They therefore have a much closer association today with the real world than they did ten years ago, which has a direct impact on the personal finances of their parents.
But their parents operate on a tight domestic budget, what with mortgages and school fees and groceries and whatnot.
So, thinking like all sensible people out there, we spent the first part of their childhood keeping them distracted by easily affordable childish things. But now that they won’t be distracted by ice cream and screechy toys, we have to keep devising means of lowering the operational costs of having children.
Taking a leaf from years of observing companies and the way they do things, we started picking off one item after another to cut down on, while motivating the children to perform well, to provide us with shareholder value.
First, we got the kids to learn the value of money to each of them personally – the way employees do when they start buying things like nice dinners, furniture and then maybe even cars and houses.
At some point they – the children – started earning pocket money allowances for good deeds or behaviour including attending school. That school attendance allowance was really free money because they honestly had no other choice and were eager to go anyway; but if they ever got tempted to lie in because of heavy morning rains, for instance, we didn’t have to remind them about their account balances.
Plus, our system was so clear that even if a child got admitted to hospital they had no such thing as as sympathy allowance – but they didn’t get a school attendance allowance either.
But they don’t receive cash daily. Instead, they are required to maintain a pocket money allowance record in a book against which we both sign and update almost weekly.
So every weekend, if the children wanted to spend money on treats like snacks, trinkets, toys and fast food, it came out of their own personal money. If ever they find a need to spend any money, they have to whip out their records and make a withdrawal from the parents.
That’s a lesson we learnt early on in our own lives, and when we departed from it as young adults and kept cash on our persons we suffered for it shortly into the month – mostly on Mondays.
This arrangement for the children, with time, became precarious for us: one day the eldest walked up with a large sheet of paper on which she had written mathematical workings to back her case for me to place an order for an iPhone she had seen online.
I audited her records and she passed the audit.
I didn’t have all that money handy and used only one delaying tactic – she hadn’t factored in the shipping costs. She went back and returned with a notification of how many school days she was going to attend in order to reach the desired amount.
We’ve never looked back.
Sometimes they’ll do extra bits of work that doesn’t involve domestic chores but to earn extra money so they can hit personal targets that require said money.
And then there are the penalties. If any of them misbehaved they got fined on the spot, losing some of their allowances. And, again taking a leaf from some companies observed, some domestic fixes have been tied to these allowances.
A couple of weeks ago I was pleased to hear them having a major argument over who had left the lights on in one room.
See, to cut down on electricity costs I used to run patrols around the house switching lights off while shouting about it. Somehow they’d get switched back on again.
So I started a Ushs500 deduction for every time I find a room empty but with lights on – Ushs500 off each of their allowances for the day, to create some group responsibility.
That worked perfectly. Where before they stampede off to school leaving every lightbulb burning, today the house is in quiet darkness as they go.
Most sensible companies do this.
You earn a monthly salary for doing your job. Sometimes even when you don’t do your job you still earn your monthly salary – just like the kids going to school and getting their daily allowance for just showing up.
When your eyes are set on a target you work even harder, if you’re sensible, and avoid getting into any shenanigans that could lose you any earnings.
Some companies will even arrange for furniture and electronics suppliers to come to the offices to make a pitch so you work harder to earn the money required. Like the internet does to make the iPhone so attractive to the children that they stay on their best behaviour all through.
And companies offer incentives based on targets that also include cost-cutting initiatives and adherence to budgets and plans – just like my energy saving one at home.
Next…? Perhaps it’s time to move the incentives upwards to mid-management level. Don’t tell them till we’ve finalised the strategy, but the domestic staff are getting in on this soon.
AFTER a three-hour journey covering ten kilometres of a tarmac road last week, I was sufficiently incensed at one group of people in particular, and hereby call for our national attention to be turned straight onto them.
See, there is no way we should be suffering with this phenomenon that links specific and predictable factors to the creation of the heavy traffic that disrupts so many lives in so many ways.
