we need to become serious – on a national level. all of us.


Child in front seat
NOT Uganda – but an ignorant parent doing that daft thing of having a child sit on their lap in the front seat as they drive. (Photo from quora.com)

Forgive me because I am angry about the Lake Victoria Boat Tragedy that has consumed us in many ways for over a week. My anger is as justified as yours, having lost a close relative in the tragedy, besides other people I knew.

But I am not as angry at how unnecessary this tragedy was, as I am irritated by how many bright ideas everyone suddenly seems to have about how it could have been avoided yet we risk life and limb daily in so many ways.

Too many people in this country do not take life seriously – or, said differently, too many people in this country don’t take the avoidance of death seriously.

Among the people rightly and loudly declaring that the boat operators should have provided life jackets and the victims should have worn them, for instance, are people who we see every single day driving round without seat belts even if these seat belts are provided in their motor vehicles.

Some of these people, in spite of their education levels, often drive around with their infant children seated in the front seat of their cars – highly discouraged by all safety experts and even casual observers who might not be educated but can think critically. To make matters worse, most of these children wouldn’t be wearing seat belts in the back seats of those vehicles either!

Many other Ugandans hop onto boda-bodas in Kampala’s stiff traffic and flatly refuse to wear helmets. Some will use flimsy reasons like the lack of hairnets to presumably protect them from lice as if lice is a bigger problem than the effect of slamming one’s head against the ground at a high rate of progress.

The number of stupid things we do that put our lives at risk every single day are confounding and probably cause more deaths on a daily basis than the highly visible tragedy that hit us so hard this weekend.

Few of the people on that boat appear to have lacked a university degree, meaning that they knew – from primary school lessons – about the need for life jackets, and other safety measures. Too few of us think about this every day.

Because we tend to think more of what is on the surface than the foundation of things, too few of us are ready change our behavior so that we save more lives – including our own.

Some people have said the capsized boat was poorly maintained – which is highly likely to be true, judging from reports I heard more than a year ago about the same vessel. So, how many of us are maintaining our personal vehicles properly every single day – equipping them with all the right protective equipment including fire extinguishers and even first aid boxes?

When we buy our second-hand, twenty-year old vehicles, discarded from other countries mostly for reasons of the personal safety of their original owners and the environment of their countries of origin, do we first clean them out and tool them for roadworthiness in Uganda, for our own personal safety and the environment of this country?

Yes – go and check, then come back to finish reading this.

Vehicles aside, our disregard for preservation for life in spite of all the schooling we undergo is a sign of the concept of education in this country not being translated to life in the real world.

That’s the only explanation that can work for any educated person to entrust the lives and upbringing of their children to a person whose wage value per month is LESS THAN the equivalent of the cost of one week’s groceries in the very same home.

Look, we educated people employ domestic staff whose pay is so low that they wear second-hand underwear and in most cases live unhygienic personal lives of their own, but we expect them to handle our food and our children without passing on a single germ.

During the burial ceremony of Isaac Kayondo, one of the young victims of the Black Weekend, one speaker who went to help with rescue efforts narrated his interaction with askaris at the Marina where boats launched from. It was clear what the caliber of the Askari he spoke to was, and that there was no way the fellow could have stopped a vessel unworthy for travel.

The harrowing stories from the rescue efforts, also, made me think – how many friends do I (read YOU) have who can perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation should the need arise? Or any other form of First Aid? Can I (read YOU) do it myself, if a friend is in trouble?

I have even more questions but the right answers to all of them is a change in the way we behave and apply our education to ensuring we live long, healthy, productive lives.

suffer the little children in urban kampala


The day we read the heart-rending story about a four-year old boy in Ntinda who was crushed to death by a wayward lorry this week even as we were recovering from the horrific recount of the teenage kidnappings, I found a man beating up a little boy at the Kitante crossing.

For a few seconds I was confused, because the fellow dishing out the violence was the zebra crossing attendant outside Kitante Primary School, and the child was a uniformed pupil making his way across the road. The child had ran irresponsibly across half the road and the attendant had frantically restrained him from going the other half where the lunch hour traffic was uncontrollably zipping past.

The adrenalin and his relief at having saved the boy’s life combined to trigger off a volley of angry slaps into the face of the little fellow. The boy had been in the wrong and certainly deserved sanction or punishment – but not THAT beating; so I wound my window down and lambasted the zebra crossing attendant, who was startled into halting his attack.

But after a few seconds, his adrenalin still boiling, he shouted at the whimpering child, “If you ever do that again, I will BEAT YOU!”

My own adrenalin or whatever other substance causes angry excitement, had risen at the sight of this fellow unleashing adult violence upon a little boy and memories of our own childhood when we got beaten up by similar adults not for reasons of discipline, but to release their own frustrations of life under most repressive circumstances.

I also felt it was not sensible for him to be threatening the child with further violence, yet was still confused because he believed he was doing it for the boy’s own good.

And then I remembered the little boy of Ntinda.

A neighbour who had seen the accident happen recounted it to us tearfully, complete with details of how the little boy’s minders had jumped to safety on seeing the truck hurtling their way, leaving him in its path. His mother, poor lady, had left them just minutes before to return to her domestic duties.

Once again, examples of children being so unfairly treated by adults who should know better but actually DON’T seem to know better.

I run this small private NGO inside my head whose objective is to stop adults in Kampala from exposing their children to danger as they walk around the city. I noticed this many years ago and began a crusade that I hope is helpful but also returns hilarious results.

Our (so far I am the only employee) task is one: whenever we see an adult walking with a child and that child is on the open side of the road, we tell the adult to place the child on the shielded side, and to hold the child’s hand firmly.

Simple.

We don’t have sidewalks or pavements in most parts of the city, and the majority of us don’t own or operate motor vehicles, so you would be surprised how many lives are mindlessly put at risk in this manner every day.

Cartoon - Beat to death

The adults in question cannot be blamed because it never occurs to them to: a) hold the hand of a child when walking down the road or b) place the child out of harm’s way, on the side that doesn’t have cars being operated by cranky irrational Kampala drivers. 

Most of us were probably raised in an environment lacking the danger of motor vehicles, so the peril posed by traffic and city roads is not present in our sub conscience.

But even people with university degrees, who work in so-called ‘big’ companies where there are terms such as ‘Environmental, Health & Safety’ will be found driving their questionable Japanese cars with children unstrapped in the front seats.

So if a lawyer, auditor, banker, doctor can drive around with their child not wearing a seat belt in the vehicle’s most dangerous seat, while talking on a mobile phone, why would any lower-cadre parent with a humble education think of holding their child’s hand as they walk down a busy road engaged in kaboozi with a fellow housegirl/courier/tea-woman?

That’s why a zebra crossing attendant, while saving your child from being run down by a speeding car, can unknowingly cause him brain damage from a few angrily struck blows. 

Keyword: logic.