The early education journey of any African child is amazing, at least as far as I do recall. I had a splendid one. Though, if one were knew to the entire process as it is presently, one would easily believe it has been this pompous from time immemorial. The current situation is a total hoodwink. We were as familiar with school vans as Falcao was, with goals for Manchester United. Well, that's a story for another day.
Well over 90 years after the signing of the 1900 Buganda agreement, I had graduated to school going age and being from a family where the man of the house believed in Education, I wasn't even thinking of going South on that. Education was treasured but to qualify, I had to be at least 3 years old. If I was even a day or an hour younger than that, I wasn't going nowhere. That was my mother's standard. She usually said to my dad, "Teli mwana wange gw'otwala mu somero nga tanaweza myaaka esatu" loosely translating to "No child of mine will leave for school before they are 3 years."
Being born in the third quarter of the year, I was enrolled to study only one term in 'Baby Class'. This was a very new experience but I was ready. Excitement writ large on my face. Everything needed for the following day's school time was prepared the evening before. Also, I owned one of the those tinny tiny bags with Chinese Power Puff Girls branding. In the bag, I carried a pencil, an eraser, a 48-Page exercise book and of course my 'break' comprising a bottle of Passion fruit Juice and Bread. Eraser is a word I learnt later in my education and I thought it would a make a great impression in this particular story but to whom am I lying? My bag was wonted with very oliy pancakes and maybe 'samosas.' There were those no bread times and I always wore a lachrymal face so my dad usually threw me a UGX 100 note for dumplings. I was short and had fat cheeks so really, no one can say no to a kid with fat cheeks. UGX 100 was a lot of money for me at that age but I had been convinced that UGX 50 was peanuts so I didn't want to settle for less. That money was enough to fleece me for a day. The local name we gave to dumplings was 'Namungodi' and what a delicacy they were!
There was no such a thing as School Van for my school so I had to walk to and from school. Not to seem that I want to bloviate but my nursery school was 300 metres away from home. Currently, it would take Usain Bolt about 25 seconds to get to school but I was such a slug and always played in the road. I always used about 15 minutes. I adored this new experience. School was a place I made new friends and for clarity, friends was another word for playmates. We did a lot of playing and making noise while in class. If my memory hasn't failed me, school commenced at 8am and ended at 12pm. My timetable comprised of singing, sleeping, something close to writing, very deplorable writing; volongoto, and also drawing 'stick men' impressions of what our teachers asked to draw. Wait, we never had teachers! Yes, but we had aunties and uncles, at least that's what we referred to them as. We had no respect for the 'Sleep Hour' as we always played in that period. There wasn't an established structure for games so I, together with my friends made good use of the open dusty areas. Fast forward through the third term, we had done exams, been graded and hence the very last day, the Speech day. Frankly, I remember we called it 'Speak Day'; the day all parents sat in the school assembly area while listening to the HM give an account of the entire school year. Coincidentally, all pupils turned up for this occasion in shirts that were formerly white. The new color would be a very visible battle between cream and brown.
My report read 'Promoted to Top Class' and obviously, I was ecstatic. I was a nursery school elder already. Top Class meant no more 'Sleep Hour'. On the plus side, it also meant mature league play, and a lunch allowance. Top class had us learning how to write really well and also elementary mathematics. School was starting to be hard already. School time ended at 12pm but I always made it home after 3pm because football ruled after class. The contiguous thing we had to a football was either an old & used vaseline tin, a bunch of polyethylene bags rolled into something round, or a couple of milk pint bags rolled to form a 'ball.' The only problem was that I had a white school shirt for uniform and aggressive play always led to a dirty shirt. This is the part you will all guess; the 'Spare the rod & spoil the child' part. Every time I got home with a dirty shirt, I had to bear with the strikes of the rod, and by every time, I mean every other time. Walking was no way to get home. We occasionally rode old bicycle rims, ebipanka, or better still, old tyres with water serving the purpose of fuel. By the time the playing was done, I would be bedraggled all over. Clearly, getting home with a white shirt had become mythical. I had become acquitances with the rod. I always suffered from its wrath. Before I knew it, the year had come to an end and I had to graduate to the Primary section. I was to get to a stage whose story will follow shortly after this one.
PS; I didn't have a graduation ceremony then and I was reliably informed that my Nursery school introduced the pompous graduation ceremonies two years after I had left. I am still hurt but part 2 is for another day.