We all know when it is going to rain and we all know when schools are in or out. Rain and other weather patterns are regularly made available to us by way of the internet via mobile phones and computers.
For those still living in the past, every night there are television news bulletins that even show us graphics of raindrops, as if to accommodate those within our society who are so dim-witted they cannot recognise the four letter word ‘rain’.
As for school holiday schedules, those could be harder to identify if one doesn’t have a child resident in a boarding school. But for all the irritation they cause road users, surely we should do what I do and keep checking with parents of these children to mark the dates when they will be thronging the roads to take pilao and Minute Maid juice on visitation dates, or to pick them up for holidays.
My three hour trip last week almost put me in trouble but the person I was going to meet was also delayed, and so we agreed to change our meeting time and venue.
That day school hadn’t yet broken out but I presume most parents had whipped out their extra cars a few days early in order to test their suitability for ferrying teenagers back for the holidays.
This coincided with a rainstorm of significantly heavier proportions than normal suddenly erupting mid-afternoon and trapping us in gridlocks created by the stupidity and selfishness of road-users who couldn’t see or think beyond the number plate immediately in front of them.
Many others suffered worse. My friend, Matthew Lorika, got caught in the horrendous traffic en route to a business meeting along Jinja Road that he couldn’t miss otherwise a large crop upcountry would have suffered.
Assessing the heavy Jinja Road traffic and the rainstorm looming above, he ditched his car and hopped onto a boda-boda so he could get to his destination quickly, finish business and return before the downpour. The traffic was so bad that even the boda-boda got caught in it!
He made his trip and presentation of his sample for processing and export, but had to hang around for hours waiting for the rain and traffic to clear.
In those traffic jam situations I normally join everybody else in giving way to Ambulances and every time I think to myself how unlikely it is that the sufferers inside them will make it to hospital in time to recover.
And last week I considered who those occupants might be, going through many professions. Some made me smile – like if taxi drivers could ever go on one of those life-saving rides, would they thereafter be more considerate about parking in a way that blocks traffic flow? That almost had me giggling with glee at the possibility.
But not as much as the thought of what would happen if Urban Planners were caught in life-threatening situations, put into an Ambulance, and then found the traffic so bad they couldn’t make it to the hospital on time.
That got me thinking a bit more. Who are these Urban Planners, in Kampala or Uganda?
Because I haven’t studied it professionally I had to google the phrase ‘Urban Planning’ and found it defined as: “a technical and political process concerned with the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks.”
I can only presume that we have such people employed in our central and local governments because I see it is available for study at University level in Uganda. While other institutions offer related courses, Makerere University lists a ‘Bachelors Degree in Urban Planning’ as well as a ‘Masters of Science in Urban Planning and Design’!
So where are the people who study these things? Where did they find jobs? And if the people who took those jobs in places like Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and all districts simply didn’t study for their jobs professionally, then we need the Police and Inspector General of Government and other forces to flush them out of office.
Surely the least these Urban Planners could do for us would be to announce when traffic will be heavier because of school schedules, so that we make conscious decisions to stay out of it? But no – they didn’t study any of this in school at any level, obviously.
Which makes me wonder what THEY do when caught in that traffic? Are they not irritated by it all? Or are they the ones speeding through with Ambulances and convoys with pseudo-strobe lights?
Do our Urban Planners own the fuel companies that benefit so much from the time we spend idling and crawling in traffic jams?
One way or another, there is something not right, so while the IGG and Police work out how to deal with this, since as road-users we can’t check for the weather forecast or school schedules or change our selfish driving habits, I propose a bridging solution:
Let’s give Urban Planners special number plate markers like the ones of ministers, so we can see them on the road. And let’s create some reverse sirens and strobe-lighting so that when they approach we make them stay at the very back of any line of motor vehicles they meet.
