I had the unique opportunity to stroll through my childhood in the last dying kicks of the twentieth century in the year 1999 and later the early years of the twenty-first century to 2006 when my life took a different twist, yet the moral lessons and values gained in that period still stuck.
You see, growing up in those years came with the necessary evil of violent punishments that were inflicted upon our behinds in the event of wrong doing; the consensus at the time lay in pure agreement with the Biblical teaching that if you spared the rod you would eventually spoil the child.
Indeed this was a teaching not to be taken lightly; the last thing our parents were going to do was watch the abomination of us getting spoilt under their guidance.
It was to minimize the risk of us getting spoilt that they took onto corporal punishment with the aggression of a hound following a trail. We were flogged into becoming model children and it worked.
It was a period before human rights activists and the whole children’s rights fracas gained ground on the Ugandan sphere and the rod was still the best way to groom a child into a respectful, exemplary and most of all God-fearing citizen who brought honor to their community.
Yet it was not the use of the rod that bothered us at the time but rather the implication it conveyed that if our parents could punish us then the same privilege could also be passed on to any “do gooder” who felt it was their duty to deputize in our parent’s absence.
It was with this mentality drawn on the thinking that any person older than us could execute a punishment to an undisciplined child that we turned out to be the guinea pigs of communal parenting.
Based on the popular African dogma that “It takes a community to raise a child”, communal parenting was the next big thing in my area after the “Kitenge” which was the standard material for all Christmas and Easter clothes.
Loathed by the children and loved by all adults, this form of parenting broke all barriers of envy, hatred and even disunity in our communities with us the children as the midpoint of harmony.
With communal parenting came shared responsibilities, time for fetching water was the same in every home, as was bathing time, play time and even prayer time on Sundays, as a result we were always locked in the same brawls of mischief and had each other’s backs since at the end of the day the odds were that we would receive the same punishment.
A child who excelled in their exams was rewarded with a gift; normally a set of tennis balls for a boys and a battery-powered doll for the girls that glowed in the night courtesy of our many generous neighbors and the rewarded party couldn’t wait to gloat about the gift morning which the following morning which clogged envy down the throats of the rest of us who hadn’t performed well.
As much as we all couldn’t be at the helm of glory at the end of the term, we all performed well each child specializing in a particular subject.
I did mathematics well and even if I wasn’t as good as my friends Ambrose and Bruce who were geniuses in solving sums and algebra, I still managed a distinction at the end of every test and like our parents had always emphasized, “we were all winners but the child with the best performance was just a little bit ahead for the time being”.
In the end we learnt a lot because we had way too many sources of wisdom that diversified our range of knowledge and saw to it that we grew up with not only enough teachings but also the love of the whole community.
But as much as I would like to credit communal parenting for the way I turned out, it wasn’t always successful and some of its subjects turned out to be drug addicts and iron bar thugs that terrorized Namuwongo and its surrounding suburbs, am still grateful for all that era of community parenting.