Village boy not entirely to blame for fading of Budo and Gayaza kids

Moses Odokonyero_closeup pix

The swashbuckling village boy, unfazed by the glamour and glitz of the city is on rampage. Sword in hand, the villager’s crass mannerisms is leaving polished elites from Budo and Gayaza cringed.

‘‘Hey, what do you think you are doing? That is not how to hold a wine glass,’’ horrified Budo and Gayaza kids yell at the invader with dismay, a sense of violation of their space and contempt for the uncouth attacker whose only claim to fame is occupying a central place in Uganda’s public affairs.

For the record, the marauding swashbuckler is a piece of fiction—a fiction birthed by my reading of recent social media rumblings and newspaper commentaries in which commentators, from a somewhat psychoanalytic standpoint, have attempted to rationalise how ‘‘villagers’’ are bossing over privileged kids. Read Nicholas Ssengoba’s ‘‘Why Uganda’s deprived ‘villagers’ lord it over the well- schooled and privileged.’’(Daily Monitor, Sept 27).

‘‘Why do the brilliant ones who went to King’s College Budo, Gayaza High School, St Mary’s College Kisubi, Busoga College Mwiri, Nabisunsa Girl’s Secondary School and Mt St Mary’s Namagunga, just ‘fade’ away?’’ mourned Ssengoba.

The psychoanalytic reasoning is that the fellows who manage our public affairs, a case in point, Members of Parliament, could have along their growth path been deprived, and that now as adults with power and influence, they want everything; cars, money, even a ‘‘Mercedes Funeral’’ (Ngugi’s coinage albeit used in a different context by the Kenyan writer).

Kings College Budo, the ultimate of these old elite schools, was originally founded to educate Buganda’s elite. The place of Budo’s graduates in Buganda and later Uganda, like that of the other top schools, was planned to be a given. But it’s no longer a given. It is this mindset that I suspect informed Ssengoba’s question which has vestiges of nostalgia about a glorious past: Why do the brilliant ones who went to Budo, Gayaza, Kisubi, Mwiri, Nabisunsa and Namagunga fade away?

The immediate middle class in post-independence Uganda came from these elite schools. They did some amazing things but they also bickered, squabbled and failed. The domino effect of their failures still reverberates today. In fact, some commentators have argued that the emergence of the so- called villager is a direct result of the failure of the elite.

But also the 1990’s brought in Museveni and his neo-liberalism which quickly morphed into a gigantic crony capitalism machine. Like others before, the elite in Museveni’s Uganda sprouted along the contours of ethnicity.
Neo-liberalism also brought in profit- driven private schools. When the National Examination Board (UNEB) releases exam results these days, the old elite schools have to do with sharing the limelight with the for- profit schools. So the ‘‘fading’’ of graduates from the elite schools is not only because of the dirt work of the swashbuckling villager but also the market.

The so-called villager is boss because Uganda’s middle class is ideologically directionless and ineffective in solving practical problems of the day. Also, the middle class does not have economic security, those that have are insecure. Both these are vulnerabilities that has been exploited by ‘‘no change’’ to the point that graduates of the elite schools have also become part of the despised villagers.

But I have to also admit that unpleasant as it may be, our ‘‘eating’’ leaders are not as daft as they are portrayed because to emerge atop the food chain requires risk taking, mobilization skills, ruthlessness, an understanding of mass psychology and an ability to concurrently balance multiple conflicting forces. In Uganda’s circumstances, these can be interpreted as life skills. What is/are the elite’s life skills?