You were so proud when your boy scored those elusive straight As, achieving a feat no one from your entire clan has ever come close to. Finally, someone of your blood was smarter than a rock, seeing that your father, and his father and his father’s father all the way up to the Neanderthal who begot your clan- if you are following closely- were never even able to count to save their lives. But here was this boy, blood of your blood, strength of your loins, who knew more laws of physics than just the laws of polygamy and wife inheritance your ancestors have kept for centuries.
The joy you derived from the admiration and reverence the entire village paid you ever since your pastor recognized you in the church saying: “brother Jekoniah whose son is in the University, welcome to the church, your sit is reserved upfront. Men of great learning should sit near the presence of the Lord.” How you reveled in the jealousy this show of your grandeur inflicted upon your peers, most whom, have not been lucky enough to manufacture university material kids.
Perhaps you let this get to your head and in doing so forgot your responsibility to your son, the comrade. Or maybe you just never thought you had any more responsibilities because, hey, he is a grownup now, plus campus life is inexpensive is it? A lump of Ugali goes for a mare 5 bob right? He can take care of himself, so you said. And when the ‘send pocket money’ phone calls evolved to text messages and eventually please- call-me and reversed calls, you said this boy had become a conman. The university had negatively influenced him and now this boy, your son, wants to con you of your hard earned meager earnings when he is swimming in thousands of student loan funds.
In one of his many ‘send help’ phone calls you rebuffed him. You called him a wasteful, self entitled millennial who misuses the privilege he has and should learn this thing called life the hard way. You said if he cannot learn to use the bulky HELB cash responsibly, then he should as well pick a shovel and head over to the nearest mjengo site because you were not going to indulge him. You reminded him in the most unloving way possible that nothing ever comes in a silver platter, and if he could not work his ass off, then he should as well go give cactus tree a very tight hug.
Listen, university students are privileged, yes. We are fortunate to be receiving this student loan, yes we are. And there are times when the way we live our lives seem totally grotesque and indulgent, true. My friend Mathayo here walks around in shoes worth someone’s monthly salary and a lot of comrades are calling home begging for money using phones worth their semester fee. We are wasteful and disgusting, there is no denying that.
But no one desperately needs cash than a comrade. You see, we are at this point in life where we are not children anymore, and yet we are not exactly adults either. And the University is more than just getting those damn papers. It is here that we explore ourselves; we learn who we truly are, who we really want to be. Like when I joined campus, I thought I would graduate as some kick-ass software developer replica of Zukabaga, but now from the look of things, I think I am going to spend the rest of my life writing stories to strangers because that is who I am and that is what I want to be. These self realizations and self discoveries, the exploration of ourselves and the people around us, common sense should tell you that none of these is possible when you are as broke as a young writer and have to break rocks and do some koroga at the mjengo to afford a meal of chapo madondo.
Comrades need money to do stuff even as mundane as class assignments. And once in a while, we need to eat something better than chapo madondo and swallow something stronger than keg. We need to dress well, have electricity and water in our rental bedsitters, be able to pay for the bedsitters, and take our girlfriends out. Basically, we need to live like normal people, something that HELB is just too little to carter for. Yet this is something that the society has simply failed to comprehend. And you wonder why comrades are starving.
Surprisingly, the University environs have some of the highest living rates in the country. Everything is overpriced, from transport to Avocado. The rental houses around university environs are twice as expensive as they are elsewhere because newsflash, students have money. So it is okay to overcharge rent, comrades are rich. It is okay to sell an avocado the size of my eyeball at a whooping price of fifty shillings because comrades just have too much money don’t they? The society see us as cows and are determined to milk us dry, providing no grass nonetheless.
Now comrades are starving because no one would give them a shoulder to lean on. There is no support system or motivation of any kind for the comrades; some even reduced to eating rats so plentiful in their hostel rooms because they are too broke to afford a decent meal. And yet at the end of the day, everyone expects well baked graduates.
By: Tony Ogwa