I grew up in a poor household in Rukungiri, a district in western Uganda. Together we were four children and lived in a small, rundown hut with me being the first born child of the family. My parents struggled everyday to make ends meet. Dad tilled the field as a small household farmer growing crops to feed his family, but the yield was often poor due to lack of rainfall and poor soil fertility. My mum was a primary school teacher at a local school where she would earn little money that could not cater for all of us as a family in as far as attaining a good education is concerned.
Owing to that fact, we had to endure hardships and attended a free government aided primary school as my parent’s combined income could not finance us through a school where fees were supposed to be paid. We all did our best to study hard, completed homework on a kerosene lantern during cold nights as we were staying in a hilly village terrain and on top of that had to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to walk to school which was about 10 kilometers from home.
As children from an underprivileged family, we surely knew that we had to study hard and excel in order to change this narrative and perhaps be able to fend for our family as our parents were fast growing old and weaker by the day.
With sleepless nights doing revision supplemented with a lot of hard work at school, I was able to excel as the best student in my district that year during the Primary Leaving Examinations. With these superb grades, I could easily get into the top schools in the city which was about 300 kilometers from my village.
This stage of my life was a hard one for me. I was not a happy child at all. Seeing my parents struggle financially and toil so hard to make their children have a future better than theirs was hard to take in and heart breaking. There was once a time I found dad crying alone in the backyard and when I saw him he hastily reached into his pocket, grabbed a handkerchief and whipped his tears. The words he told me still resound in my ears to this day. I remember he told me “Don’t worry my daughter, One day God will remember us.” We had some kids in the village from rich families and I used to admire them so much and always wished that I could one day have the luxury and happiness they seem to have.
In all the poverty we were in, I was always hopeful that excelling academically would be a good chance of changing my life story for the better. Dad always reminded me that “Education is light.”
I got admitted into one of the top city schools but this was a continuation of a series of financial hiccups for my parents whose financial ability just got worse this time. The school’s fee was astronomical, a figure that my parents were not able to raise.
For the first term, I remember my dad had to sell one of the two cows he owned to raise money that would cover the school dues, transportation and buy the scholastic materials. With this, the first term was covered. However there were many more hurdles to jump as the entire duration of my secondary education was to last six years.
During all these six years, my parents did their best to try and see that I would be able to at least complete secondary education and be able to see some light in this educational tunnel. This would somewhat place me somewhere considering that my parents never had any advanced education. They were both primary school dropouts. While consuming loan after loan and numerous borrowings from different stakeholders, this would be the cycle of indebtedness they were entering.
My dad and mum often wore one pair of shoes or a single shirt until it would tear, owing to the fact that the priority for them was giving quality education to their children. Being the first born in the family, they invested all they had in me to see that I complete my education, get a job and educate my younger siblings with this job I would get.
Through all this destitution, I was lucky to still perform excellently during my final secondary examinations. With this exceptional performance, I was able to be offered a government scholarship to pursue an engineering course at the university.
Fast forward, I joined university. This was the happiest moment in my life because deep down inside me I knew that it was now time to shape my destiny. This was now a golden opportunity for me to study hard, excel, get a good job and make my parents proud of me for all the efforts they had put in to make me study with the modest resources they had.
Through this all, I studied hard, completed my course and got a good job after my studies. I was then able to take care of my parents, build them a more decent house and take care of my younger siblings. Looking back at my struggle and nail biting situation, there are a lot of lessons my life story brings me. Memories of all these grapples are still fresh in my mind and have pushed me to keep working harder every day of my life.
This story demonstrates that it is possible to overcome poverty and create a better future for yourself, your family and your entire community. I am a living testimony to this and whenever I look back from where I came from to where I am currently I find tears running down my cheeks uncontrollably.
With hard work and never giving up, you can rewrite your destiny for the better.
2 March, 2023