Only freedom stands between Universities and prison


Have you ever wondered why some sects of society choose to refer to prison as the “University of Understanding? It’s logical to assume that the kind of discipline one is imposed on by both institutions determine how one lives the rest of their life or whatever is left of their life provided one is not serving a death sentence.

When I joined Uganda Christian University (UCU), Mukono at age 19, I had a naive, narrow perspective of everything in society not to mention my very low expectation of life itself. Three years later, a friend asked me in kind what answer I would have to one who sought to know what I got from the three years of agonizing study at UCU and I told them I would say; “I came out mature”.

That phrase is not just an expression of opinion but an exposition of the intellectual, physical and social transformation that one undergoes when they are students in high institutions of learning. It is therefore unfair for one to think that they wasted time studying their respective disciplines just because they didn’t get jobs in the aftermath. There is always more to it than a job and that is what this article seeks to explain.

Other than freedom, prison and campus are one and the same. Ask me why?

In the movie Shawshank Redemption, a 1995 classic starring Morgan Freedom and Tim Robbins is a line that reads that; Prison consists of routine and then more routine; as some are being bullied, teased, battered, taught how to be what they will eventually become others are being tutored to smoke, drink and smuggle in or out some commodities illegally to keep their wallets in shape. Similarly, in campus you expect coursework after coursework after coursework. That is the way life is on the inside and yes that is the routine because for as long as you a member of either, you are expected to keep up or give up where the latter is always not a good ending.

In prison, an inmate (prisoner) will do anything in their power to keep their mind occupied and so should a university student. An idle mind is a dangerous not only to you but to the entire generation. With a library full of books, airspace packed with fast internet, friends full of ideas, would you really lose a kidney if you read a book? Would you be hanged if you engaged in a debate or wrote an article like this one to a community paper?

I write this article as an intellectually depressed man because they way University graduates argue issues is so, so depressingly pedestrian. The same way a P.3 dropout would argue the same issue. When you ask you friend a question for instance, what are you thinking about and their response is; “Nothing”, please run. The whole essence of being at the university is not to just to graduate but to development cognitively. If you’re at university but doing nothing to improve your reasoning, rationale and broad understanding of several phenomena, you are most certainly misguided.

Thirdly is adaptation. This point is better explained by a story told to my class by one of my favourite lectures who got into a taxi from Mukono to Kampala late following a long day of work. When the taxi was approaching Namanve just after the Coca-cola which then was wetland, Mr. Illakut Benbella immediately had an instinct that the driver, his conductor and another aid were planning to rob him so he immediately dipped his hand inside the his jacket so the thugs can know that he was going to pull out a pistol gun. This changed immediately the intentions of the trio who pleaded to have gotten another appointment and opted to leave him there free of charge and that how he survived.

What point I’m I driving at in all this? You have got to know how to survive. Know you are with; study their intentions, attitudes and behaviours. Be security conscious and use fear as a tool to survive because this is not a territory where you need to conquer. If you sense need to run, don’t hesitate to. Adaptation will be called blending in prison so sail with the waters; ambition is dangerous for starters.

One more thing; make more friends than enemies. It is always easier to progress when you have people backing you up than those plotting your downfall. You can never last a night in jail when you have no friends to show you on and similarly in University, your success is determined by those discussion groups, debate unions, and class fellowships, business meetings among other associations you can join or start provided they are more ideological and intellectual than cultural and tribal.

Forest Whitaker in the movie great debaters employs some wise words that I will use as my seal to this piece. “Do what you have to do in order for you to do what you want to do”. If you choose to visit Casablanca when you have course works’ due tomorrow, you know your prioritization could use some work.


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