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Where did the head of the household go?

By Vision Reporter

Added 31st July 2008 03:00 AM

ARE family values changing? Has there been a dramatic cultural change in the way the family was brought up in
the 70s, 80s right up to the current year, 2008? Henry Lukwago, a retired civil servant, thinks so. “Times have changed.

ARE family values changing? Has there been a dramatic cultural change in the way the family was brought up in
the 70s, 80s right up to the current year, 2008? Henry Lukwago, a retired civil servant, thinks so. “Times have changed.

By Timothy Bukumunhe

ARE family values changing? Has there been a dramatic cultural change in the way the family was brought up in
the 70s, 80s right up to the current year, 2008? Henry Lukwago, a retired civil servant, thinks so. “Times have changed.

Today, people have no respect for the institution of the family and the cultural values that we gave you when you were growing up. You do not put in the same effort into your families that we did when you were growing up. In the 60s, 70s and early 80s, there was discipline.”

Lukwago went on to cite the case of having to make ‘appointments’ with his son to get what he termed ‘visiting rights’ to see his grandchildren. “It is not that I have fallen out with my son or daughter-in-law.

They are busy people and seeing my grandchildren is no easy affair. When my son was still a boy, he used to see his grandparents almost every other weekend.

If I am lucky, I get to see mine once every three months! I am sure my grandchildren do not know what I am to them. Who is the old man in a kanzu (tunic) is what they must ask themselves whenever they see me,” he says.

Sharing Lukwago’s woes, Susan Namutebi, a primary school teacher in Muyenga, reckons that the traditional family values of mother, father and children are eroding. “It is due to the changing times. The things children do today, we could not dare do when I was growing up in the 70s.

We had much more respect for our parents and peers than children do today. The whole institution of the home is now geared to DStv and surround speakers. It is no longer a home but a disco. How can you raise your children in a disco?”

The headrests
"In the 70s I was a teenage girl. I saw the way my mother looked after the home and after my father. I admired her and learned so much from her. When I got married, I was determined to pass on those qualities to my daughter. But my daughter does not know how to keep a home. She does not have headrests.

She is always complaining about how much the men behind Shell Bugolobi charge her for having her sofas cleaned. Getting her out of her predicament, I gave her some headrests but she still complained.

Weeks later, I found out they had been relegated to wiping the kitchen sink. To my daughter, headrests are old-fashioned and have no place in her living room,” Namutebi says.

The living room
In the 1970s and early 80s, the family living room was a sacred place. Though it was the family living room, it was the domain for parents, especially
the father of the house.

Robert Mukasa who works for Umeme says: “Back then, the mere thought of being caught in the living room came with the same dangers as being abducted by Joseph Kony.

It was just not done. Come 5:00pm, and once we heard our parents’ car in the drive, we would flee! And I mean we
would literally flee. We had to be as far away from our parents as possible.

If my father noticed that one of us had been listening to music, he would not hesitate to use his belt on us. In our house, getting a beating everyday was normal — a part of life.”

The tea cosy

Whatever became of the tea cosy, the crocheted cloth that covered the tea pot? Harriet Sempangi, a retired nurse, says: “Today people do not know how to make tea. When I visit my daughter, I drink her tea ‘out of spite’. She thinks plonking a teabag into a cup of hot water and adding milk is making tea. It is not!

She does not even have a teapot or tea cosy. Tea has to brew. The pot has to be warmed first with hot water. Then pour that water away, add tea leaves, hot water and then leave it to brew. And the tea cosy would be there to cover the pot.

Today, wherever I go, I see people
drinking tea from flasks. What is tea from a flask? That is not tea.”

Going home for lunch
“I would leave work at 12:30pm, drive to Nakasero Road Primary School and pick up my daughter Nakato, then to Buganda Road to pick up Tom and off to Mulago to pick my wife, who was then a nurse. The three of us would then drive home to Bugolobi, where we would have lunch as a family.

After lunch, I would drive my wife and I back to work and by 6:00pm, we would be back at home as a family,” says Emmanuel Isabirye, who used to work for the Ministry of Education. “But today, who goes home for lunch?

