I knew something was amiss when she hesitated, she was telling me that the hostel fees had been increased from five thousand to eight thousand. There was a subtle change in her tone and her breathing seemed ever so slightly altered but I decided that she was simply empathizing with me, that she knew how much I toiled, scraped and saved to send her to the university and any increment, however slight, spelled disaster for me. But I was nothing if not a good father and I had vowed to give my children the very best that I possibly could. So, I borrowed from friends and took more loans, I also did away with luxuries such as lunch all to ensure that I could raise the extra cash to send her every month.
I wasn’t happy that I had never visited my daughter at the university. She was in her final year and I only saw her at home. I longed to see her lecture halls, I longed to meet her lecturers, I longed to see her room, I desired to meet her friends. I had been posted to a far-flung police post in a corner of the country that no one ever wanted to work in. The climate was harsh, the community was hostile, the work was unforgiving, everything it seemed, conspired to make the place any police officer’s nightmare. It was therefore not a surprise that we were understaffed. Anyone who was sent there started lobbying for a transfer even before they set foot in the forsaken place. All my attempts to have my boss give me some time off to visit my daughter were always greeted with a firm no followed by the rhetorical question, “Who will you hand over to, yet you can see that we are understaffed?” This meant that I only managed to make the long journey home only once in a very long while and always only for a day or two over the weekend. This explains why I’d never managed to visit my daughter at her school.
Finally, we had a change in leadership and a new boss was posted to our station. He was a much older man and he had a kind fatherly air around him. Something told me that he would understand if I explained to him my predicament and requested for leave – enough time for me to visit my daughter in school. My request was granted, and I proceeded for my long-awaited leave. I could hardly believe my good fortune!
My first stop was my daughter’s university, my visit was a huge surprise to her but if she was alarmed, she hid it well. As part of my rounds, I visited the cashier’s office to confirm whether she had any school fees arrears, but all was well. I took the opportunity to ask him why they had increased the hostel fees, but he was surprised at my question because the hostel fees had never been increased, it was still five thousand shillings. My daughter had been scamming me the whole time!
When I confronted her, she sheepishly confessed to her crime. Her defence was that the pocket money I sent her was not enough, so she had come up with the idea so as to raise more money for her upkeep. I was deeply disappointed in her, so much that I didn’t dwell on the matter. What I was unable to share with her was that I felt partly to blame. I felt as if I had failed as a father because it had taken me years to visit my daughter’s school. I felt if I had visited her more often, I would have uncovered the deception in no time and saved myself from the piling debts.
When I join leadership at work, I will agitate for officers to have ample time to visit their families. This will not only give them peace of mind, but they will also deliver better services to the public when they are no longer troubled by their long absences from home. I look forward to a time when every station will be adequately staffed therefore according officers the opportunity to take their leave. I look forward to a future when officers and their families will not just be surviving but thriving.