One of the biggest cancers in Uganda today has got everything to do with a high majority of citizens, who believe that our human life must be the same
By Deo Tumusiime
This pre-fixed mindset is deeply enshrined in our education system, and strongly emphasised by our various religious systems and cultures. In my view, there’s so much beauty in being Dee-fferent (read different).
Naming: For starters, I had a challenge with one of my children’s schools. The teachers have traditionally known the name Nicole, but my daughter’s name, while with the same sounding, is spelled as Nichol.
The teachers repeatedly told my daughter that her name was wrongly spelled and they nearly forced her to change it! Then at the time of religious confirmation, the teacher calling out names decided to call my daughter “Mary” and not “Nichol”, just because the Catholic school believes every child’s first name must be after certain saint!!!
Why do we have names? I believe we have names as a mark of our identity and different as we all are, it is really okay to have unique names where possible.
I also clearly understand the argument that children should be named after superstars as role models, but can’t we ever realise that there are never guarantees? Children must be allowed the breadth to become that what God planned for their lives.
The children, for Heaven’s sake, do not have to be like Saint Mary, Saint Luwum, Saint Joseph, Saint Valentine, Saint Tereza, and so on. These saints lived at different times from us and faced different challenges
If I even asked how many staunch Catholics today would die for their religion to become martyrs, I doubt many would vie. Not that we do not cherish our religion, but times have changed.
And while my friends were beginning to get over a Nichol, I enrolled Tia Trinidad. There were lots of murmurs again that the name “Tia”must be a short form of a longer one! The conservative Catholics cannot even appreciate that my daughter bears a Catholic name in “Trinidad”, which originates from “Holy Trinity”.
They believe she must be named Trinity (like everyone else!). I was personally born “Deogratias”, but as I progressed in school, somehow my name got shortened to “Deo”, and now for yet another reason, many people simply call me “Dee”, the sounding for my name’s initial “D”…..and I am okay with it. I actually often emphasise to my friends that I am called “Dee” because I am “Dee-fferent”.
In school: Another challenge especially in our schools, is how to cultivate the uniqueness in children while studying off the same syllabus and taught by the same old teachers with same old notes.
We have perennially struggled with the problem of cram work, because children are taught a given answer to be the right one, which they master. Whereas this could be true in many cases, it somehow dwarfs children’s brains not to think beyond classwork.
Lots of the things we learn in school are from books of knowledge written in the genre of a certain intellectual, many of whom have since died. How can we make our children tease out new ideas, new ways of doing things, if they are compelled to think and reason within the confines of certain preset knowledge? Do teachers think through a supposedly wrong answer a child gives or they rubbish it?
I was shocked to learn that when students are asked to name the countries that make up the East African Community, the correct answer is still expected to be Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
I took this matter personally to the EAC office at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and tasked some staff to explain and they too did not know what the correct answer should be, given the political shifts.
Now guess what a Ugandan teacher’s response to a child who gives the answer as Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan, would be; they would probably mark him out as a wiseacre.
In fact in the Luganda local language, the term “Olugezigezi”, loosely for knowledgeability, is negatively preferred for people who do right things differently! In the end, we marvel at Chinese as if they fell from heaven, but they just don’t suffer the same mind lock like us.
Religion: This same problem of course is equally grounded in our religions where you find believers dancing to tunes like “Yesterday, today, and forever, Jesus Christ is the same”. You must go to Church every Sunday to listen to the same Bible readings year in, year out.
Many believers have even crammed bible texts but cannot even translate them to real life. If for example, St. Paul rebuked the Galatians that “You Foolish Galatians, who put a spell on you?”
Can’t we update the text, to rebuke for the pastors purporting to sell holy rice and so-called holy water? But people prefer to listen to Paul’s attack on the Galatians, provided Galatia sounds so far from Uganda after all!
Marriage: Then you find marriage counselors also confusing especially desperate women on prefixed ways to please their husbands. They forget that every marriage is “Dee-fferent”. The more you struggle to equate yourself to someone else, the more frustration you meet in life.
At the end of the day, my appreciation of uniqueness is explained simply by our very creation. Every single human being is created artistically different and this underscores how much diversity is inherent within us.
For me the best dance is where every tribe pulls off their strokes. At the end of the day, everyone will have had a chance to dance. Did you know that everyone can dance (their way) without ever stepping in a dance school?
Let Ugandans be free to “dance” their way. There’s every beauty in being “Dee-fferent”.
The writer is an independent writer and a communications consultant