We Young Women…
We stood in neat little rows. Our uniforms spot clean and our teeth an entire story of how much sugar we had each eaten. Our stockings, the grey type with huge blue and white stripes, pulled to beyond our knees, shone arrogantly. Our foreheads, knowing no sorrow, were full of happiness. Yours truly, eager to be appreciated by Teacher Lydia, stood in the front row smiling from one ear to the other. We had not a care in the World. One of my favourite activities, everyone's favourite activity at School – Singing.
We were eager to sing our voices hoarse. We had the energy. Teacher Lydia would ask one of us to come forward and lead us in a song. Aware of my not so limited abilities in this arena, I always looked her in the eye, almost teasingly, to announce that I was ready.
Sometimes she chose me. Sometimes I had to give my friends a chance. Every time I got chosen I sung my favourite song: We young Women…
I sang the song all the time, but I did not know slightly over half the words in it, if I quite remember. But I sang it all the same, doing the verses I didn't know in my mother tongue. Once I had the rhythm, the rest of the words came naturally. It is good to be ingenuous, we were always told. We young women and men of Uganda, are marching along the path of education…, it went. That is all I knew in the first stanza. But the joy with which the words came out of that little mouth!
Teacher Lydia is no more, she teaches kids English in America (but no one taught us our Mother tongues; and yet boy or girl, we spoke them). My lovely uniform is also no more, and with it my sparkling grey stockings. The smile is still there and although more photogenic, it has an annoying mechanical side to it. The front row where I always stood is no more. One can have no front row if there are no rows in the first place. The other kids are everywhere and nowhere. Some in the Diaspora, others - the female mostly – sending me 'mobile money my wedding contribution to this number' messages.
The kids nowadays sing different songs, the cool ones, you know. And they know them. No need to employ our ingenuity. Saw them the other day. They care about how they look. Little girls with hair twisted like their mothers, telling Teacher to pause as they like what is posted on their Timeline.
I sit back and look, think. I want to be little again, and remind the world that I am part of the young men and women of Uganda, surely marching along the path that I have always cherished. I love it when Teacher Lydia is around, though, to say I should lead. But she is there no more. I admire the strength, hope of the youngsters of nowadays, who have little to worry about. But I pause and ask myself: Do I want to be as troubled as those little angels are at their age? Am not sure I can cope. By the time they get to my age, they could be long dead. Stress-related illnesses, I think again.
Am not sure I want their kind of Childhood. I want mine, the one I had. Where my friends and I told the world that we were the Young Women and Men of this country that is the Pearl of Africa.