We used to wash only our feet. Tales of our self-perception back then.

By: Alexander Kyokwijuka 

I am sure that the world knows I grew up in Kigarama and Kigarama is found in Ndorwa East Constituency, in Kabale District. I am also hopeful that the world (read people around me) knows that I have an interest in seeking leadership for my people in Kigarama and Ndorwa East at large. What the world doesn’t know is that long ago as we grew up in Kigarama, we used to half-wash our feet, and we would also wash our arms and face if it was morning and we are going somewhere (especially on Sunday when we would be going to church). 

The idea was to get rid of the dust and/or dirt from the parts of the body which were seen by people. Bathing the whole body was a luxury not because we didn’t have enough water but because by our wisdom, as we were growing up, it was not so necessary since those other parts of the body were hidden and even if they were dirty, we were assured no one would see. This was according to our wisdom as children. 

Unfortunately for us, at Kigarama Primary School, it was routine for the school administrators, with the help of prefects, to check for those whose hygiene was wanting. True the legs and feet were checked but there was something more. THEY WOULD CHECK THE CHEST TOO.  The teacher would ask all the boys to unbutton their shirts halfway so that he would run his finger on their chest to see if anything (dirt particles ) shows up. 

The girls would be taken to some room and closed there for the female teachers to make even deeper checks. And for both boys and girls who would be found dirty (after the chest checking for boys and the deeper private checking for the girls), they would be punished at assembly. 

True to my instincts now, the culprits were always boys and girls with clean feet and faces. But the checks would reveal that the other parts of the body were dirty. Don’t ask me where I always belonged, I had my own problems outside academics, not even with my chest, but this will be a story of some other day.

I am sharing this story now because it makes sense in relation to humanity today, especially our leaders and how they behave toward life. We have some leaders in our societies who wash only their feet (because it is the feet that are seen by everyone) and they ignore washing the chest and other parts of the body. Their biggest focus is the “feet” because we see them easily and they are doing less or nothing about the “chest and other deeper parts” which we don’t see easily yet they also need cleaning, and actually need more cleaning than just feet. 

Our sisters also care more about their physical beauty (their “feet”) and don’t pay much more attention to their inner beauty (the “chest and other deeper parts”) which includes the values and virtues that we cherish in humanity. 

My main point here, therefore, is that for our leaders, and ourselves, can we stop the behavior of washing only the ”feet” because it is important to have a full body clean up? Now that I am old enough to see things deeper than just the “clean feet”, my eyes are sharp enough to see the “chest and other deeper parts, it is high time we stopped living in self-deception. 

I know it’s not easy, because just like we used to fear water then and the more reason we would wash our feet, and later after discovering that the teachers would check the chest, we also started washing the chest occasionally, I know it’s also not easy to troll the hard tiresome journey of taking deeper baths, especially for our leaders. 

But I can say without fear of contradiction that the continuous wrong diagnosis (read failure or inability by our leaders to understand the actual problems facing our people) of the issues affecting our people, the subsequent wrong prescription and administration of wrong medicines, the continuous deliberate refusal to take deeper baths and insisting on washing only the feet by our leaders, the cunning behavior of resorting to cleaning their chests occasionally (read schemes towards election time) since they know that we (read the voters) sometimes go ahead to check their chests (read we ask for accountability for the time they have been in leadership), will not help us. 

As a grown-up man, I have since learned that it is only proper and wise to take a deep bath every day even when I know that there are no teachers going to check my chest. And because every grown-up person takes a deep bath every day before they leave their house, cleans their teeth, and brushes their teeth before they get out to go to work, not because someone is going to ask them to present their teeth for checking, we have a clean environment at the office, no stinking, no bad breaths, and the environment is very conducive. 

This same effort, we can actually sell to our leaders to stop doing half-baths for caring more about what we are able to see easily but also making efforts to clean even the parts we can not see”

This is an opinion based on true life moments and I have carefully chosen to use it because I think and feel it speaks to some of the behaviors we carry in our lives today and we also carry these behaviors into leadership and this partly accounts for the underdevelopment and poor service delivery in our communities. 

Let’s about washing only the feet therefore and embrace deeper baths, they are good for us, our bodies, and our communities.

Alexander Kyokwijuka is an aspiring Leader for the Ndorwa East Parliamentary Seat. —