Parenting

Your Dead Child’s (or Spouse’) Facebook

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Every piece of your life, can potentially be found on Facebook. Your child’s birth photos, from right in the womb, to their sweet 16th birthday are all there. Trips to Antigua and check-ins to the Mall, everything freely shared with that sneaky prompt, “What’s on your mind?”

And then, if you live in Kampala, as I do, chances are a boda-boda, or some other necessary evil, will take the life of your innocent child or spouse or parent or sibling.

Then… Whats on your mind? Well, why not review (and maybe even re-live) the online life of your dearly departed.

Not so fast – last week, a Berlin Court issued an order that barred parents of a deceased gal from obtaining access to her Facebook profile and its records. Facebook accounts, by their very nature, are personal. As this Reuters article notes, the secrecy of correspondence protects not just the child, but also the people who she spoke with, and their privacy must be protected.

The child’s Facebook account  must be a relic of sorts, and rightly so the parents probably want to lock this away or perhaps search it for their own closure. But the people she communicated with, if they are still alive, have their own right of communication privacy. Should familial curiosity override this? I am sure this was a difficult decision for the court to make, but I think their ruling is reasonable.

I remember growing up when dairies had not just yet been replaced by blogs that the given notion was: never read one that isn’t yours. If you are the parent of a young person, you know what it means to know less than 1% of their life. And that was when you lived on a ranch and wrote in diaries. In the information age, that life is spread thinner on at least 3 different social platforms, many of them allowing digital photography.

As a parent of a soon-to-become-teenager, I know that I should be involved in and educating their digital life. I don’t mean to be intrusive, but present. I need to know and be aware of online dangers and things like cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, or abusive/dangerous/suspicious messages. I need to educate my kids about these dangers, and even advocate for such education/training in their schools. At home, of course it helps to create an environment of trust and dialogue where my children will feel comfortable telling me about their challenges.
On the other hand, when we go to a medical professional to better treat our ailments, sometimes we give up very personal details, stuff that might even be considered evil in the regular (or cultural) domain. One would argue that to this extent parents should consider entering into the privacy of our children in order to prescribe the best remedies.
I agree. Parents should be allowed to go into the privacy of their children precisely and only in a framework of prevention, counseling.
Well, what’s on your mind?

 

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“Daddy, When Is The Day of Recycle?”

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Its been an exciting year, and its been filled with equal measure of God’s blessings for life, and Man’s quest for control.

Something happens around this time – we reminisce all the things that have gone well, and if we care, we stop to count them one by one. We also look back on the challenging moments and we promise to make good on them the following year.

Gabriella asked me, “Daddy, when is the day of recycle?”

Of course i was taken aback, not completely sure how to respond, because I was locked in my mind trying to figure out how she arrived at this point in her vocabulary. She noticed.

She went on to explain that the day of recycle is when we take all the things we do not need and give them away to people who need them. She would like us to spend a day cleaning her bedroom so that she can find things to give away. She is confident that the house could use such a breather.

I am eternally impressed at what is happening in her little 6 year old mind, but am especially excited about how she would associate recycle with benevolence!

So I actually started thinking – Would it not be great to have all the people you in your house pile up everything that you all don’t currently use?

Follow that up with a big family wash of all those goodies and eventually, make them available at a Charity store, or drop them off at one of the malls.

Now imagine that 120 families in each of the constituencies in Kampala, Wakiso and Entebbe and other the other 100 municipalities in the country each arranged for a large Christmas give away bash where we just celebrated as a community.

Throw in hundreds of volunteers to arrange all these things into various sizes and categories and pack them up in family size giveaways – or community center store packs.

This may be the best way to celebrate Christmas afterall.

Your Child Is Stupid, For Our School

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Last week, I interacted with a young bespectacled Kenyan girl – she is attending school in my neighbourhood, a proud P.7 candidate. Her testimony, was of being able to score above 95% in a couple of exams and 92% and 94% in the other 2 subjects. 

