By Denis Jjuuko
In some countries, a lot of children start looking after themselves when they turn 18 years old. They start with loans to go to college and if they decide to live with their parents, they are expected to contribute to bills that run the home. Sometimes, children are evicted from homes if they don’t contribute.
So at a young age, a child grows up knowing that the parents owe them nothing. But also the parents also know that their children don’t owe them anything. They save money for old age and as soon as they can’t look after themselves anymore, they are carted off to old people’s home.
In the past, in most parts of Africa, when a boy turned 18, they left their father’s home. They built a hut, got married and started looking after themselves. I think it is still the case today in rural areas. In urban areas like Kampala, you still find 40 year old men who still live with their parents. These are men who are highly educated.
It usually starts by a parent who wants to show great care for their children. When the son returns from a university abroad and finds it hard to find a job, the parents start subsidizing him. First they get him a fueled vehicle and some weekly allowances.
Eventually, the ‘kid’ realizes that the weekly allowances are much more than they would earn working in some of these ‘elite’ companies. So they start doing mostly nothing and concentrate a bit on cutting deals and being real estate and car brokers.
As they grow older, sometimes Mzee gives them an apartment, identifies them a beautiful girl — a daughter of his business associates, and organizes them a fancy wedding. From time to time, they call Mzee to help them with bills as they paint the city red quick at reminding even those who don’t care who their father is!
Eventually, they become entitled to whatever Mzee owns. A story is told of a lady in Ministers’ Village in Ntinda who woke up after an afternoon nap to find strange people in the compound. On inquiry, her son was finalizing a deal to sell the house as she slept. She sounded the alarm asking her neighbours to rescue her. The buyers naturally bolted yet her son had convinced them that his mother was long dead! Some other parents have not been so lucky.
This incident reminded me of Barack Obama’s book, Dreams from my Father, where he found a letter written by his father and took it as his inheritance. Of course you can argue that Obama couldn’t claim a worthless piece of land in Kogelo village near Kisumu in western Kenya but I hope you get the point.
A child’s inheritance should really be their education and whatever Mzee owns is really a bonus one should only claim when the parents are dead. Yet we hear stories everyday of children who emulate some of the characters in the bible to claim and sometimes demand for their inheritance in form of assets when their parents are still alive.
Last week, news broke that a son had taken this entitlement a bit further by going to court to demand that his wealthy father gives him his properties to manage. The father is still alive and capable of running his properties. Had court granted his request, the property owner would now live at the mercy of his son who would choose what to give him and not.
There is need for today’s youth to take eyes off their parent’s properties and work hard for their own. Where they have been invited to co-run the business, their interest should be on how to expand the companies and turn them into family empires like some Asians have done not selling them so that they can drive fancy cars and throw money around.
Of course there is a challenge today because young people with no known businesses appear on the scene regularly moving around Kampala in a convoy of flashy cars and sharing videos of themselves posing with briefcases of money. Public officials who earn peanuts live lifestyles of the richest people in the world. That is ruining future generations where hard work may not be considered as the natural route to riches.
There is need to tell the youth to delay gratification just like most of their parents did. To teach them ethics that real wealth is through hard work and not what I hear people call working smart. Working smart is in most cases euphemism for stealing.
The writer is a Communication and Visibility Consultant. [email protected]