My precious daughter Nakato and my brave son Waswa, I love you. The moment I held you in my arms it only took me two seconds to fall completely in love with you. There was no doubt in my mind that I would love you both for as long as I walked this Earth. That moment when you cried Nakato, I was determined that no matter what, I will do everything in my power to protect you, and for you Waswa, that I vowed to teach you everything my father taught me.
You are the reason I wake up in the biting morning dew, through the afternoon’s scorching sun to make mud bricks to sell. It is not simply a man’s duty that drives me, it’s love and affection that compels me. I regret not telling you this earlier but unfortunately, that’s not how it works in my culture. As men, we are taught to not wear our emotions on our sleeves since it exposes our vulnerability, but that is a code I am willing to break for your sake. My father raised me to always appear strong even when I know that I am not. But you are my strength and in my opinion, there is certainly no greater strength than looking into your eyes and telling you how special you are.
I thank God for your Uncle Kabushenga who has lent me this pen and paper to write to you. I also thank God that my mother, your Jajja Mukyala Janet “Muwonge”, oops I mean Museveni has invited you to go back to school after a whole year shielding away from covid-19. When you see her at school, please give her a socially distanced hug and appreciate her for persuading Jajja Musajja (Grandpa), who we love dearly to call His Excellence because of the way he has held our clan together over the years. It’s not surprising that the elders choose him again to head our clan for another five years. Thank him for allowing you to go back to school and let them know I will be visiting you on the visitation day when he is crowned again as head of the clan.
My daughter, my son, as the old saying goes, “there are two sides to every coin.” During this covid-19 school recess, everything has not been lost, by spending time together our relationship has grown and deepened. I have come to know more about you and value God for the man and woman He is raising you to be. If your mum was alive today, just like me, she would be immensely proud of you; God bless the soul of my darling departed Nakamatte.
I will miss you so much, after spending 11 months with you, you have been nothing but a blessing to me. You are everything a father could look for in a daughter and a man to be proud of in a son. At the same time, I am relieved that you are back at school.
When you were sent back home indefinitely due to covid-19, I must confess I had no idea what to do with you since I was not prepared at all. I was so worried about how to keep you safe at the tender age of 16. Especially for you Nakato, I was mostly worried about the bodaboda stage next to our house. Waswa, I’m glad that I didn’t hear any complaints from Sofia’s mother next door. You have carried yourselves so well, you should be proud.
Now, my children, you have heard of this new saying, “the new normal” you should know that there is nothing normal about the times we are living in, these times should be called “the new different.” Change is inevitable but as long as you remember I have taught you to be strong, adaptive, embracing, prayerful and to always look out for each other, I am certain that no matter what changes the world throws at you, you are more than capable of finding your way in a maze.
Now if you are going back to school expecting everything to be like it was before, think again my children. During the new term, do not be shocked to discover that perhaps you’ve lost some friends due to various reasons ranging from bad choices they made during this time of extreme idleness, failure to raise enough school fees by their parents and for some simply because their parents have the means to move them to better schools. In simple terms, this implies that your circle of friends is likely to change or shrink. Some students will be moving on to higher classes because their parents were financially able to keep them privately tutored during the pandemic while others like us will have to start where we left off. Certain obstacles have hindered us but I assure you, though you have been left behind, just be prepared to make new friends within your class.
Another warning my children, during the idle months of lockdowns and school closure some students have picked up unpleasant habits which you might need to run from. Some may tell you how life out there has been better than coming back to school, but just remember that not everything that glitters is gold. Stay focused, choose your friends wisely and do not be afraid to lose some. As you grow you will realise that sometimes one has to let some things go to create room for better outcomes. Don’t forget that those with bad habits are more eager to spread them than those with the best of manners (in Luganda I would say “ow’empisa embi atunda ayolesa”). Usually the bad habits will find you first unless you resist the itching urge. Even the Holy book instructs us to resist temptations.
Hold on, we haven’t talked about teachers yet. Well… unfortunately, your favourite teacher Mr. Sekiwunga, might not return to school. It’s possible that he has learnt a lesson of his own from the lockdowns and decided to change trade or possibly move on to a better-paying school.
The lockdown obstacles placed before us have taught us how to adapt to unforeseen circumstances as such. But with this, I encourage you to go back to school with an open mind, ready to embrace new friends, teachers, learn different methods of doing things, looking forward to new knowledge, hoping for the best and settling for nothing less. Always remember to be respectful to others. Don’t forget to observe SOPs otherwise Jajja Musajja will not be amused with rebellious bazukulu.
Finally, let me leave you with this blessing: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
From the father’s heart,
Bishop Arnold Muwonge Is the founder and Director of Destiny Bridge Primary and Stride High School, Wakiso town council, Wakiso district.