If we can just pile up all our traffic irritation onto this one group of people, it will most certainly be a beginning to getting them to solve this issue. If.
I DON’T normally read the newspapers first thing on Monday morning and also avoid going to Twitter early on that day simply because there are rabbit holes that can derail one’s jump-start to a work week.
I am that guy who can scroll through the timeline for an hour straight simply because when I get to a negative troll post I must go and find an uplifting witty, positive and inspiring one to erase the first. It is not easy.
But this Monday I found myself cooling my heels outside of a government conference room waiting for a meeting to take off so I could contribute to a discussion of national importance. It didn’t happen.
Naturally, I ended up on Twitter to find news updates but mostly irritations and chuckles to distract me from saying rude things to the people within the room itself. Within minutes I found tweets about a donation made to the Republic of Malawi from the People’s Republic of China.
I would have thought it to be a joke, hoax or meme, if the original tweet hadn’t been posted by @LiuHongyang4 whose Twitter Bio and Curriculum Vitae posted to an official website of the Chinese Diplomatic Service (http://mw.china-embassy.org/eng/dsxx/dsjl/t1578360.htm) both declared him to be China’s Ambassador to Malawi.
He was quite proud of the donation of two (2) motorcycles sent by 1.4billion people in China to 18million people in Malawi.
The motorcycles were, presumably, brand new items. I couldn’t be bothered over where they were manufactured because I was occupied by the photographs of Malawi government and Chinese Embassy officials seated at a high table with the two motorcycles in front of them.
They even had a large banner hoisted up on the building behind them.
The twitter abuse and ridicule brigade went at this halfheartedly and I moved on to more regular news, falling upon the page one call-out in The New Vision under ‘CHARITY’ that read, “Minister Builds Sh100m Church’.
“At least this is a sizeable chunk of money,” I immediately thought, then repented when I remembered the parable of the poor widow in Church.
I wasn’t sure about the story. Turning pages, the actual headline caused me worry: “Minister Namuyangu builds sh100m church, prays for rain.”
I read that and prayed that this story wouldn’t go the wrong way.
God wasn’t answering that prayer that day.
“Residents of Kibuku district have been urged to pray for rains so that they can be able to cultivate food…” the story started, before quoting the State Minister for Local Government, Jenipher Namuyangu, saying there had been no rains since June last year and the district was now facing a famine.
“Most families now have one meal per day and this is a worrying situation,” she said.
My forehead had become sweaty and was wrinkled by frowns of disbelief – just six paragraphs into this. The New Vision had given the story cheeky prominence, placing it on Page Six and filling almost half the page complete with four photographs!
The State Minister, a well-educated politician holding a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and Master of Science in Agroforestry, was probably using understatement as a tool of emphasis. Otherwise there was no way a famine and “most families” having one meal a day could be called just “a worrying situation”.
This would have been a matter for her colleague at Disaster Preparedness!
But she had taken it to a higher authority, apparently, by building a Church. The New Vision report, by the way, carried four photographs of the Church launch event. The tweet by the Chinese Ambassador to Malawi was also accompanied by four photographs.
That juxtaposition made me think that maybe Namuyangu’s church could have done with many more photographs – comparing the value of their respective donations in US dollars or Chinese Yuan. Two motorcycles versus a Ushs100million Church? Little contest there.
But let’s focus more: The Church official at the launch of the Minister’s donation reportedly “urged the youth to desist from politicking and instead engage in income-generating activities.”
My furrowed brow relaxed as mirth spread within me.
It was now obvious that the journalists AND the church official were in cahoots to deliver top-notch sarcasm and irony!
Surely this Church official wasn’t hinting that instead of building a Church the Minister could have used the Ushs100million to create an entrepreneurship or income-generating activity for the youth of Kibuku District?
A few paragraphs later, they were joined by a resident comrade-at-sarcasm, Steven Luwala, who “requested the minister to lobby for irrigation schemes to improve farming, which has been affected by the dry spell.”
