So, every time report card season would come, most Tanzanian parents would start with a story. I later found out many of my friends were told a very similar story. It went (or perhaps still goes) a little bit like this:
‘In my days I always came first in my class.’ And then they all add a personal twist. This was my father’s:
”I had to put in extra study time so I would read on the corridor next to the bathroom because that is where the light bulb was. I never played cards (his efforts to make sure I’d never consider poker as a social activity) and I always took all my subjects very seriously.”
Now, I have to say that after the 6th grade I didn’t buy the whole ‘all parents came first’ story because surely, someone had to come last (or second?). But the rest of it I doubt was fabricated. I grew up looking at my parents as heroes because they had to overcome a lot of things. And I suppose they told us such stories to let us know where they came from and how much better things were for us.
So, what is the moral of this story? One, dear parents, it’s okay to tell us that you worked hard in school because the pressure to always try to come first is a bit much for some. And second? With everything that is provided to us these days there is so much more we can achieve. I know some people still have the perception that Africa is full of uneducated uninspired youths who wait for aid to get things done. This is not true. Older generations inspire us to do better, and go further. Some people may still have to study by candlelight but you know what, the hunger to improve one’s livelihood is motivation enough for them to do the necessary to achieve their goals.
Hopefully with time one day the youth will not have to read by candle light, but till then? The struggle continues.
No post for weeks. Which brings me to the question, how do those daily post challenge people do it? I channel mine on pure randomness, with a purpose of course. And there was a lot of randomness the past few weeks but sharing it with the rest of the world? That took ages, or it seemed like a gigantic task. But see, in my head it was simpler. Here comes random moment, then my brain controls the keys on my laptop and comes up with something super awesome. I approve and boom! PUBLISH! PUBLISH! PUBLISH! My brain has been doing a lot of that lately and the more the days went by the easier it was not to actually type ‘anything’. Until a friend of mine posted something ridiculously funny and that little bulb in my head lit up..and my fingers just went absolutely out of control.
So, what is the moral of this story? When your blog is covered in cobwebs, watch or read the funniest thing you know. Or, you could get off your ass and actually type stuff. Either or both should eventually work.
Many of my African brothers and sisters would be familiar with the ‘I went to school with no shoes’ story. For everyone else who doesn’t, I will explain.
When I was in primary school, I absolutely loved ‘Back to School’ season. Or rather, new stuff season; books, shoes, bags etc. However, I also hoped that my shoes did not fit and that my bag was in a state. These were ‘new stuff’ prerequisites. I should have probably learned from my younger sister and put one too many books in my school bag. That way, by the end of the year I get a new one! So my mum would announce that since our shoes still fit, no need for new ones. And this would be followed by ‘but why? They are kind of a little tight…mumble…mumble…new ones are nicer.’ My Dad would then take over and tell the ‘going to school with no shoes’ story.
Long long ago, when my father was my age at the time, there was not enough money for shoes after paying fees. So he walked many miles to school. He was too happy to be in school to care much for the shoes even though they would have definitely come in handy. Even though I was probably ten or so at the time, it made me realise how ungrateful I was. To date, there are many children who go without shoes. That is why I love things like TOMS One for One motto. For every shoe purchased, a child in need receives new ones. But charity starts at home and instead of discarding old shoes and clothes, they would find their way to those who need them most. Even as I really would not like to disclose how many pairs of shoes I own, I am conscious of the fact that some people go without. And yet, we live in a ‘need more…want more’ society. What we need to do is tell this story more because there is such a thing as ‘enough’.
One of the most beautiful and sad things about Africa is that you will meet people who are so happy with so little. I never had to go to school barefoot; but I hope people in the society will not lose sight of cherishing what they have as opposed to obsessing over what they don’t have.
So please share the ‘going to school with no shoes’ story. And you can be as creative as you like and include dragons and goblins. Besides, if it always sounds the same then it just looks fabricated. Just like the ‘when I was younger I always came first’ story. But that is for another day.
When I initially started this blog I wanted to post material that would change people’s opinions of Africa. From the Africa they broadcast to you as being shady, dirt poor to a dynamically changing continent with promising intellectuals. I wanted to shift the mentality of the Oxfam ads (though yes, there are people who are poverty-stricken and dying from hunger..feel free to donate) to bubbly, happy and healthy little tots. So, every other Monday I will post something that will hopefully change the perspectives you have on the African continent. Either that or deliver stories that were told when I was growing up. I will be focusing more on Tanzania and work my way through to other countries. I welcome your views as well as suggestions. I will still rant (can’t help it) and I really don’t know whether or not these posts will be very effective. However, if I can change a few mentalities, some change is better than no change. As we say, ‘Pole Pole ndiyo mwendo’…we’ll slowly get there. And maybe I’ll feel better by correcting many dubious documentaries and articles. I say correcting but it’s more ‘the other side of the story’ kinda thing. So yeah, stay tuned!!