OP-ED

Where did the hunger for change disappear to?

Times have greatly changed but sadly our future and the future of those after us is blurred with looming crises in every sector. Back then, let’s say 20 years ago, it was possible to get out of school and start from scratch and make it.

Female Student Protestors at Makerere University

I usually ask my older friends what their lives were like at my age. I am in my early twenties. I am always mesmerized by the kind of answers they give me.

One told me that they got a “small job” immediately after campus and that helped them to pay bills until they got an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree. Another one said they worked at their uncle’s business and got paid a commission. The other told me that they went back home immediately after graduation and helped their parents with taking care of family businesses.

All these are amazing stories that sound like music to the ears. But when I probe further about how they got to where they are now, I am made to understand that it was a tough journey. Life, of course, is not a straight line. What makes their lives admirable is the fact that back then, there was hope for one to dream and actually achieve their dreams. The political climate may not have been favourable as such but there wasn’t much of a crisis like the one we are in now. That’s what I see.

Times have greatly changed but sadly our future and the future of those after us is blurred with looming crises in every sector. Back then, let’s say 20 years ago, it was possible to get out of school and start from scratch and make it. It is still possible now but it requires lots of extras. Extra connections, extra conditions, extra bribes, extra prayers!! I belong to a generation of people that have never seen a change of government. All I know about the previous regimes is what I studied in Social Studies, History and also got to hear from elders.

I am lucky that my late father was there before independence, during independence and after independence until the creator called him in December 2020. I got to see the country’s transition from one government to another through his eyes, lips and ears. He answered all my questions and sometimes we would disagree on some of the issues.

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Regardless, I got a feel of what life was before the ruling NRM regime. I am just beginning to appreciate the fact that there were times when the economy was more functional than what it is now and I wish we could get to see and feel it too.

There is a song that we used to sing in kindergarten. Here it goes; Chorus
Oryakoraki iwe? (What will you do?)
Oryakoraki iwe? (What will you do?)
Oryakoraki iwe, ku’orimara emishomo?(What will you do when you finish studying?)
Verse: Ndyaba nansi, ndyaba nansi,ndyaba nansi kundimara emishomo (I will be a nurse, I will be a nurse, I will be a nurse when I finish studying)
Verse: Ndyaba tikya, ndyaba tikya, ndyaba tikya kundimara emishomo (I will be a teacher, I will be a teacher, I will be a teacher when I finish studying)

Chorus ….

I can still hear our young, energetic, happy and excited voices singing this song. We would clap, jump and shout happily confessing our dreams. It felt so easy!

Fast forward, we get to primary school. Our dreams are still fresh in our hearts and on our minds. We proceed to secondary school and then change happens. Some of us still have the dreams we happily sang about, others have a change of plan and some others; they unfortunately leave school due to a reason or two.

Secondary school is done. We get to the university and other tertiary institutions. We choose career paths and give them our best. We want to make our parents and guardians proud and above all, we want to be independent and add value to our communities. But the chances of getting employment are narrower than a needle’s eye!

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We graduate after years of dreaming and toiling hard for those honors. We have a short-lived excitement, photo moments and partying. We thank God for the protection and guidance. Our parents and guardians did their part. It is time to do ours. But where do we start from?

There are no jobs; you have no capital to start a business and you have those silencing you for questioning the system. We all know that the education system here encourages rot learning; there are hardly any practical skills offered. Vocational and hands-on skills are highly preached but the curriculum has different topics.

The new curriculum, which has some practical skills included, could yield better results but we are yet to see that after the closure of schools for two years. It is a huge crisis. You live on the mercy of God and good-hearted people. You write job applications and stay hopeful of getting called for an interview. By the way, hope is a wonderful thing. It keeps you moving. We are now adults with voting rights. We can’t wait to cast our votes in favour of the change we desire. We turn to those who bear the vision of change and rally behind them.

But someone who “brought peace” nearly four decades ago is not yet done messing up the nation for you; so, your vote can’t change anything. After elections, we get back to business as usual. We only grunt, complain and critique the injustices we see every day. We seem helpless and done with seeking for change.

We just run to memes and allow the powers that be to drive us in any direction they please. Where did the energy and change-seeking thirst go?

ashabannah@gmail.com
The writer is a human rights activist.


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