Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Stripped of dignity, #Ugandans are living in despair - #Poverty sucks!



We recently drove across the River Nile, to visit with relatives and pay respects to those dearly departed. Once you get out of the madness that is the city, the traffic gives way to long stretches of tarmac or dirt-brown murram snaking through the green farmland.
I have very fond memories of my maternal village.
When we were rudely uprooted from the comforts of city life and cast into the harsh reality of primary boarding school, it was here that we found solace.
My grandfather, tall and stoic, carried himself with dignity as he rode his bicycle, 15 kilometres each way, to come visit me every fortnight, despite being 80 at the time! He would hand over the fresh fruit and roasted ground nuts he always carried while making polite but firm inquiries over my well-being, before almost magically producing money from one of the folds of his coat.
The fruit I understood – after all, the trees around his small, simple but meticulously-kept house always groaned with jack fruit and oranges and tangerine and ridiculously sweet bananas – but it was the money I always wondered about; where did it come from?
His generosity was almost but never quite matched by the rest of the clan.
When we visited from the city the bad roads always conspired to ensure that we invariably arrived in the dead of the night but morning brought with it the happy chatter of kinsfolk, before we were dragged from house to house, chickens being chased in the background.
Eagle-eyed aunts watched us eat, then forced upon us presents of everything from bananas to goats. They were poor people, my folks, but they were generous and happy.
It took us only a few hours to drive to get there this time round, thanks to much better roads and a ferry that has halved travel time, but it felt as if we had travelled back into time, past the idyllic dreams of childhood and into the dark haunted reaches of deprivation.
The ‘trading’ centres seem busier as young people mill around, busying themselves with satchels of gin and games of chance; every so often, one comes across a recently renovated house where a child of the home has come into some money, or a small maize mill thundering about. Mostly, however, it is a scene of poverty and destitution, of once dignified houses caving in, one fallen roof truss at a time, as nature closes in to reclaim its domain.
But what gets you is the look of defeat in the eyes of the people. Men who once stood tall and proud now offer limp, almost apologetic handshakes; the women, feigning joy through their pain, generally avoid eye contact until one is about to depart – at which point their eyes light up, in Pavlovian hope and expectation of some cash hand-outs. How did yesterday’s donors turn into today’s beggars?


It is a long story involving the death of cooperatives and rural agriculture, high population growth, the collapse of public services, especially education for the girl-child, inequality and disease adding up to a vicious circle of poverty; they are poor because they are poor.
The statisticians will argue that these folks are better off today than they were 20 years ago. Just having a cheap Chinese-made mobile phone elevates you, as does living closer to a school or hospital structure.
But GDP growth statistics do not tell the whole story. What really matters is equitable development in which no one is left behind. And on that score, we have left millions of Ugandans behind, giving them tarmac roads they only use to dry maize and cassava, overhead power lines carrying electricity they cannot afford, or unmanned schools that do not teach and hospitals that do not treat.
We need to rethink the way we measure success. We need to stop counting the number of health centre IVs and start counting how long people have to wait before they see a doctor; we have to stop boasting about school enrollment numbers and start counting how many children complete their education and what skills they get. In other words, we need to stop thinking about growth only in terms of numbers and start thinking about people and development.
Poverty sucks, as these folks will tell you, but what really destroys someone is the loss of dignity. I left shaken, but I can still imagine Grandpa, dignified to the end, turning in his grave.
The Writer, Mr. David Kalinaki, is a journalist and a poor man’s freedom fighter.
dkalinaki@ke.nationmedia.com
Twitter: @Kalinaki. Twitter: @Kalinaki
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Poverty sucks, but if you really want to destroy someone, take

Thursday July 13 2017 Advertisement By Daniel K Kalinaki We recently drove across the River Nile, to visit with relatives and pay respects to those dearly departed. Once you get out of the madness that is the city, the traffic gives way to long stretches of tarmac or dirt-brown murram snaking through the green farmland.I have very fond memories of my maternal village.

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