The Troubled Children of Uganda


Street children begging in Kampala.
Broken family values is largely responsible for this.
To continue the story of the pregnant girl and the monster teacher (read it here), I agreed to be her father. She wanted to make money out of a man who had impregnated her, and she wanted me to pretend being her father. She was only fourteen years old, and I battled with my conscience over what I was doing. But I was thinking of a documentary film about the troubled children of Uganda today, about parents who fail to handle rebellious teenagers, about the breakdown of family values, which has left children at the mercy of forces beyond their control. 


I thought being this girl’s father would give me an opportunity to use the cinéma vérité technique, I being part of the story, giving the audience a candid ‘insiders’ view of the happenings. It was a scoop. A pregnant teenager. A monster teacher who preys on his students. But before I could proceed, I had to verify the pregnancy, so I suggested a test.

“What for?” the girl said. “He did me without a condom. I’m vomiting every morning. I have missed my periods. Why then should I take a test? If you don’t want to be part of the deal just tell us.”

“Don’t talk like that,” Nalongo, who got me involved in this whole saga, and who would pretend to be her mother, said. “He is right. You need to take a test to be absolutely certain.”

Tales are rife of women who pretend to be pregnant just to get the man to marry them. It had crossed my mind that this girl might just be putting up a show in order to grab money from this teacher. I did not want to be part of such a scheme. I had to be absolutely certain she was pregnant. The girl did not argue much. She agreed to take a test. I thought it would be nice to film her as she went to the pharmacy to get a testing kit, to capture the tests and her reaction to the results on video, so I ran back home and picked up my camera, but she was not impressed. 

“Do you want to put me on agataliko nfuufu?” This is a news program that relies on community reporting. They do not use any professional journalists. Anyone anywhere with a camera, even if it is on a mobile phone, can shoot anything amusing and submit it. They thus feature very absurd but entertaining stories. It put a fear on the common people, for whenever they see a camera they at once think someone is trying to make news for agataliko nfuufu

I tried to explain my purpose to this little girl  – child rights, broken family values, monster teachers, the great divide between parents and teenagers – but she could not comprehend anything. It struck me that the best place to tell her my purposes was not in the dusty street, with people casting us curious glances. I should have done it before we set off. So I shut down the camera and we walked to the pharmacy, hoping to get her to understand my purpose before she took the test.

“Why do you want to take a test?” the lady behind the counter asked the young girl, who in reply gave her a big grin and a giggle. 

Forced child labor, one of the issues I will tackle in this film.
“Well," the girl said, "You see, I have a little goat at home and I want to know if it is pregnant.”

The pharmacist was not amused. She turned to me, her lips pursed in anger. “Did you pregnant her?”

“NO!” I screamed. “I don’t sleep with goats!”

The girl chuckled. There were several other people in the pharmacy. They overhead my protest and cast me a curious glance, as though to say ‘You protest too much!’  

“You think you can fool me with your stupid goat story?” the lady barked at me. “Aren’t you ashamed to sleep with little girls? She’s young enough to be your daughter! Are there no old women for you to play with?” 

The anger on her face indicated that she had not been laid for a really long time. She was the bulky type – extra big breasts, too big that they looked like she had stuffed herself with a lot of clothing to make them look that big. Her waist line indicated she had given birth ten times or more. She looked over forty, though with her size it was hard to tell. Since I have a perverted writer’s mind, I started to imagine what it would be like for a man to mount a trailer-like being like this one. Will he be able to find her hole, or will he poke the area around her thighs and think he has found it? Won’t she squash him if she went on top? Will the bed break because of too much vibration from this giant? She reminded me of a horror film I once saw, in which a band of youth found a monstrous, vampire animal in bed and it seduced them into banging her. Of course, every boy who had sex with her turned into a vampire. As I stood there looking at her, I did imagine that she could be a great character for a horror-erotic tale.

“Are you jealous?” the girl asked her.

“Me? Jealous? Of what?”

“You are already old,” the girl said. “Why should you be jealous that I’m getting a lot of it while men ignore you?” I clamped my palm on her mouth, but she wriggled away and continued to taunt the woman. “You are old and shapeless! No man can enjoy you! Don't be jealous of me! I’ll give you advice. Use bananas. They are better than men and they don’t make you pregnant!”
The pharmacy suddenly fell silent. Everyone turned to the girl. The woman was puffing up in anger and I was sure she would explode like a pricked balloon. As bad luck would have it, a policeman walked into the shop as that very moment, and the fat woman at once shouted at him.

“Ah! You came at the right time officer! This man has defiled and impregnated this young girl!”

Next thing I knew, I was in Seeta police post, facing a uniformed officer who had such a huge belly that he was not able to button his shirt. He left it hanging open, a dirty looking vest concealing his obscene tummy. An odor wafted from his armpits, but luckily, a ceiling fan blew it out of the window so I did not have to suffer like the characters in The Felistas Fable.  

“You will go to jail for seven years,” the policeman said. "Defilement, or sex with a minor, is a capital offense. You might even be sentenced to death." He had introduced himself as the OC, the officer in charge of the police post. All I saw was an officer in charge of corruption. “But it depends on how you want to handle it.”
Street children 'bounce' past uncaring adults in Kampala.
Their tale is one of parents failing to cope with teenagers.
 “I don’t even know the girl’s name,” I said.

“Really? Then how did you seduce her? Is she a prostitute?”

“I did not seduce her!”

“So why do you want her to test for pregnancy?”

They had seen my camera. They had heard my story already, but like many other Ugandans, they do not understand the concept of a creative documentary. They asked me, ‘Which NGO is funding it?’ ‘It is for TV news? Which TV? Show us your ID.’ When I could not prove that I was working for an NGO, or any TV station, it confirmed to them my guilt.

To make matters worse, the girl had escaped. She fled the moment the cop pounced on me. I did not know her names, or where she came from. 

"We are human beings," the policeman said. "Talk to us, we shall understand. Just kitu kidogo will be able to clear your name."

I was so broke, having just finished making The Felistas Fable, that I could not afford the smallest of bribes, not even of ten thousand shillings for that would make me starve for two days. My only option seemed to be with Nalongo. She would testify on my behalf and save me.

But when she heard I was in police hands, she refused to come. She switched off her phone, closed her shop and vanished. She has since migrated from the area. Her flight tended to confirm my earlier suspicions that this whole thing was a scam.

So there I was, in the police station facing a fictitious crime, victim unknown. I haggled with the policemen for nearly six hours. Eventually, they let me go, but I was fifty thousand shillings poorer. I cursed all the way back home. I had lost enough money to feed me for five days. 

The street child rapper, Razor Blade, performing in a night club
Still, the incident sowed the seeds of a story. I then proceeded to find other characters, and so far I have a street child who wants to be a music star. He is a talented rapper who goes by the names Razor Blade. He ran away from home following a disagreement with his parents. I have not yet got the full story, but it surely fits the theme of broken families and parent-teenager disconnect in Uganda today. 

And the time spent in the police post was not entirely wasted. I heard about two other pregnant girls (one also by her teacher, the other by a fellow teenager). If I play my cards well, one of them will end up in the film. I hope it is the girl who got defiled by her teacher.

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