New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: How Are You Parenting Your Campus Child?

Legally, at 18 years of age one is considered an adult, but in reality sometimes, age does not necessarily reflect maturity. Many young adults feel prematurely thrown out to the world, especially when they join university

When children get to the university level, some are left to fend for themselves. Parents only foot tuition fees and let the child deal with the rest; including upkeep and other costs that cannot be avoided.

I waited tables

For Isaac Kyazze, a second year Makerere University student, life at campus is not a bed of roses.

"At the beginning of this semester, I left home with sh50,000, just like the semester before, and the one before it. It is on this paltry sh50,000 that I have to survive for the entire semester. It was unbearable in my first year," Kyazze says.

He says after clearing tuition, his father did not find logic in giving him money for upkeep. "I have siblings to consider as well and a large family that depends on him.

My requests for financial assistance ended in a lecture on the current economic crisis. I was stuck with course works and projects that required documentation which involved a cost, yet I had no money," he says.

"I made a couple of friends from well-to-do families on whose accounts I survived, but not long after, the guilt caught up with me, I felt I had over imposed my plight on my friends.

I felt the need to find a way of supporting myself. I got a job as a waiter at a restaurant in Wandegeya, but inadvertently this also marked the struggle to strike a balance between school and work," he adds.

At this point, Kyazze says he appreciated his crisis and his parents resolution, but he could not help but wonder whether he deserved more from them. When you ask if things would have turned out differently if his parents were more involved and committed to his academic advancement, Kyazze says:

"I can only say I would have loved it that way."

Kyazze has a year and a semester left, but he is afraid without improvement in his facilitation, he cannot dismiss the possibility of an extra year to sit for his cumulative retakes.

Jennifer (not real name), a student at Makerere University, school of education says on several occassions, she wakes up and the only thing she is sure of are the lectures and the distance she has to walk from Nakulabye to her faculty.

Sugar daddies cross my mind

"I get there late almost every day. Many of my friends have chosen to find sugar daddies to help them out. I would be lying if I said that idea has not crossed my mind. Sometimes when things go out of control, I feel like I am out here on my own. But I constantly remind myself that no condition is permanent and that this too will pass," she says.

"Feeding myself is what worries me most. Having two meals a day is a blessing, having three or more is a luxury I often forfeit. Sometimes I eat on credit.

I have done away with things like plaiting my hair since I cannot afford to maintain it and I have streamlined my expenditure to align with my academic aspirations. The support I get from my parents is not consistent, sometimes I go weeks minus money for upkeep and when it comes I am already deep in debt," she adds.

Parents, guardians speak out

Annet Nakku, a single mother, has seen two of her children through university. These two children went through very hard times.

"I made it a point to be real with my children and paint the picture without any misrepresentation. Coming up with the tuition was a recurrent miracle that always left us dumbfounded. I felt I had to check on my daughter because I feared she would be easily misled.

I strained to provide everything, but whenever I could not provide, I advised her to make do with what she had. I went the extra mile, visited her hall of residence and met her friends. That visit comforted me and put my mind to rest. But soon I was worried again," Nakku says.

However, she felt it was not necessary to do the same with her son.

"Boys are naturally adaptive. I trust I raised my son to know what is best for him. Now is the time for me to assess my parenting methods before he faces this cruel world, " Nakku adds.

She says she only provides the essentials and lets him figure out the rest because she is training him to be a real man.

"I recognise the economic slump and appreciate that many of the parents are struggling to keep their heads above, but it is pointless to pay the exorbitant tuition fees, send the child to school, only for them to starve and live without the basic requirements," she says.

"Brian Miiro, the deputy warden at Lumumba Hall, Makerere University says: "Students come to these halls from different homes. Many get spoiled here and abuse substances like drugs and alcohol. This is partly due to the absence of parental supervision. Many feel leaving home for campus is like breaking out of prison, so they must enjoy their freedom."

He cautions parents against taking things for granted. "They should remain vigilant, check on their children and ensure they know exactly where they (children) reside. Being at the university does not mean they should not monitor their academics," Miiro says.

He advises parents to use the structures in place, such as the university website, to monitor their children's performance and continue guiding them.

"The fact that they are still under your roof while at home means you have the responsibility to provide and follow up on their campus life," Miiro says.

Expert View

Rose Nalwanga, a counsellor at the Makerere university says: "Many of the students we counsel at the centre present issues of neglect and also show a profound need for parental attachment.

They wish their parents would provide them with not only financial support, but also guide them to becoming upright members of society."

"Parenting is not a job or a mere responsibility. It is something you owe to the child, so tiring from it is unacceptable," Nalwanga adds.

She urges parents to keep their expectations realistic and guide the child to what they want to become and desist from dictating matters.

Nalwanga insists that all parents' expectations from their children will be in vain if there is no communication between the parent and the child.

"Many of the students here hail from different backgrounds. It is important that the parents portray the actual image of their financial capabilities and not give the children the wrong impression," she says, adding that communication will help both the child and parent remain realistic in their endeavours.

Nalwanga strongly advises that being the ideal parent should not push you into constantly supervising your child. She says a little space for them might do them a lot of good.

She advises the students to live within their means and desist from taking to a materialistic lifestyle of partying and being pretentious.

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