Jobya is a small village west of Kampala. It is nestled delicately two miles off the main Kampala-Masaka Road at 64 kilometres. It is not in Masaka. Masaka is a far away as Kampala is. It is so small its houses can be counted. When the Resistance Council (RC) system was started in 1986, the village did not have enough adults to form an independent RC I council. The residents there could not form a complete committee of nine, unless all of them stood for office. But then there would be no voters. So it was joined by a much bigger Kabira,to form Jobya –Kabira RC1.It has since changed to LC.
Even the Catholic system of forming cells did not find the small village with enough religious individuals to form a Cell or Kabondo as we call it, it was jumbled up with Kabira.
The Education system was even harsher, when a Primary School was started, by, I believe, the White Fathers, and they determined the patron saint to be St Jude, the name of the school took the team into much discussion, till they agreed, with divine intervention , I presume. The new name? Buyijja-Kabira. Buyijja borders Jobya to the North,while Kabira is the Western neighbour. Nothing could be more belittling.
A large road runs through the village,as if to symmetrically subdivide the even smaller village, eleven households fall to the left while thirteen or so fall to the right. Remember the road. It will be important in this story.
Houses have since increased, as children build close to their fathers and till the land and start families. A few grow up and find bigger ambitions in Mitala –Maria as shop keepers,bodaboda riders in Buwama or hawkers in Kampala. I did neither, although I ended up in Kampala myself. Some will use their time well at school and they will become famous and very useful in the country. A few may even come back home with political ambitions, to represent their constituency in Parliament.
The village is beautifully surrounded by streams of water, to the right which forms a border with Kibenge and Kabira, and to the left which borders the government forest reserve-now almost gone thanks to charcoal burners and the reclamation of virgin forest land for vegetables and pineapples- and Kabango.
To its credit,Jobya has three wells,well,four if you count Kitolo, though in Buyijja,it is where the top north residents go to get clean water. I would ride over to get clean drinking water. It is what my Dad insisted on. He said it was pure, you could take it without boiling if first.
One’s trip to the well was the first sign you were growing, or becoming more responsible, you could be sent for errands. The size of water container told more of your age, or strength.
But I secretly believe my dad’s praise for the well had more than meets the eye. See, his father’s land bordered the well in Buyijja and he had grown up drinking from that well. It is true it had very clear and cool water and the runoff watered our yam and banana gardens nearby. Buyijja is not only my ancestral village; it also holds our burial grounds-in a valley the family shares with the well whose actual name is Kitolo.It is in that swamp that we would frolic for nziru,mpafu,jambula,matungulu and kobe, the latter which we would eat roasted.
If you were coming from Nnyondo,a village made famous by Paulo Muwaga-he had his country home there- you could almost see the end of Jobya village even before you enter it. Nnyondo is also my mother’s ancestral village. We loved the passion fruits there after church in Kabira, when our maternal grandmother allowed us to visit. My parents therefore, I can safely presume, did not meet at some mall or restaurant. They are none in Jobya. It was the old time tested dating of walking over mountains and across swamps.
From our home, your sight will stretch beyond the iron- roofed school buildings; we would know just how late it was by simply looking at how many pupils in yellow school uniform were seen at the horizon. We have all attended that school. I rose in hierarchy to become assistant class-monitor; some of my siblings have performed better. Across the school to the North East you will see the hills of Bumbo, the area where rebel leader Nkwanga holed,with Kasirye Gwanga and it is rumored ,Museveni too,for a few weeks trying to root out Nkwanga’s FEDEMU. To the South your sight will be arrested by the thick forest which separates our village with Bongole, another village, but also Mitala Maria, the education, health, religious and trading centre. Mitala Maria is where the catholic parish is domiciled. It is where such important functions like confirmation and mugigi were conducted.