She was happy particularly because she felt that this set of mock exams, taken from another school, was harder than the set of exams of her own school. She went on to say, she would like God to give her wisdom to get the other 2 subjects above 95% because her teacher mentioned to her its the new passmark for getting a distinction. 

My jaw could not drop lower. She must be 13 or thereabout.

She went to narrate how her school takes pupils that do not score high grades to other schools for PLE. Apparently, Kampala based schools would like to maintain the impression of a perfect scores, so they offload pupils who are scoring 3rd and 4th grade marks to lower schools where they “fit” in the demographics. For these schools, these students will taint the scorecard, and cause their annual classification to dip when the UNEB comes reading the top 5 schools in each district. 

How and when did we get to the deep echelons of such selfishness? And why is the future generation of this country being made to feel that they are inadequate just because they will skew the scores?

Parents, you need to be wary of a school that has no children in 3rd and 4th grade listed on their P7 lists for the last 10 years, because as we all know, academic brilliance is a normal binomial distribution – there will be quartiles, on either extremes. 

I went to Kibuli Secondary School and i know that even the creme de la creme of post primary institutions, inspite of their very best selection efforts, still land, atleast in good time, students who cannot remain as good as their 4, 5 or 6 aggregates scored at PLE. 

What are we doing to our children? All these teachers who are clamouring for more, for themselves, when silently they are depriving our children of the right to fail – because as we know, and much later in life, failure is a much celebrated ingredient of success. Why do we make our children feel bad because they did not score 95%? 

Parents, why do you accept to live under the pressure to pay extra fees to one teacher, so your child can miss their rightful term holidays and weekends? Is it really true that this one teacher will make your child pass? And when that teacher gets hit by a boda boda? Then what, you will move on to pay the next teacher who promises your child a 4? 

Why would you expect this teacher to be doubly motivated to help a handful of children pass just because they pay an extra 100,000/= , and get to miss out on their weekends and holidays? If this is what the teacher needs, why don’t we work through the PTA (Parents’ and Teachers’ Association) to motivate all the teachers in the same school so that other children who cannot afford this can also benefit from such a teacher? After all, isn’t sharing caring?

I cry for the children who are moved from one stream to another, and one school to another, and eventually get knocked out of a school because their grades are considered not good enough by the very administration whose job is to increase their confidence and ability to tackle academic and life challenges. For these children, failure will always be a mark on their faces, painted by the system we pay.

I am sick to my stomach that we let such culture take root in our feeble education system. 

I am ashamed for the parents who walk out of the headteachers’ offices convinced that their children are not good enough to sit their final exams at a school they have patronised for the better part of 6 years. 

I am angry at the idea that you drive back home and find the words to package that hope shattering nonsense, and unwittingly become the postman for your child’s new found future – a future that says they are not good enough; at least not good enough to sit in the school they have sacrificed early morning for all their lives. 

This same school, when the results are out, will pay a premium fee to the press, for an advert that says they had 90% first grades, and the other 10% were second grades. They had no 3rd and 4th grades. Oh how conveniently magical!

Is it Time 2 Play?

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Yesterday, I drove to Time 2 Play, the gals could not have been more excited. A friend’s children were joining us and it was after a sumptuous sunday lunch. I was on when I arrived to check on the gals a second time just before 5pm.

I walked through the gate, unchecked. Completely. The guard who manned the entrance was deep in conversation on the phone when I strolled past him. There was no metal check not body frisking.

On a Sunday evening, Time 2 Play is teaming with typically 2 or 3 birthday parties. During the school holidays, it has a residential camp. During the school term, the facility runs a nursery school. There is a junior swimming pool and an adult pool. There are swings and sand pits.

I witnessed a young man run into another with a bicycle. The “riding track” is also the defacto separation between the sandpits and swings and the upper area where parties are held; along with the occasional costumed entertainers.

