Potted Promise

“Nante, it is 7.00 O’clock; it is time to go for the Economics lecture,” Trendy called out.

Nante was introverted and exhibited a sense of calmness at all times. She was a brilliant student in the third year of her undergraduate studies. As she picked up her books to go to the Main Hall, which was 10 minutes from her hall of residence, creepy thoughts filled her mind. How was she going to survive without money? Her parents had sent her to the university with barely enough money to last a week. Although the University provided accommodation and food for the Government supported students, there were still many expenses that had to be met by the individual students. 

Nante had studied in a traditional Catholic school where several values were upheld. Although her friend Trendy was better off financially and had many friends especially from her former school, Nante’s friends were few and they rarely came to visit her.

They both sat down in the spacious hall whose vastness did not seem to cater for the teeming number of students.   As the lecture went on, some boys kept writing silly things about girls on small pieces of paper and passing them round. This caused giggling, jeering , and laughter in the room and whenever the lecturer seemed to notice that something was going on, everyone pretended to listen attentively or write in their books. Even when the lecture was about to end, a few students still entered the room.

“I want to tell you something” Nante whispered to Trendy with tears in her eyes. “But do not worry, it is nothing serious.”

 “Please lend me your book afterwards so I can copy today’s notes.” A male student whispered to one of the girls.

It was common practice for perpetual late comers to make perpetual friends with whom they exchanged notes and discussed in preparation for exams. While Trendy had very many friends of this nature, Nante did not and she was labeled a loner and ‘bookworm’.

Trendy normally stayed out late on weekends with her friends and she had many stories to share with Nante throughout the week. One day she told her of how she had had her first sexual encounter while out on a late date. Nante obviously did not take this lightly and even threatened to leave the room for good. She remembered all the bad things she had been cautioned about while in high school: pregnancy, HIV, e.t.c. Her friend Tama had told her a story about Sara, a well behaved girl from one of the top school s who shared a room with two other girls who had attended different schools. She always ignored her roommates’ incessant pleas to get her a boyfriend but one day she accepted to go out with one man who was introduced to her as Seki. After about three dates, the man persuaded Sara to go to his house and forcibly had sex with her. Sara had died of AIDS before completing her medical degree.

After the lecture, Trendy held Nante’s arm and quietly led her to the mango tree behind the Main Hall. They sat on a pavement and placed their books on the grass which had been freshly trimmed and they both snorted about the cool breeze and sweet smell of the un-potted plants. Nante was the first to speak:

“You know these days it is hard to survive on Campus without enough pocket-money. My parents offered me what they had and I cannot keep pestering them for more money. I also cannot start asking men to give me money in exchange for sexual favours. What I have decided is this. I am going to sell potted plants to fellow students so that I can raise money for my upkeep.’’

“What on earth are you talking about? Do you want to turn our room into a botanical garden? Find a man to give you pocket-money!’’ Trendy’s response left Nante speechless, sad and confused.

 Although Trendy had been rude to her many times before, Nante did not expect this kind of reaction. She sat quietly and wept. Something inside her kept telling her that her idea was good and that she should go ahead and implement it. If she had a phone, she would have called her friend Sonia from another University and shared her idea. Nante was going to fight for two things while at University, to complete her degree in the Humanities and to preserve her feminine dignity. She quietly went into the Chapel and joined the rest of the students for prayers. She did not even feel hungry!

“Can I get a creeping plant for my room?” Mary-Ann joined the students who were placing orders in Nante’s room.

“Mine has actually grown into a bush. I will pluck some of the overgrown branches and replant them. How did you come up with this brilliant idea? Not many students think like that especially when there are quicker alternatives to getting money on Campus,” said one student.

“You know girls have gold but some quickly exchange it for a cheaper currency. What you have decided to do is to keep your gold in potted plants. See you at Prime Time this evening,” encouraged another student.

The University was bustling with activities. While prospective student leaders were busy campaigning for Guild President, a few students went by the Pool Side to listen to their favourite pastor talk about God and building meaningful relationships. Other students attended lectures while the sports fraternity enjoyed various sporting activities. Nante and a few friends went to the Poolside for Prime Time and this became their routine every Friday Evening. Trendy continued to hang out with her numerous friends and ever since the potted-revelation, she did not share about her life with Nante. She always came back late to the Hall of Residence and was sometimes drunk, a habit she had started recently. One day when she did not come back to the room, Nante was very worried. Luckily Trendy was okay when she returned the following morning after staying up late in a night club with her friends.