When one passed their Primary Leaving Examinations ( PLE) really well, they joined St.Balikuddembe SSS in Mitala Maria.It is over seven kilometers away, and we would make the walk for mass, and later to school for my brothers and sisters. I am the only one yet in my generation no to attend the family school. My father studied there too. I went to Kisubi Seminary instead, and then to Masaka-at St Henry’s College Kitovu. That is the first time I visited Masaka.I enjoyed my two year stay there. But I don’t come from Masaka. Despite intense political re-districting my home is still in Mpigi district.
To the North, the road stretches to Buwungu,near the late Anthony Sekweyama’s home, past Ntolomwe-the Late BOU past Governor Kiggundu’s ancestral home, and if you followed it long enough you would end up in Gombe, known for the hospital. If you did not make any turns, you would find yourself by the main road once again, the Kampala-Masaka Road,at Mpigi. But if you had made a slight turn to the left before Gombe hospital, you would go all the way to Kabulasoke,and Maddu in Gomba and either end up in Mityana or Sembabule,past Kisozi,having crosses the Katonga river. I rode those roads for some years in my first employment. It is on that road that I had my first serious motor accident-the one which got me thinking about death, and terminated employment due to disability and got me to start my first business; Jobya Farm-after the small village that gave me life and provided me with lifeskills.
Through Kabira though,we know the road will take you back to Nnyondo, and the main road and to either Kampala or Masaka, depending on your business. I went to Kampala before I visited Masaka, as a young boy who in his P.7 vacation had planted a somewhat large garden of tomatoes with my elder brother. It did well and we found ourselves, in turn, taking the overnight truck, with our ware in pine boxes to Owino market to sell tomatoes. Later, my Dad,who had gone to school and worked in Kampala for years, would give me a guided tour of Mulago, Crested towers, Makerere University and Parliament.
My choice of first business was not surprising, for the first part of my life, farming was all I knew. My banana garden afforded me quite a number of chips and chicken plates at Mickey Mo in Wandegeya later when I attended university.
Such a small village does not have very frequent graduation parties, so my first one was intriguing. The graduand was fetched from Makerere in full honor by the grandest car in the neighborhood, an ambulance, and the priest who acted driver that day put the siren to good use. I felt a rush of adrenalin and if not a tinge of jealousy for the graduand, he who had gone to Makerere, that all famous hill of the wise and came back with a degree. As a primary school pupil, it seemed a long long way, if I ever got there at all. So far I had only one example to look up to.
It therefore came as no surprise that the first person I requested for a meeting was Frank, when I was in my third year at Makerere University. I had sought audience to garner some knowledge on how to negotiate the world of job seeking and street stamping. It did not help matters for me, I believe, since I had studied the much despised flat course; Social Sciences. He had studied the same degree course, if he had managed to find a job, he would guide me how.
“Do you feel threatened by the so called professional -course pursuing students?” Frank asked me.
To be honest, I envied them. We were sharing course units with some of them, the almighty SWASA and Mass Communications. They were on their way to becoming well-decorated journalists and NGO bosses.
“Don’t be. You will be surprised just how differently the ball bounces when you leave University. It is not the course, or even the grades, although they help, but what you can do.” He explained, with all the calmness of one speaking to a slow child. I only partly believed him.
And the ball did bounce wildly. I got my first job with Concern Worldwide, a job my professional-course fellows would have envied ,got the day before I graduated. I had applied for it straight from the School of Education Library from a New Vision paper clipping. The proximity to the free library internet services and newspapers informed my decision to locate in Nakulabye,a suburb well known for pork, local brew and if a bit of prostitution. But houses there come cheap and it is a walk-able distance, not only to the University, which I then missed, and Kampala city, for one of those days when I had no taxi fare.
But that had been nine months since my last paper, and a lot had happened. That started the journey of NGO jargon and motor biking and making the world a better place through aid and capacity building.
Until that fateful Monday evening in January when I woke up in hospital, with no recollection of how I had got there, but the certainty that my helmet was cracked off my head, that I could not hold with my left hand and my right leg was broken in two places. My perception of employment changed then.
To be continued…