I was able to walk to the main building, unrestricted, observing one attendant between the main pool and the children’s pool which was visibly swamped. There is a Kitchen that was serving up french fries on the ground floor, there is no way that children could possibly be in class with the smell of a live kitchen right beneath.

I did not observe any CCTV between the rooms and the corridors, nor around the perimeter of the play spaces that have been created for the children. I find that the only way to identify a child is the arm band that is stuck to the arm of a subscribed child, 8000/- UGX per head.

I was able to walk right up to the second floor of the main building with no one having approached me to ask if I was looking for something in particular or if i was lost. This is when I started thinking…

  1. How may child minders should play spaces have? What is the ideal and practical ratio?
  2. What kind of child minder training and guidelines should be in the places where we expect to leave our children for a few hours?
  3. Can children of the different body mass and height access the same play spaces comfortably?
  4. Should it be mandatory that play spaces have video surveillance?
  5. What should the guidelines be for adults accessing child play spaces?
  6. Would Time 2 Play and other children play spaces do background checks on the child minders and care givers?
  7. In this terror filled era, how do we make sure that adults like me do not walk in and present a potential harm to the children?

As a parent, I know that when I take my children to play, it is time to play, but when the environments of the spaces we have created for our children to play are so visibly unsafe, I keep wondering, when it comes to their safety and future, is it time to play?

Becky Nampijja and 308 Others

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This week, the Ugandan community is awash with news of the demise of Becky Nampijja, a recent graduate and a beneficiary of the Watoto Child Care Ministries.

Becky was raised up as one of the thousands of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children that have characterised the Ugandan social scene in part due to the scourge of HIV and AIDS reaping their parents or the burden of social responsibility being too much for unemployed parents.

In a unique model of a foster community, off Mityana Road, Watoto Child Care Ministries places 8 such children in a home with a mother and there, their lives being to take shape as they should have been had they stayed in a proper home. They get brand new brothers and sisters, and learn to accept new mothers with whom they share life. They go to school, have a medicare facility and a community centre where they meet on the weekends for events and church services.

Becky, would have, earlier on, travelled on the famous Watoto Children’s Choir where she would have sang and danced to share the gospel, and tell of the story of her rescue and transformation; and help to raise funds so that more children like her can be rescued. In the course of her life, true to the african adage, Becky would have been raised by a Village!

That village would include sponsors, from 6 countries where Watoto Choir has been, that village would include me and you, who for a paltry UGX 70,000 every month, provide the resources that Watoto Child Care Ministries needs to put children like Becky through an education all the way to the University.

In January 2015, a little orphaned and abandoned gal had grown and transformed into a beautiful young leader, armed with an education and the best possible upbringing – Becky graduated with an Economics degree. She bit so many odds to get to this point, and she already had a job, a rare and priceless acquisition in a country with nearly 83% graduate unemployment.

There are 4000 such children in the Watoto Children’s Homes and thousands more in the other foster homes scattered allover the country. In those homes, there are children who look up to their big sisters (read: Becky) and mothers who pride in sons and daughters who have lived to beat the curse of a fatherless generation.

To have  to live with the death of Becky Nampijja in such a senseless spectacle is a heart wrenching matter – Becky is the very future of this country and before we have to reap the reward of years of hard work in rescuing and raising her to rebuild her nation, Becky is taken away from us.

My heart weeps, and the pain cannot be verbalised.

On the day of her death, Becky was one of the first of many fatalities for the month of March 2015, recorded at the Central Police Station in Kampala. This station reports 308 deaths due to Boda Boda accidents for the first 60 days of this year – that is 15 lives every single day.

If Alshabaab was killing 20 lives every month, there would be a supplementary budget for military acquisitions to the tune of many billions of shillings. Yet we sit idly by as Boda Bodas kill 15 people daily.

We had Operation Wembley when armed thugs began to kill and rob, at the height of it, no more than 30 people were killed in a month – but today we sit idly by as Boda Bodas kill 15 people daily.

