Every young person, dreams of going to University. Indeed going to campus is always a great achievement for many youngsters. It is mainly so because of the freedom many expect, something they rarely enjoy as high school students.
On learning that I had passed to go to university, I was overwhelmed that I had my freedom at last; away from all the school rules and regulations. This is a wish almost all students want.
I had applied to a number of universities, I hoped for the best, but was surprised what my mother thought.
As we talked about my university choices, I realized that my mother had a different point of view. All my life, I never thought I could blend in with a Muslim society because I believed they were the most rigid people I had ever heard of.
My mother believes in controlling, and morally grooming a child. But it never crossed my mind that she would opt to take me to an Islamic university because she never liked their ways either. We had a fight about it but she won.
“If you want to go to Makerere, you will have to pay your tuition,” she told me. I felt she had taken away the best thing I ever wanted; every girl in my region wished to go to Makerere. To us, it was the only recognized university in Uganda.
In the African traditional society, a child is supposed to be humble before her parents; after all, mother had decided and I had no objection to what she had said. I succumbed and went to a university of her choice as if I was studying for her.
She said she wished the best for me, and at first I didn’t want to believe her because I never imagined she was being realistic.
The next morning, I went to pick the university admission forms with some hope that I would do what the university required, but I would be staying outside the campus. My only problem was to find the freedom I always wanted to have as a university student.
The university regulations were very clear that all the unmarried female students reside in the university. I realized I had run out of options.
At the university you had to learn to say ‘a salaam wa alekum’ to be able to survive the next day. Failure to do so would be interpreted as if you are unclean. They used to call the non Muslims the ‘kafirs’ to mean ‘the unclean’.
The kafirs had to live the same way the believers lived, apart from going to the mosque for prayers. But the other things were compulsory to every one.
The dress code was supposed to be a hijab (a female long dress covering all parts of the body) to all female students. One time, a friend asked me if that was our campus uniform. The hijab looked like some kind of uniform. We all put on black; it was easier for us to wash.
In class we sat separately. There was a boundary dividing the males from the females just like it is in the mosque, and to me all this was funny. I thought I was living a dream. Nothing seemed to make sense.
One Friday evening, a friend called from the city. He said he would be traveling upcountry and suggested that he visits me before embarking on his journey.
I had spent a long time without seeing a person from home. So I welcomed him. I had forgotten hugging was taboo at my university. I gave him a hug and that marked the end of my joy for the visitor.
This became an issue. I was reported to the head of our department. I was summoned to appear before the disciplinary committee to give reasons why I had to hug a man at campus.
I don’t remember the number of apology letters I wrote in order to be pardoned.
I don’t have very good memories of my life at the university apart from fighting to learn Arabic, since it was part of the things I was supposed to do in order to pass and qualify as a graduate.
To date I still wonder how I managed to go through all the rules and regulations because many girls were expelled. But still I don’t call this a dream come true.
If given chance I would go and have another degree. I don’t feel like I went to university. It was more of a high school to me.