SATURDAY afternoon, as I was driving from a brief Daddy-chore, I got to Kintu Road in Kitintale and joined a brief queue of cars on either side whose occupants mostly had the hairs on the backs of their necks standing on horrified ends.
My view was better than that of the people in the cars behind a large truck at the head of the oncoming queue. The three cars ahead of me facing that truck were all small salon vehicles whose occupants were certainly as petrified as I was at what we saw.
Standing in the middle of the road in front of the large truck was a little boy, not more than one year old, dressed in a dark blue shirt and matching pair of shorts. Having been alive for so short a time, he had no idea how close he was to dying at that very point.
Human beings generally believe in the supernatural because of the way that truck driver managed to spot that little boy in the middle of the road and actually stop before flattening him to the tarmac.
All the cars stopped and stayed still until someone, who turned out to be a fairly random man, came from across the road and lifted the little fellow to safety. The women who formed the welcoming committee on the other side of the road received the infant without much fan-fare.
One elderly one called to a younger one who made quarrelsome noises down at him and then, fueled by the various remarks by her neighbours in the collection of houses and rooms nearby, pushed him to the ground with the instruction, in Luganda, that he should “Go back and stay there!”
The poor fellow, not comprehending why this was happening to him, burst into tears, picked himself up, and shuffled with his dust-covered back towards the area his mother had pointed to. One minute ago he was on the flat, hot tarmac dancing a baby jig with all those fantastic vehicles whizzing past while someone played loud music nearby, and the next he was covered in dust and being hit over the head.
The lugezi-gezi kicked in and I had to strike up a conversation, but not with the errant young mother – with the elderly one who I insisted should have known better and had a responsibility to guide the other.
She started by explaining that the child had followed his unknowing mother and then strayed, but I cut her short – at which point she summoned the offending mother.
No – I wasn’t going to arrest her even though she deserved it, I said, as the offending mother also tried to explain that the little one had just followed her…I lost my patience a little bit and explained that it was mostly poultry that walked around and expected their young to follow in a straight line, but that even THEY check occasionally.
It took many more minutes of conversation till they both agreed that children should be treated with a little more care. I was neither convinced that mother would change nor decided that I should go back on a daily basis to check up on the boy’s upbringing.
2018 and children are still being raised to the background tune of “Nja kukuba!”?
Yep – that phrase many people of past generations heard as they pranced around and frolicked: “Nija kuteera!/Nta kupiga!” and so on and so forth!
The offending mother, in this case, confessed to being 22 years of age and agreed that she didn’t know better. She couldn’t look me in the eye, out of what I hoped was shame but feared might be fear – which was why I had asked to speak with her elder friend, neighbour and possibly mother.
She was only raising her child the way she knew children were raised. By not being given too much attention for too long. By not being held by the hand at every step of the way. By not being repeatedly given emotional validation. By not getting any soft treatment when they make mistakes of any nature.
Because life is harsh and hard.
That cycle has to be broken – not by raising children who are spoilt and soft and won’t make a success of themselves in the harsh world. But by teaching them responsibility and the positive values that make us a positive people.
By stopping them from getting into harm’s way when they are young and tender, but teaching them how to survive should hard come to them when they are older.