At this point I had to cross my legs tightly to maintain some self-control.
It came undone at the very next paragraph where another resident, Wilson Ganda, “said the entire village of over 1,000 people depends on one borehole. This, he said, has led to an increase in gender-based violence.”
Why and how?
“…because when women go to fetch water they return to homes late in the night and some husbands do not understand why.”
Another reason for why the Church built by the Minister makes a lot of sense – those husbands need prayers to sort out their significantly diminished mental strength.
And so do we, in general across this Continent, so that we learn to order our priorities for ourselves rather than have other people do so for us. It’s either that or we share a couple of motorcycles amongst millions as we ride past our solitary boreholes with the limited energy we get from one meal a day to pray for rains.
I LISTEN to podcasts avidly – more than I do our local radio stations. The podcasts I choose provide wit, wisdom and work…of an intellectual nature.
One of them is hosted by a Personal Development Coach called Jordan Harbinger who has taught me the phrase “Dig the Well before you get thirsty.” The origin of the phrase goes back to Zhuzi (or Zhu Xi), a Chinese scholar (1130 to 1200 Anno Domini!)
‘Dig the Well before you get thirsty‘ is a profound statement for many reasons and it dismays me many times when I realise that in 2019 I might be among the people who don’t follow this simple tenet eight hundred years after the death of the person who first said it!
In short, it means we should prepare for everything well in advance. You know one day you will get thirsty, so dig a well in advance. Or: don’t wait for trouble to befall you before working out a solution.
So if you have a well already dug, when the thirst comes – as it must because of biology – you will have an option nearby.
Last week at the funeral of Edward Kwatiraho, a grand old man, the father of some friends of mine, the phrase came back to me as we spoke about his illness and his last leg of the journey of life.
During an afternoon-long discussion before he left for his last medicals in India, he shared a heap of wise thoughts with a group of us. When his children and friends eulogised him they recounted lots more he had given them through his 82 years on earth – including the need to always be organised and prepared.
‘Dig the Well before you get thirsty’. And that’s why it came up during his send off, as I thought of the fact that he had to go to India for that treatment.
See, it is a fact that one day we will all die of something, most likely medical in nature.
Being aware of that fact should make us dig our medical wells as soon as possible so that when the medical thirst strikes in the form of cancer or heart disease or any of those other conditions that are enriching airlines flying to India, we can handle them right here at home.
Actually, that is going too far to start with – not the distance to India, but the handling of more complicated ailments.
As Mzee Kwatiraho’s cortege was departing for Bukinda, in Kabale, to lay him to rest I thought of that saying again. “Dig the Well before you get thirsty.”
His children had told me along the years of the preparations they had made to ensure their home in Bukinda was comfortable. In fact, Mzee Kwatiraho had moved from Kampala and was enjoying his twilight years in Bukinda in comfort till the sickness returned to ail him.
We all have that village to go back to when we are being laid to rest, and most of us only visit it once a year during one of the long holidays and festive seasons.
How many “wells” have we dug there? Focusing strictly on the medical, many of us will go to the village totally unprepared as usual for any medical emergencies that may arise.
But, more importantly, when we do fall sick while there then we stop over at an interim dispensary or clinic nearby as we make our way to Kampala to be admitted at a ‘proper’ hospital. Even where there are serious hospitals at the District centres, in the town nearest to the village, we still only stop over there.
Why? Why aren’t we kitting out our village health centres so that in case we fall sick while there we can get decent treatment and, much more importantly, when we are away for the larger part of the year, our relatives and neighbours there enjoy good treatment?
How about this year we start digging “wells” in our villages when we go this Easter or, more practically, in December? Surely we can take along some medical equipment for our local dispensaries and kit them up so they are better capable of saving lives?
‘Dig the Well before you get thirsty.’
Until then, God forbid that you get thirsty the next time you visit your village.