If you attended boarding school, you know how important Visiting Day or VD as we called it, was. For some schools, it was every first Sunday of the month but for others, it was just one Sunday halfway through the school term.
Your parents or guardians would come to see you and that basically meant getting some pocket money and some much needed supplies like sugar, juice and soap. Your parents would also check on your class performance, documented in mid-term test results.
I’d say most parents usually turned up, including mine. I’m glad they weren’t ‘tough’ and while I was lectured on my sometimes less than average marks, my parents never withheld pocket money or caned me as happened to some unfortunate classmates. Perhaps the most painful VD experience for any student was when nobody showed up to check up on you.
There were people we knew wouldn’t be receiving anyone because that’s how it had always been. Most were foreign students from Sudan, Tanzania, DRC and Rwanda.
Back then, I was too young to comprehend the complexities of life and so didn’t understand why anyone’s parents wouldn’t turn up. I reckon the hardest time for those students was later in evening after all the parents had gone and we were all back in our dormitories, tucking into the chips, chicken, rice and whatever else our parents had brought us. Others would be packing away the goodies they’d just received. Cartons of milk for some, tins of biscuits and cookies for others and so much more. This couldn’t have been a comforting sight for those who had nothing.
While a few kind hearts shared some of their stuff with them, I can’t imagine it made up for not having their own provisions.
Looking back now, I know that some of those students had lost their parents and the guardians who had sacrificed to give them an education probably couldn’t afford the monthly trips to check on their grandchildren, nieces or distant cousins.
I therefore wish I’d been less selfish and more giving to those who weren’t as lucky as myself. I also wish I’d taken the time to find out more about their lives. Now that I live far away from home, I have an idea how they must have felt. Lonely and perhaps helpless, particularly those from Rwanda who had just lost their parents and loved ones to the Genocide.
There were a number of them in my high school too, but it never occured to me that they might have been victims, mostly because they never talked about it. I think it was their way of dealing with the trauma and perhaps trying to forget it all.
Later on at University, I met yet more Rwandans who had lost relatives and I remember hearing grim stories about their deaths. Even with all those accounts, it wasn’t until I actually came here that I began to fully understand the extent of the atrocities.
Every time you visit a memorial site or talk to the survivors, you get more insight into what happened. While we can’t take away these people’s pain, we can choose to help in many other ways. Sponsor a child if you have the means, or volunteer to teach or counsel orphans and widows. Often, we think only Bazungu should do this volunteer work but there’s nothing wrong with Africans helping out in our own communities.
Praying also helps, especially around this time when many are reliving the horrors of 1994. I will keep everyone in my thoughts and continue to pray that tragedies of this magnitude never happen anywhere again.
To be continued…