Do you? People send their house girls on a boda boda to pick up their kids from school, claiming to be too busy to go home yet I see them having three-hour lunches. My children were taught how to set the dining table.

But I doubt my grandchildren can do it. Nakato and Tom do not even go home to have supper with their children. Nakato goes to that place in Garden City to watch movies, while Tom says he is working late.

How can he be working late yet people tell me they see his car outside the Ntinda bars? My wife has tried talking to them, but to no avail.”

The Lord is the head of this household
“Where has the Lord gone? The Lord does not feature in people’s homes these days,” grumbles Ssenoga, who I met at Cannan Restaurant at
Uganda House.

“Bukumunhe, I do not want to be in
your paper because you are a dangerous man and I really don’t want to
talk to you. I will tell your editor that you harassed me and I will deny I ever spoke to you.

I won’t tell you my other name,
but when I was growing up in Busega in the 70s, the church was very much central in our lives.

Today, my daughter sees church as a place for weddings and baptisms only. She does not even have a picture of the Lord or some Biblical quote in her house.

I know she is young and has just started working, but how can people take you seriously when you have a picture of a half-naked rasta man smoking a cigarette (I think the rasta was smoking marijuana, but dare not tell him that) as the
central figure in your house?”

Visiting
“People don’t visit these days,” says Namakula, who owns a small restaurant in Kabalagala. “In the 70s, my parents would load us into the car and we would go visiting. People then always left their gates open, except at night when they closed and bolted them. In today’s Uganda, you just can’t load your children into the car and go visiting.

It is by appointment only. If you do not call beforehand, you are bound to be met by a watchman at the gate, who will tell you that “they have gone out,” yet you can see their cars parked in the driveway. If you are lucky to get in, the reception will be hostile.

The man of the house will vanish into the bedroom, they will turn off the television, citing loadshedding and no juice or biscuits will be served. In the end, the Sunday outing will be over in less than 20 minutes.”

Photo archives
“My parents’ living room was always disorganised,” says James, who works in the media. “There was no sense of idea. Returning from the village with a drum, it was stashed in the living room.

The living room was a mixture of modern furniture and 1950s furniture that had been passed onto my father when my grandfather died. There was a total lack of coordination.

To make things even worse, every square inch of the curtain boxes had a photograph – some in colour, others in black and white with their frames falling apart. When you asked him who the people were, even he had no idea who they were.

“Relations” is what he would say. In another corner of the room were a stack of newspapers and magazines, some even 10 years old, but they would be there. Taking pride in the centre of the coffee table was that ornament — house in a glass bowl that almost every household had. If you shook it, it would look like it was snowing.

Looking after him “I think the worst mistake my husband and I made
was sending our girls to university in England in the 90s. They went to the University of East Anglia,” laments Angela (not her real names), a civil servant with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“At university, they were very active in this whole nonsense of feminism after attending a talk by the feminist Camille Paglia. She messed up their heads. My husband is the head of our home. And since we got married, I have always respected him.

If he wants tea or a beer, I will go and get it for him. I won’t kneel down for him, but I will respect him that when I serve him his beer, I will bring it on a tray. My daughters, especially the older one, have no respect for their men.

The husband of my older daughter works very hard in his business as a printer, but when he gets home, she is slouched in the sofa watching Oprah. He has to make his own tea or get his own beer. If she does serve him, she will bring the bottle and glass without a tray.

She won’t even get off the sofa so that he can lie down and rest. I cry for him. All she is interested in is telling me how women and men are equal!”

Roots
“I think my father blames me for his poor upbringing,” says Simon Lubega, who describes himself as being ‘in-between jobs’. I never hear the end of it.

He keeps harping on about how he had to share a room with animals (laughing, he wonders why his father did not hear the health ministry radio advert saying, ‘do not share rooms with animals’), how he had to wake up early, go to the well and dig before going to school 15km away.

I am sorry, but it was not my fault that his parents were poor or did not go to school. So my dad made it, got an education and he is relatively wealthy. He sent me to schools abroad and gave me everything I needed.

In the future, should I blame my kids when I tell them that I was brought up in a five bed-room house and we only had
two cars? Who knows, in their time, a five- bedroom house might be deemed a shack and Kololo where I grew up, a slum.

Where did the head of the household go?

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