Francis Tibaweeswa, 83, and his wife Teopista Nansabu, 77, are spending their retirement in their home at Kalimira Village, Nabigasa Sub-county, in Kyotera District. Their strong and beautiful house connected to both solar and hydro-electricity, sits on five acres of land which he bought about 40 years ago as a young school teacher.
In the back yard is a large rainwater tank that never goes empty throughout the year. “When I left Busubizi Teacher Training College in 1958 I was posted at Kyamaganda Boys Primary School in Lwengo District,” Tibaweeswa told Sunday Monitor.
“My monthly salary was Shs197 but back then the shilling was quite strong and we used the same currency throughout East Africa. Imagine, with that monthly income, I was able to finance my marriage preparation activities including the wedding party unlike today when people have to fundraise. As I continued working, I bought this piece of land where our house sits and some more 13 acres of land not far from here and several other bibanja (pieces of land), most of which are planted with eucalyptus trees.”
He says he always thought about the life he is living now and he wanted to make it as comfortable as possible. “I knew that as a teacher I would earn a gratuity and a monthly pension which achievement I got but because I invested most of my monthly salary in money generating ventures. My life is easier for us in old age.” He has been retired for close to 30 years but he does not regret leaving the classroom.
One of the investments he made when he still worked as a teacher was buying a sewing machine.
“I bought it on a hire-purchase basis from an Indian’s shop,” he recalls.
“Soon after obtaining it, I asked a friend who was a tailor to teach me tailoring. Today I earn some money as a tailor, making school uniforms and gomesis.”
If he is not supervising work on his farm of coffee and bananas, Tibaweeswa is busy in his tailoring shop, also situated in his compound. His children have completed school and live on their own. On August 24, Tibaweeswa and his wife celebrated their 60th marriage anniversary. It was a ceremony marked with pomp but for a man with so many eucalyptus forests it was not hard to guess where the money used to hold such a big function came from.
“I have learnt to be patient in farming and attend regular training to boost my knowledge. Farming pays when it is done right,” he says. On average, Tibaweeswa sells 600 poles of trees to different. He also sells about 20 bags of coffee per harvest.
The Rev Fr Matia Kimbugwe, parish priest of Makondo Parish, told Sunday Monitor: “Tibaweeswa and his wife are some of our most prominent Christians. They have been exemplary to the rest of the people. It is easy to tell that they are living a comfortable life in their old age. They are big supporters of the church financially and materially.” It was real fun listening to his speech during the function.
How he met his wife
Nansamba has a painful leg and she walks with difficulty but Tibaweeswa was quite agile and cheerful. He told the story of their marriage preparations, the wedding party that took place on April 18, 1959, and demonstrated how nearly everything about the preparations has changed.
“What we see people doing these days only discourages others from even thinking of church marriages and wedding parties,” he said.
“The bride and bridegroom worry more about the huge expenditure involved other than rejoice about finding a loving partner and the beginning of their marriage and family.” She was born on December 29, 1942 and he was born on October 4, 1936. “I had just completed school at Busubizi Teachers’ Training College and, at the age of 23, I was considered mature enough to get married. Then one day, my grandfather, Emmanuel Kyeyune, who lived in Babunwe Village confided to me that he had identified a suitable girl for me to marry. Back then it was normal practice for a trusted relative to identify and to recommend a suitable spouse.” “Teopista lived in the same village as my grandfather and I first set my eyes on her when I went to Babunwe Village under the pretext of visiting my grandfather.”
When their intentions were made known to her parents they sent emissaries to his village, Kyengeza near Kalisizo Town in Kyotera District, about 10 miles from Nansamba’s home, to inquire about Tibaweeswa and his family. “This was to establish if I was worthy of marrying their daughter. I passed the test.”
The bishop of Masaka Diocese at the time, the Rt Rev Joseph Kiwanuka, had directed that all Catholic parents giving away their daughters in marriage were not to charge cash dowry exceeding Shs120. “I paid the money and we also presented two gomesi as gifts; one for the bride’s mother and the other for her aunt as well as a kanzu for my brother-in-law. We were further asked to carry four calabashes of local beer; two calabashes to my father- in-law, one for the girl’s uncle and another to her aunt.”
After the kwanjula we went to start the church process which involved regular church attendance, receiving sacraments, payment of all church dues, and, finally, medical check-ups.
Back then no marriage would take place in the Catholic Church without a doctor’s letter confirming that both the bride and bridegroom were free from venereal diseases.
The medical examination was done at Villa Maria Hospital, Kitovu Hospital, and Dr Sebastian Kyewalyanga’s Hospital Kako.
Most church marriages took place on Thursdays except for those who were formally employed in public service such as teachers, clerks, and medical workers .