- Mutebe completed primary seven in 1999. Unfortunately, Dhabangi lost his sight. “I felt so bad. Fortunately, some good Samaritans (doctors) conducted a medical procedure that restored his sight,” states Mutebe.
- Mutebe says that for years he has felt a debt in his heart for the love the man gave him.
Henry Mutebe has felt indebted to Wilson Dhabangi since 1997 when he started visiting him in school upon learning he had no one to visit him.
Mutebe’s father died in 1996 leaving the mother to be the sole family breadwinner. As the mother was busy fending for the family, Dhabangi decided to step up and be the father figure by visiting the teenager every Sunday.
Symbolic for his monopoly of tattered clothes, the then 50-year-old Dhabangi would cycle for three hours to get to the toddler’s school, bringing along groundnuts sometimes.
“It was a rough road with many broken culverts/bridges. When it rained a lot, sometimes the raging running water would overrun the culvert, carry away the stones and soil…,” says Mutebe.
Mutebe remembers a day the old man almost drowned while coming to visit him but was saved by boys who were fishing. In school, he was constantly teased by his classmates who made sure to remind him that “your father is old and rides a bicycle.”
“He was old, wore worn-out slippers, had no shoes, and wore the same shirt. All the children at school knew him as my father. Some children would bully me that ‘your father is old and rides a bicycle.’ When someone wanted to pick on me, that was the line. I was that kid from a poor family who is visited by an old man wearing tired slippers, an old torn shirt, and an old bicycle.”
Whenever he visited, Mutebe says that Dhabangi would emphasise the importance of working hard in school so that he would not end up like him. “He told me that if I worked hard and listened to my teachers I would fly in planes and travel to different places and perhaps people like him who never got an education would have an opportunity to fly.”
25 years later, Mutebe made that dream possible for the old man at 74 years of age. He surprised him with a Uganda Airlines plane ticket from Uganda to Nairobi after saving for it for a year.
The old man on learning about the surprise broke down in tears of joy. The closest he had ever been to a plane was in 1974 when former president Iddi Amin’s plane landed near his home village.
The septuagenarian spent a night in Nairobi in the company of Rebbecca, a woman who took care of him as well.