The first time Ivan Namanya met Clare Mbaine he knew he had met his missing rib. Clare was 20 years old while Ivan was 21, they were both students at St John’s Secondary School in Ibanda District. Shortly after they started dating, Ivan promised Clare that he would marry her when they finished school. But fate had other plans for the young couple.
A few months later, Clare dropped out of school because her parents were unable to continue paying her school fees. Ivan stayed in school and after sitting his Senior Four exams in 2012, he went to Rwanda in search of vacation employment.
After the vacation, Ivan returned to Uganda to start his A-Level. By this time, Clare thought Ivan had moved on since she had not heard from him all the time he was in Rwanda. But for Ivan, Clare was the only thing on his mind. In fact as soon as he returned to Ibanda he went to her home to rekindle the relationship.
“We resumed the relationship and a few months later, she discovered she was pregnant. She escaped from the vocational institute she was attending and came looking for me,” Ivan says. Unfortunately, Ivan had no means of looking after a child and wife. The best option for him was to take Clare to live with his family as he finished school.
Clare says she was relieved to be far away from her parents since she was not sure how they would react if they found out she was pregnant.
“My parents had sacrificed a lot to send me to school and here I was pregnant before completing my course. I had no idea how they would react but I knew it would not be nice. So, for two years I sought refuge at Ivan’s home. I knew my parents were looking for me but I did not have the courage to show up,” Clare says.
After having the baby, Clare decided it was time to face her parents and get over the fear of their reaction. However, she was surprised by their attitude. Instead, they welcomed her.
“When I returned home, my father’s anger had cooled down and he welcomed me and his grandchild with open arms. However, he insisted I go back to school and finish my course. He offered to pay half of the tuition and asked Ivan to pay the other half,” Clare recounts.
Clare’s parents might have forgiven her but Ivan’s were not as understanding. They threatened to stop paying his school fees but he reassured them that he was still interested in finishing school.
During his Senior Six vacation, Ivan struggled to look after his young family. He did several odd jobs including brewing alcohol.
“During that time, my father gave me my share of the land which I mortgaged in a bank and got a loan to enable me take care of my family and get my university tuition. I used part of the loan to pay my tuition at the University in 2016 at (Uganda Pentecostal University Fort Portal) and also paid part of her tuition so that she could resume her studies. We all completed our studies and graduated,” says Ivan.
All this time Clare was living with Ivan’s family. But when they discovered they were expecting their second child, Ivan decided to move his family into a rented home. Ivan landed a job in one of the media houses in Fort Portal while Clare started selling organic products to raise money for family upkeep. The couple started saving to build their own home and hold an introduction ceremony, all of which they accomplished last year. Ivan wanted the introduction ceremony to be a surprise for Clare and he managed to keep it a secret until the last three weeks.
“Even then, I did not think it would happen. I only realised it was real when I reached home and found everything ready,” she recounts.
Although the journey has not been smooth, Clare is glad to have had Ivan by her side all along. Currently, she runs a crafts business from which she earns an income to take care of the family.
“It has been a journey of patience and love and I would not have had it any other way. I am happy and glad to have the family I have,” she says.
Ivan is glad that he disproved the naysayers who thought his circumstances would stop him from finishing his education. He adds that although they were financially constrained in the beginning, they have worked hard and now live a comfortable life.
“I got a job at Life FM Radio in Fort Portal City where I work as a news editor and my wife is doing well with her crafts business and beauty salon,” Ivan says.
Ivan says he has learnt to make hard decisions on his own and stand by them. He has also learnt that it is important to formalise relationships because not many women are happy to stay in illegitimate unions.
Clare advises marrieds to always be patient. To those who are still single and in school, Clare emphasises the importance of first finishing school and getting married after. “If a man loves you that much, they will wait for you since love is patient, she says.
Namanya advises married couples to respect each other and also be patient because with respect and patience, your marriage will last.