It is now 3 years since my father, the late James Okori Ochuku Angoda went to be with the Lord. Time and again, I find myself reflecting on his life, and also my life now without him. Would he approve of this decision? How would he react to this? What would he be planning now? So many other things I remember him for, and of course there is no doubt that we inherit several traits from our parents.
Education is key. One of the most outstanding things I remember him for is his love for education. Born to rural but hard-working, ambitious parents, they inspired him to pursue & love education. Our village home is just on the shores of L. Kwania (Dokolo), he told us stories of how his father (our grandfather) did not allow his children to learn how to fish. In the next village, the late Neri Ogong, the father of the current MP Felix Okot Ogong, also did the same. The reason was, if you learn how to fish, you will make some money & lose interest in studies. While Okot’s father took them to Kampala for higher education (he was rich), my grandfather sent his children to UTC Lira (of course boys) to get technical education. The decision to take his children for technical education was a masterstroke. It ignited the shift to technical education in Dokolo-Amolatar areas. Today, Dokolo district is very well known for vocational/technical education. Dokolo Technical School and Adwoki Technical School always emerge amongst the top 5 schools in national exams. My dad carried on with that love for education. I remember he once told me that I will never inherit anything from him, that education is all he will give me (hahaha). Also, one time my elder sister asked him when he will finish the village house, his response, as always was not expected. He said finishing the house was not a priority, and that as long as we are in school, he has no problem. But if she wants him to finish, let her remain home for 1 term. She never asked again.
Explore places & Integrate. My late father always talked about the need to explore other cultures and places. As a young boy, he grew up in Kwera, then went to Amolatar (then called Kyoga) and to Lira. When he started his government work, he was in Kampala, then to Mbale, Moroto, Soroti and finally to Kaberamaido where he retired. And in all these places, he tried to learn the language and culture.
The net result of this belief was that we ended up getting education in different sub-regions in Uganda (Teso, Kumam, Lango and Acholi), and all that comes with new friends, new language & new perspectives. Similarly, I find it hard to believe that some people educate their children only in one district or region. I think part of education is experience & exposure. Let me leave it there.
Marry an educated girl. When I reached university, my father started bringing certain topics that he had never brought before (hahaha). One those things he told me was that, if I intend to marry, my wife should be someone who has completed school. He did not define what “complete” means. His view was that the half-educated, semi-literate, half-baked girls make for very difficult wives. When I heard that, I just kept quiet. But is unbelievable that I subconsciously followed this advice (hahaha).
Take care of the children. My dad always had a soft spot for children. To him, children are the future. And when God gives the burden of taking care of them, he also blesses you with the means to earn and provide for them. I believe it completely. He had a habit of giving kids (the youngest in a home at any even time) pieces of meat from his plate. He also perfectly understood babies language.
During his entire adult and working life, he paid school fees for very many children, some of which we did not even know. But while doing that, he was also against having too many children.
A family without food is no family. Food is very important in a home. Food sustains life, and everyone should be able to support the production of food. My dad believed learning garden work is part of all-rounded education. He strongly believed that not everything should be bought from the market, even if you have the money. What if they refuse to sell to you? He loved to grow groundnuts, simsim (which would also help school-going brigade), cassava, and big cocks. During school holidays, we had to help out the different gardens with planting, weeding or harvesting. He mastered the deal of renting gardens for food production.
Don’t borrow with interest. I do not know how he came to hold this belief. He was not happy with the way banks confiscated property of people. To him, it is better to borrow small small amounts from your good friends without interest. I don’t think he ever got a bank loan all his life. Be believed in saving, even if it meant joining village saving groups (bol icup).
Build before you reach 40 years. Being an engineer, he loved to analyse buildings. And all buildings he designed and supervised were higher than average houses (with high ceiling). He also loved glass windows & doors and castigated the way some people put prison-like burglar proofing. After 40 years, most likely you would have started paying school fees of “senior” making it very difficult to save & build. There is a lot of sense in that.
These are just some of the things I remember my dad for. In typical Ugandan families, you only become close to your father when you become an adult. It was exactly the same with us. And the way they transfer their wisdom and beliefs is through stories. Stories about the good old days. The past where students would find plates at school. When employment was on merit. And so many other things. He castigated the way districts are being created for each tribe.
As I reflect & carry on life, I am grateful for their efforts (dad & mum), and look forward to raising my own family in the best possible ways. After all, if the family is not in your best interest, then what is it? Rest in Peace, Dad. We will always remember you.