I was only six years old when a stroke struck my father, who was a church priest. To my mother, a peasant with eight children, the world seemed to have ended that day. Little as I was and seventh born in a family of eight, I set my mind to be different. Five of my sisters and my brother dropped out of school and I was the first child to go to high school.
When I completed high school, I approached one of my relatives to sponsor me for a degree. I was beside myself with joy; little did I know that his help was for a very short time and that suffering would set in soon.
A billion words can't explain the challenges I experienced at campus. I joined in September 1999 on a three-year course and came out in August 2004. It doesn't sound normal but I accepted it, although not without questioning God why it was me that these things befell. I did not get the answer.
After the first semester, my sponsor wrote telling me never to go back to his office. Hadn't the world ended? Well, it hadn't. It had just begun. I started the second semester with the support of friends but finally surrendered to failure after the third semester. I dropped out.
I got a job as a housemaid of a former classmate. Relief or grief? My monthly earnings were barely enough for my meals – forget about rent. My landlord frequently checked on my room to see if I had anything to eat, driven more by fear that I would die in his house than by care. Mysteriously, I do not remember a day I went without meals – no idea how that got pulled off!
I got another job with a supermarket and this time, the pay could cover even my rent. What a relief! But wait a minute, wasn't that short-lived? When my manager discovered that I was a ‘junction of problems' and had nowhere to go, she started pelting a lot of insults at me alongside loads of work. I couldn't stand the situation so I talked to the person who linked me to her but she advised me to persevere. I said NO and quit soon after. I was blamed and labeled 'difficult to help'. Still, I was happy I quit.
What next? I asked myself. The University offered me work as a cook. They proposed that I work and accumulate the money I needed to go back to school but my debt was much bigger than I could accumulate. I realized that wasn't the best way to go and turned down the offer! 'What a needy student!' the Administration commented.
I prayed, wrote and moved through so many offices seeking financial assistance, but no one was concerned.
One of the toughest was the Minister of Education and Sports. Frequently visiting this office for over three months, at last I was to meet the Minister. Faithfully, I went back at the appointed time only for the secretary to deny me access to the Minister. This went on for another three months.
I woke up one morning and told myself, 'Justine, you will see the Minister today!' I went to his office and the secretary told me to 'come back'. Braced for battle, I asked her 'When?' and she spat 'Afternoon' out. At exactly 12:01 pm I was at the door, knocked and entered. She shouted at me, 'I told you afternoon!' 'Well it is 12:01!' I replied. She packed up and left me in the office.
Another person came in and I told him that I had to see the Minister. I knocked at the door and went straight in. I was lost for words; how could it be that I had been in one office for the last six months? Semesters were passing me by and I needed help!
The minister had written to the president's office concerning my plea the week he had told me come. Anyways, at least that had been done.
The following day, I went to the President's office with such a grin on my face. With contentment, I thought to myself, no worries, since the Minister had recommended me. I introduced myself with the Minister's note and was welcomed. Another hell episode unfolded and 'come tomorrow' began afresh.
I had no job and sometimes walked 10 km to go to these offices. I finally got regrets from my only source of hope. I followed the secretary to the library where he was and we had a tough chat explaining to me the process of getting a sponsorship. He also advised me to get a recommendation from my Member of Parliament. It sounded lighter.
The following day I was at my honorable MP's door. 'Come tomorrow'. He even attempted to call the University registrar to find out the tuition balance, my character and performance. All was fine. He also told me that he was unable to write to President's office and would assist me with his own sources.
Some months down the line and I called him to 'check'. 'I can't help someone whose father and mother I don't know!' came his response. Oh really?
I went to my parents the next morning and came back with my mother. I took her along to his home only for her to be questioned on why she sent her daughter to the street to start begging. She had no answer for the learned man. He also informed my mother that I was disrespectful. I had addressed him as 'Mr.' and he was a professional doctor and honorable member of parliament.
'Your daughter doesn't sound to be a person of manners who will help other people even if I helped her,' he said. That was the end. I escorted my mother to the bus as she sobbed all the way back home.
Each day I had a new dream. I could sob throughout the night but had a new idea every morning. 'This time I have to approach a Christian foundation to narrate my tale to the Director', I proposed to myself. He was so concerned after listening to my story and promised to help. I kept reminding him and he finally made a call at the University to find out my fees balance. The following day I was called to his office to pick Tuition! What a miracle! I sang my favorite song “A miracle working God”! I cleared my tuition.
A few weeks later, the Director was at University for a board meeting. I waited outside the boardroom just to say thank you. As he came out, I ran with excitement but noticed he was unhappy. We exchanged the greetings and then he asked, 'Why did you lie to me?' I replied, 'I didn't'.
He narrated to me how I got the money after deceiving him that I was somebody's daughter whom he knew very well. The organization paid for me based on that relationship. I was bitter too. I ran to my room and cried my heart out asking God 'Why me?' But God's answer was, "There is no mistaken identity before God. The money was meant for you."
In August 2004, I graduated and ended my tough journey. My GPA of 4/5 was not a surprise as I expected a better Grade. I walked away from the University to face unemployment page not worried because I was tough. This is part of the story.
My message to young people is simple:
Be desperate to achieve your goals but not desperate for tuition. I set my goal to attain a degree no matter how long it would take. If you know what you want, you will somehow get the money.
Make tougher decisions when life gets tougher. Always be aware that it's only you who knows the best for yourself. Remember that it's you to live with the results of the decisions you make.
Don't hold on to your background as the cause of your suffering. Apportioning blame does not solve your problems. You have a choice to change the story. You don't have to be poor because your father was poor. You can get anything provided you want it. Just figure out what you want to be in life.
When you lose a battle, do not burnout. You may lose some battles but finally win the war!
Be the author of your own story and future history.
Copyright © 2012 Justine Kyomuhendo