Uganda, how many young people are we prepared to lose before Boda Bodas become a terror in our lives? How many excuses and reasons are we going to give before we consider this a serious threat to the very life of this community?

The strain on the country’s limited health budget is growing. According to a report by Makerere University College of Health Sciences and the department of orthopedics at Mulago, about 40% of trauma cases at the hospital are from boda-boda accidents (pdf). The treatment of injured passengers and pedestrians accounts for almost two-thirds of the hospital’s annual surgery budget.

For the life of Becky Nampijja and 308 other Boda Boda deaths in 2015 alone, I demand that we do something!

Would You Do It?

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At the risk of a little reputational misdemeanour, I recently ventured into a realm unknown. I came face to face with the recipe for how to “immunise” a man from cheating on you ever again.

How? Simple: Get his picture, 2packs of coffee (emwanyi), 2 coins of 200shillings. Sit down in front of a basket of twins (ebibo bya balongo) and ask them to do “the job” according to the pain you have. No white feathers, or tongues of me. Neither goats nor other such fetishes.

Would you do it?

Just add Coffee & Coins...
Just add Coffee & Coins…

Typically, this is not the kind of session you have on your porch, nor on the break of dawn, you have to go to the “jajjas” (Spirits/Mediums) at a location of their favour (Medium’s Business location or “Essabo”). In present day speech, you would have entered the world of witchcraft, no? For someone who has never experienced this, this was as scary as exciting.

Meet Jess (Ofcourse, not real names), mother of 1, separated from her cheating hubby. According to her facebook profile, Jess loves children, believes women don’t cheat and definitely hates cheating men. Tired of living on the fringes, Jess “immunised” the father of her child, away from other women back to herself. She admitted to learning this trick after she had abandoned her marital home, but is now well onto regaining lost ground – thanks to a charm!

Would you do it?

Jess’ determination is solid and is testament to the power of Love. New Dheli is struggling with being the rape capital of the world, and I wonder if we could export a little charm to control all those wayward hormones. But what if Jess’ hubby converted to Islam and was allowed another 3 wives, what then would become of this locking charm that works only one way? Is it safe to assume that this is there fore not common in Islamic communities?

I did ask Jess, what if someone wanted to get cheeky and use this charm selfishly to lock into a threesome or some other combination. No, it doesn’t. I pushed my luck further by asking Jess, as the initiator, if she could accommodate me in her charm. Thankfully, it doesn’t work!  Can you imagine a world where that might be a possibility?

Would you do it?

How about as a parent? Would you pass this down onto your children? Would it fall in the Legacy or Good Advise category?  Would you, at your daughter’s kwanjula give her a set of baskets and some coffee, incase she needs it in her soon-to-be commemorated marriage? As a father, would this comprise your father to son talk?

I believe that the use of spirits and mediums to manage and/or manipulate marriages is a social evil, as much as 50 Shades of Grey! I believe that everyone has in them the power to build and nurture lasting relationships, and that while Jess is confident in her charm, if she does not deal with the reasons of her earlier separation, this is only a band-aid solution. There must be room for communication, and for wise counsel from elderly respectable couples. What about real friends who you can run to with marital challenges, someone, not something to confide in.

What would you do?

Are we so corrupt, even as Parents?

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So this morning i went over to Lohana Academy to try and get Gabriella into school for next year. It lasted 3 minutes, and the admission letter will be ready on Friday! Nothing like sign here, sign there, village, et al.

Co-incidentally, the conversation at work over lunch was about a frustration of the fees in schools, which have to be supplemented by those weekend classes, or else your child “will find it hard in the exams.” This colleagues goes on to say how this is the new way for teachers “to survive.” I think its the ONLY way, for over 10 years ago, i went through the same. I hated it, because i was sure of my grades, and i thought it was unnecessary for my mom to squeeze our meager resources further.

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