First published in 2005, the book “Do I Have to Kneel?” is about a woman, who goes against all odds to achieve whatever she aims at. It is based on a true story and is a portrayal of what it was like to live in Uganda from the 1950s through to the 1970s.
Patricia Haward, the author moved to Uganda in the 1960’s and worked there as a teacher and editor for many years. She still visits the country almost every year.
The story revolves around Losira Namuli, the protagonist, a girl who grows up in an isolated village, but who gains international recognition through her hard work. She is a determined person- when she starts school; she is the youngest and brightest pupil, hence attracting hatred from the older students. But she doesn’t give up, why shouldn’t she answer a question if she knows the answer?
Her mother is a remote woman, who complains a lot about the poverty they live in but never stands up to her husband. Her father is a Christian convert who works with the church. While her parents have more children than they can afford to look after, her father believes in helping other children who are disadvantaged. The irony behind this all is that her siblings are sent to other relatives to be taken care of.
The story is rather smooth- Namuli joins a prestigious school with lots of children from well to-do families. Her father warns her that she will not find it comfortable.
But her determination helps her persevere. For when others are having their lessons, she is busy looking for her wooden shoes which have been pushed into drainage or thrown away! She develops an interest in literature ad drama. She even writes plays for the school competitions. When she takes up a job during the holidays to support her family, her mother tells her:
“You will keep some money for yourself. By your age, I was married……………………….but I could not earn money.”
Years go by and she joins Makerere University to do a diploma in education. It is here that she meets Akojo, a young man destined to be a priest but who changes his mind when he falls in love with her. Her father is against the relationship but Namuli fights for their love and wins in the end.
The story gains momentum as her career grows amidst the political instability in Uganda. Events that follow will take the reader through their marital problems and how they overcome them, their success as dramatists which brings them international recognition, the mystery of Akojo’s fate after a job posting in Nigeria, and the events that follow, thereafter.
Written from two perspectives- the author’s own perceptions and Namuli’s inner thoughts, Do I Have to Kneel?is a book many readers will sail through, just to know what happens in the end.