As Nante grew from strength to strength, her friend Trendy was losing control of her life. She became more abusive and uncaring. She became jealous of Nante because her life had turned around and she seemed to be in control of herself, enjoyed good company and she now had a stable boyfriend who visited once in a while. She was continuing to excel in her academic assignments and many students came to her to assist them with their work. Trendy on the other hand jumped from one relationship to another and men used and dumped her. She seemed not to concentrate on her studies anymore and was always seeking revenge. Nante recalled how she had made a fool of herself at the recent inter-hall reunion. She had lashed out at one of the male students who was in charge of the bull-roasting party. In turn, other male students hurled verbal insults at her and she walked away in shame. This fuelled lengthy discussions about how she had dated many men on Campus as well as other men who occasionally visited their relatives on Campus.

“She is nothing but a whore,” one man angrily expressed.

As they said all this, Nante felt a deep pain in her heart. She wondered why a beautiful girl like Trendy was living a reckless life and paid very little attention to her studies. Although they shared the same room, they seemed to grow further apart and Trendy hardly noticed when Nante brought into their room a huge pot bearing a beautiful rare plant. It was a type of palm called Livingstona and its ‘webbed fingers’ stretched out beautifully, bringing so much life into the room. Nante carefully placed it in one of the corners of the room and each morning her tired eyes inquisitively searched the ridges on each palm which barely joined at the stalk revealing a fan-like effect. She loved what she saw.

Indigenous palm trees in their neighbourhood always grew so tall one could hardly notice the spread and beauty of the leaves until they grew old and fell to the ground by the force of the wind. Although Trendy did not ask about the new plant, Nante desperately wanted to tell her the whole story.  During one of her visits to the Poolside, she had come to know a lady, Preta, who was a florist living in Luzira. She was visiting her cousin at Campus who invited her for Prime Time. She had visited a few Botanical gardens in Switzerland and the US. One day when she invited her to look at her tree nursery in Luzira, Nante decided to buy the plant for her parents. She would take it home at the end of her course to thank them for fulfilling their promise and for their unending love.

Dear women of the world, respect yourself and others

magicandbeauty

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1. Respect yourself and support other women and other men in your daily life. Reach out to each other. Look forward to other people’s successes. Discard all prejudices that hinder and restrain you.
2. Look for a guiding thread that will surely guide you much easier in your life paths and inspire you in the process.
3. Dear women, fight for the whole society to evolve and for successful women to be viewed from a purely professional point of view.
4. All women go through turbulent periods in life. Try to find strength and rise stronger and with more optimism.
5. Support all other women especially those who are going through difficult life temptations.
6. Don’t burden yourself with criticism, status, and other people’s successes. Do not take any of the above personally and to the extent that it burdens you, your family and work.
7. Good work, perseverance, focus…

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How has COVID 19 impacted the lives of older adults around you?

Just like many Ugandans, older people in Uganda are grappling with the effects of Covid 19. Whereas their immediate need is food, most of them are caring for many orphans whose needs range from physical, psycho-social, hygiene and sanitation. Few older people have access to regular basic incomes and the majority rely on donations from family and community members. Since Covid 19 became a reality in our midst, many families have been separated and in need of help themselves. So older people have been left helpless and the threat from hunger, diseases and poor sanitation is imminent. This also applies to the children in their care, whose survival has been left to chance. 

These people need support in various forms: food, finances, wash facilities and counselling, among others in order to deal with the multifaceted effects of Covid 19 and ensure basic survival. Both groups also need to access regular medical care to prevent emergencies which may be difficult to handle at a time when mobility is restricted due to national Covid guidelines which are aimed at reducing the spread of the virus. 

There is also an urgent need to access nutritious foods in order to curb the risk of malnutrition and Covid 19. Some older people living in urban and semi-urban areas also face the risk of eviction from homes due to unpaid rent. Even where a few older people would have accessed funds from existing digital platforms, the use of mobile phone technology in this category is very limited. 

Older people and children in their care should be supported to ensure basic survival and to mitigate the effects on Covid 19 on vulnerable populations in Uganda. Your unceasing support will make a difference in the lives of many people whose options become less and less by the day.

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