This one Saturday morning, I woke up to my name in the newspapers. I was among the few students offered a government scholarship to study Journalism and Communication at Makerere University.
Every part of me celebrated. I remember ringing my mother who was at the time attending a wedding in Kigali, Rwanda and we were all jumping in excitement as I shared to her the news.
I think she was celebrating the fact that a load of paying my tuition had been lifted off her shoulders, I was celebrating that too but mostly I was celebrating the fact that my dream to become a Christian Amanpour was almost a reality.
A few months later, I started my 4-year course to be the next “badass” war (special) correspondent/ journalist.
Just a year in, I was asked to take over the university department website as the editor, actually, it was as the chief editor-quite challenging huh! (My friend John Blanshe Musinguzi dared me this much) but hey! Thank you Blanshe for having this grip of faith in a young ambitious girl like me, it opened many more doors later.
A few months into this role was a student’s strike. This strike lasted three days and got intense by the day, Police and military deployment got heavier by the day.
So because it started on a lighter note, I underestimated it being any news worthy, therefore I did not assign any reporter and at the end of the day we had no story on the site about the strike.
On the second day, the website lecturer-patron questioned why I had no story up about the strike yet it was day two.
I gave him that same excuse but of course, he would take it. In fact, he asked me to deploy a reporter immediately or go do the job myself but the site had to have a story (at least he made that clear).
I decided to go and just into the western gate of the university, I met very many students running away from the police bullets and tear gas but my job was to move towards what everyone was running away from.
Makerere strikes like most other strikes mean running, tear gas, accidents, arrests and serious beatings. So I had to prepare for whichever was to come my way.
I got through with identifying my self to police and security and was able joined the other group of like journalist and red cross society workers. These were about ten journalists from different media houses and a team of five Red Cross workers helping out with causalities.
So the idea is you have to stay in one group and run around with the police or military. They have to identify you at all times and differentiate you from the demonstrators.
I had never imagined a war zone until that day. It sunk in after I had sniffed a good amount of white, pink and blue tear gas and dodged a number of rubber bullets.
Sometimes the police would even fire at us directly and because we were such a small group we felt every inch of it. Or we would be receivers of the stones thrown at the police by the demonstrators.
After a tear gas burst, we would all run to each other, cage in a small circle and cry, then apply all the remedies at our disposal and after our eyes and breathing systems have cooled down we would go back to the battlefront to build upon our stories.
One visible thing was the passion for the profession in every teary eye.
Some times a police officer would run to us, give us a quick remedy for tear gas and then run back. Minutes later the same police officer would fire more teargas at us again.
It is such a strange but passionate environment, many say it’s a calling. I really cried that day but most confusing to me was that the tears were neither of joy nor sorrow but a profession/passion gone wrong.
As the day advanced and the situation started to get calm, we started strolling away one by one. As tired and hungry as I was I had to first sit down, file the story and upload it to the website before taking care of any physical or mental bruises from the day.
Later that day, I sat down and listened to my inner self empathically. I had my little inner voice say to me “You know what girl, you are so great at this, you are fearless, you are brave, you faced that situation with prowess, didn’t run away or give up till the end, you will be so good at whatever you do BUT you know what girl, you don’t have to be a Christian Amanpour, you don’t have to aim to be like her, you don’t have to be a war correspondent/ reporter, and you will still be great and good at whatever you do”
Guys; that was it, the end of the dream.
I later ventured into telling human interest stories especially for and about children which I was also passionate and great at and a little political reporting but today this girl writing is passionate about stories of the most vulnerable people in any society and that is what fulfils her.
I may not deal with bomb blasts, bullets, tear gas or any of that but I still work in challenging complex contexts like mudslides, floods, tsunami, refugees, former child soldiers, epidemics like Ebola and all other emergencies and this coward is still “badass” at it.
The theme this year is Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation. There is nothing like that above but I wrote this long article because I respect and pledge allegiance to journalism, communication and storytelling.
I will be glad to hear experiences of people in the profession because it is quite a lot.
Otherwise thank you for stopping by