Having done a good job at raising their children, grandparents have always gone the extra mile to bring up their grandchildren who have been abandoned, neglected or orphaned.
Having done a good job at raising their children, grandparents have always gone the extra mile to bring up their grandchildren who have been abandoned, neglected or orphaned. Their desire is to give the best to their grandchildren, but this does not comes easy, as Vivian Agaba writes
In a two-roomed mud house with cracks and burnt bricks about to fall out, Phildar Namawuba, a 50-year-old, lives with her nine grandchildren.
When you step into her compound in Katuge, Wakiso
District, you may think she owns a kindergarten, with all the little tots around. They run and play about; some screaming, some crying, some of them half-naked with protruding bellies. The youngest is four and the oldest is eight years old.
Looking at them, they seem happy, unaware of the struggles their grandmother goes through to raise them.
“Some of my biological children died while others abandoned me for the city. It is these little ones who take away my loneliness, but what I go through to raise them is stressful,” says Namawuba.
Namawuba finds it challenging to wake up early to prepare her grandchildren for school daily and sometimes, they are late.
Feeding them is a hassle too. She grows beans, sweet potatoes and greens on her small piece of land, but when they are not yet ready for harvest, the children have only one meal a day because she has no money to buy food for lunch and supper.
“Before going to school, they take black tea without sugar. At lunch, when they return and there is no food, I give them pawpaws or passion fruit juice and tell them to wait for supper,” says Namawuba.
“Buying scholastic materials and clothing for them is yet another challenge and sometimes they go half-naked so that I wash the available clothes which are even worn out,” Namawuba adds.
She does not get much support from the parents of these children, most of whom went to the city to make money, but rarely check on their children or even send money for support. Namawuba weaves mats of between sh2,000 and sh5,000 and that is what the family of 10 survives on.
Mary Namatta, a 60-year-old resident of Nansana, has a similar story. She has challenges giving her grandchildren proper food and healthcare, given the high expenses.
They also fall sick often and she fails to provide adequate school requirements. Namatta earns a meagre income from selling clothes.
“But I would rather suffer and give them all I can, than watch them go to the streets to beg or be raised by a stepmother who will torture them. I would live to regret it if that happened to any of my grandchildren,” says Namatta.
She is taking care of five grandchildren, two of whom are from her deceased’s son — their mother abandoned them — while the other three are children of two unemployed daughters whose husbands abandoned them. She blames some men for abandoning the mothers of their children who, in turn, cannot raise the children due to economic strains.
Anna Kabirizi, a 75-year-old grandmother, resident in Mukono, looks after three grandchildren of her deceased son.
“I am sickly with diabetes and I am always in and out of hospital. If it was not for (my grandchildren), I do not know where I would be.
I have educated them, with two at the university and one in A’ level. I have taken care of them and I know will they will also take care of me since I have aged,” says Kabirizi.
However, Kabirizi declined to take on five other grandchildren whose parents are alive, working and able to take care of them. She would rather look after the
orphans. She also says it is unfair for some parents who never support the grandparents caring for their children.
My kids are being raised by their grandparents
Noeline Nakalanzi, a 23 year-old-mother of one, says she took her daughter to her mother after the father of the child abandoned them. Since she works in a restaurant, she has no time to look after the child.
She earns sh30, 000 a month which she says is not enough to care for her and her child. But she says she visits her mother monthly to see how her three year-old daughter is doing.
Joan Adikini, a 20-year-old mother of one, dropped out of school at 15 when she was in Primary Five after being impregnated by a 17-year-old boy. When she gave birth, her family forced her to take her baby to live with the boy’s parents.
Adikini is now in Kampala working as a maid, but only sends little money every now and then to cater for her son’s needs.
Geoffrey Kalemba, a 28-year-old shopkeeper says he took his son to be raised by his grandmother after the child’s mother abandoned them and married another man.
Raised by grandparents
Charles Abigaba, a 27-year-old-lawyer was raised by his grandparents after both his parents passed on in a car accident.
He says: “My grandparents raised me from the time I was five years old. They sent me to good schools for quality education and I am now a lawyer.
The best gift a parent can give a child is love and education and my grandparents gave me both. What more would I want?” Godwill Mbabazi, 23, a graduate from Makerere University came under her grandmother’s care after her mother died. She says she has learnt a lot from her grandmother.
“My cousins and I always stay with her during the holidays since childhood. She taught us how to cook, peel, and do most of the house chores,” says Mbabazi.
“I am sure when I get married, my husband will not send me away for not knowing how to cook, like some girls today.”
Joseph Musaalo, a counsellor at Uganda Christian University Mukono, says ideally, children should grow up with their parents who are younger and more energetic in order to monitor every step in a child’s growth. It is also vital for bonding.
“Though grandparents raise grandchildren with lots of love, they may not be able to closely monitor their physical, mental, spiritual and academic progress because of their old age. They often have challenges remembering certain things,” says Musaalo.
He says a child that does not bond with a parent could become reserved as an adult and have love issues in future.
He says parents should not abandon children to their grandparents, except in the cases of parents’ death, parental abuse and divorce, where a child is being protected from trauma.
Musaalo advises that if a parent has serious challenges and cannot raise his or her children, and grandparents are the only option, the parent should participate fully in the child’s growth.
This can be done through regular visits, living with them during holidays or on weekends. This enables bonding between a child and the parent and check on their social habits.
Burdened with children at an old age