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Age means nothing to me

By Vision Reporter

Added 27th February 2009 03:00 AM

On March 8, the world will celebrate women and their achievements. REHEMA AANYU talked to Dr. Sarah Ntiro, the first female graduate in East and Central Africa about her achievements and love life

On March 8, the world will celebrate women and their achievements. REHEMA AANYU talked to Dr. Sarah Ntiro, the first female graduate in East and Central Africa about her achievements and love life

What did you know about marriage before you were married?
My mother was a member of Mothers’ Union and she always called me to take minutes during the meetings. These women shared stories of both enjoyment and struggle. Their stories made marriage sound good.

How, when did you meet your husband?
The late Sam Joseph Ntiro was a professor of Art at Makerere and I was a student. I later went to Oxford University and came back to teach. I saw him again and he asked me to marry him. I accepted his marriage proposal. We led a good life until he died a natural death. We had two sons.

Were you lovers at campus?
I went to Makerere University to qualify to teach in a secondary school. I was not preoccupied with men then. My dream was to become a good secondary school teacher. For every man who wanted to have any romantic engagements with me, I would tell them, I did not come to Makerere to get a husband.

You were the first woman graduate in East and Central Africa…
Fifty years later people still fuss about it. When I am being introduced, it is mentioned even when I ask them not to. I want to be introduced as someone who has been in education for a long time. I am happy to be educated because I choose what I am submissive to.

How old are you?
I will not tell you. Many times, I am misjudged because of it. At a party recently, I was unable to line up for food so the organisers asked a waitress to take my order. In my earshot she asked another waitress whether I could speak English. The other advised her to use simple English while speaking to me. Listening to these girls, I laughed and thought maybe their grandparents are illiterate and so they believe every old person is. Age to me means nothing. But to some people, it does. When you reach a certain age, they believe you are dumb and unable to conceptualise issues. It is unfortunate.

Are you saddened by old age?
Yes, old age bothers me because my faculties are slowing down. It is frustrating because something I used to do in five minutes takes me an hour. I eat slowly, stopped driving and forgetfulness is another. This is embarrassing. One time I was noting down something for my son and I could not remember his name. I asked my cousin what my son’s name is. With old age too, one slowly gets removed from things happening in society. You are not as involved as you would want to be.

About death?
I have thought about death. I am not afraid of it because everything has a beginning and an end. I say to my relatives and it scares them that when I die I want a small church service. Not one where people have to endure the service because of the long speeches by many people. I asked them to prepare a book where facts about me would be read.

What occupies your thoughts in your serene moments?
I praise God for keeping me alive and in fairly good health. I also pray for my friends, family and those who are going through problems.

Is there something you wished you had done?
I wish I had known my relatives better. Then, I was too busy with studies and my own life. I never got to know all my relatives and it is sad.

DO YOU GET LONELY?
Yes it gets lonely at times. When people of my generation die…it is like a game of nine pins…when you hit one and a trail several of them fall and you remain with one or two pins standing. You look around and you are the only one standing. My age mates, the ones I know, are few. There is one in Kawempe, another in Makindye and one in Mbarara. It is hard to get together and talk. I turn to books.

What time do you wake up?
I wake up at 6:00am out of habit. When you go to boarding school you wake up at 6:00am and when you do this for a number of years, it becomes second nature. I have an active mind so I engage it. I read, sew and knit. I never get bored because there is always something to do.

How did you handle the loss of your husband?
I dealt with it the best way I knew how. I think when you have to handle the funeral, you pull yourself together.
There were weaker people than me to look after so I had to be strong for them. You are going to miss him 24/7 for the rest of your life. I do not believe in exhibitionism either by screaming your lungs out or crying your eyes out because someone has died.

Do you love the recognition you get?
It depends on what someone is recognising me for. If it is for the cause of promoting women then yes I welcome it. If it isn’t, then I do not want it.

Age means nothing to me

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