Meet three mothers of St. Bakhita students
Interviewed by Pauline Layat and compiled by Michael Anywar
Although most women think that they are suffering because they have no husband or their husbands are living far away from them in Sudan, their problems are not far different from those women living together with their husbands in the refugees settlement
Achan is a woman living with her husband and her five children in Kiryandongo refugees settlement. According to Achan, her husband was a very hard working man and responsible but two years ago, her husband got another wife who is well-off financially. The woman owns a shop, the man finds life easier there because this woman only feeds him, and does not ask him for any support since she has no children with him.
Achan added and says her husband stopped helping with garden work and even paying school fees for their children in secondary school. Many times Achan has been seen going to the secondary school to beg the headteacher to allow her children to stay in school as she looks for the money for the school fees.
She has to sell part of her harvest which is mainly maize and beans. She also keeps on making local alcohol for selling to meet her family basic needs.
Her husband only comes to her home during day time and would spend less than ten minutes talking while standing in the compound. Toward the end of last year, Achan’s children in secondary school were all sent back home because of school fees. They were all going to miss the end of the year examination that means they would not be promoted to the next level. That thing almost killed her dream to educate her children. So Achan took action and threatened to take her husband to the police and this is when the man got ashamed among his age mates and paid fees for the children.
According to Achan, she says it is only because of her children’s education that is why she is still here in Uganda. She added and says things are not yet stable in Sudan and that is why she wants her children to study from here in Uganda. Otherwise she would now be in Sudan.
Achan’s heart is deep and constantly with her children’s education. She says if there isn’t any outside support for secondary education, she prefers to support her children’s education herself. She says she can dig in the garden and feed the children and she believes even other women can dig like her but when it comes to paying of secondary school fees, as a women they can not afford it alone.
Stella is a widow living with her seven children and four grandchildren. She became a widow in 1997 when her husband was bitten by a snake and died. He was a hard working man and loved his children, too. Since then, Stella has been trying hard to make sure her children go to school.
According to Stella, life has proved to be hard and full of frustration without a helper. She has met a lot of challenges, being single handed, in trying to support her children. She says the land on which she is staying belongs to a relative who has repatriated. It is a big piece of land but she can not work on it alone and can not even make enough for secondary school fees, so she has to work in other people’s gardens for money to top up secondary school fees plus other family needs.
Sometimes her children have to stay home for the whole term in order to work in the garden to raise money for secondary school fees. She tries to pay for her first born up to senior six but she says that is the highest level she can manage and stops there, although the boy still has interest to study, since she has to bring the young ones also up.
When she was asked what her aspiration is she explain by saying that there is nothing she loves like to see all her children be educated. She further says in order for all these children to attain education beyond P6, there is need for support to her and also other women in the form of loans so that they can start businesses to add on to what they get from their garden. She thinks this could help to provide her families with basic needs, and will be simple. She added that this will help them, especially herself who is complaining of chest pain all the time because of too much work on the garden, to feel better. Stella looks worn out and she says she is tried but has nowhere to turn for help. Where can she put all the children who are living with her without hope for the future is her big question
Asu Mary’s Story
Asu Mary is a mother of eight children. She has seven boys and a girl who is her first born. Mary’s husband went back to Sudan promising to his wife that he was going to look for a job so that he can support his children’s education. She says this made her feel so happy because here in the settlement, they are only cultivating so that they can afford what the family needs to eat to live. She is now left wondering what may have happened to her husband who has now finished three years without coming back or she sending any single coin to support the children’s education. She kept expecting but all in vain.
She got shocked when she learned that her husband had become a drunkard and has no job and this was a very big blow for her. But, she took courage and told her children to work hard in order to meet their needs and take care of themselves
Her daughter is in the secondary and others are in primary. According to her she has now worked hard for the last two years to bring up these children but now she is too weak to do the same garden work as she use to do because all the load ever been on her to pay secondary school fee, feed the children and work for medical bill if her children are sick and buy their school uniforms
As the result of all these hardships, her second born dropped out of school because he sees his mother is suffering in the garden alone, so he decided to abandon school in order to help his mother to take care of the young ones
Mary says she needs a helping hand so that her children can study and she is only interested in having her children educated because it is the only way to change her children’s lives. Mary explains that she got married off to her husband at an early age because the similar problems her children are now facing and to some extent her parents were also ignorant and did not value education. Mary has already learned from other people how it is important to be educated.