until 8:30am? Why should a child roam around the district like a politician canvassing for votes and reach school, drunk with sleep and tiredness?

Sadly that is what is going on – children leaving home at dawn for school and returning home at dusk, their backs bent with kilograms of books. Whatever they study that I didn’t learn still beats my understanding.

Is it because unlike in 1994, today’s Primary Two child has to answer the homework question about how many municipalities are in Uganda?  Or is it because unlike in 1992, today’s syllabus has evolved from singing rhymes and learning the alphabet to knowing how to subtract and multiply?

So what do they learn when they are in primary level – how to build bullet-proof planes?

Some will argue that times have changed. Indeed they have, but must that happen at the expense of the full development of children? Do we really need to sacrifice learning for cramming? Are the grades too juicy, the newspaper coverage for exam ‘stars’ too attractive that we don’t care what artificial knowledge these children carry in their heads?

It’s difficult to pick a suitable detergent that can clean the filth in the education system. But like I did with my nephew, if you have the option, let the child be a child. Or make noise, as a parent who pours millions of shillings in school fees and requirements – you can change this institutionalized disruption of children’s childhood.

Importantly, stop spectating and moral boosting as schools kill our children. For if we force children into adulthood now, what will they do when they become adults?