When you meet Mustafah Lule, the scars on his face paint a picture of someone who could either have been tortured or was involved in an accident.
However, the scars on the 19-year-old’s face were self-inflicted when he, on September 3, 2016, then aged 17, made news headlines after jumping from the top of Mabirizi Plaza and fell on a parked Toyota Ipsum on Kampala Road, determined to end his life.
His early life
Growing up, Lule recalls that at the age of seven, he already had responsibilities such as finding what to eat and wear. Although he lived with his father and stepmother, it was as though they did not exist since they did not care enough to cater for his needs. This, perhaps, explains why his education only lasted up to Primary Three. He dropped out of school because he had no one to turn to for school basics. Lule’s mother, Amatu Namakula had separated with his father.
At nine, Lule recalls walking out of his parent’s home, then at Lugoba in Kawempe to start life on his own. He did not only walk out because he was out of school but he also says his stepmother’s mistreatment, including endless beatings forced him to leave.
“I wanted to continue with school but no one was concerned. After leaving home, I lived on the street for over a year until I got a job as a sewing machine broker in Kiyembe, Downtown Kampala,” Lule says.
At the job, which lasted close to three years, Lule says he loved to associate with people around him to pick inspiration to make life better. He believed association and networking was a pathway through which some things in life would be made easier but this was hindered by the fact that people in his circles saw him as a street child. Unfortunately, in mid-2016, Lule lost his job. This, he says, was the beginning of another bout of suffering.
On the streets
With no home to retire to, the street once again became Lule’s home. This was after he had been evicted from his sub-rented house at Katoke Village in Lugoba Parish, Kawempe Division, Kampala, after accumulating rent arrears of Shs210,000. Each month, Lule and a friend he rented the house with each had to raise Shs35,000 to pay Shs70,000 monthly rent.
“I did not approach anyone since no one was willing to help. None of the relatives and friends I knew gave me their attention yet they are within Kampala. They instead painted different bad images of me and looked at me as a street child,” Lule explains.
Deciding to end his life
After painfully struggling to make ends meet, Lule could no longer afford food and house rent and other basics such as clothing. Much as he wanted to move on, he says losing his job was the greatest setback.
“Jumping from Mabirizi Complex was my first attempt to kill myself although I had been thinking about it for a while. Many questions lingered in my mind but with no answers and I lost hope for life,” Lule recalls.
Waking up to life
“When I gained consciousness, I was at Mulago National Referral Hospital. I thought I was dead and it was my soul still living. I still had the death wish because I saw no reason for living. If I could get anything at that time to use to end my life, I would have used it,” he narrates.
At Mulago, Lule recalls not receiving many visitors. The few who visited him included his mother, Amatu Namakula who stayed with him until he was discharged. When his condition improved, Lule was discharged and left the hospital with his mother who lived in Kagoma Village on Bombo Road. She vowed to take care of him as he recovered from his injuries, among them a broken left arm.
Because of the tough life he faced, Lule says he sometimes gets sad but faces every situation with prayer. He has come to believe that he lived for a reason. He adds that he has never gone to a counsellor but he confides in James Alemi, the proprietor of Kampala Range Rovers garage, whom he calls his father.
“I tried many times to reconnect with my father but every time I get close to him, he creates a situation that separates us again. I have since given up on him and the only family member I am close to is my mother. I do not let the absence of a father figure in my life affect my day-to-day life as I strive to make my life better,” Lule explains.
Introduction to mechanics
When he heard Lule’s story, Alemi wanted to help. He was led to Lule’s mother, Namakula, days after he was discharged. “When I met him, he lacked compassion, love and forgiveness. He seemed desperate and in pain. I wanted to skill him with knowledge of servicing cars but there was resistance from his family because some thought he was an outcast. Others, however, welcomed the idea,” Alemi explains.
In December 2016, Alemi introduced Lule to car service, beginning with basics such as changing car tyres and batteries, among others. With daily acquisition of skills, Lule says he is now committed to working harder to make life better.
“I have learnt to be patient in everything I do. I believe I will start my own garage one day and open a car spare parts shop.
Learning how to repair cars was a blessing that took away the death wish I had,” Lule says, adding that in future, he will start an institute to teach young people how to service cars.
“I believe there are many youth out there who are going through the kind of life I went through and only need someone to offer a shoulder to cry on,” he adds.
Advice to youth
In any given situation, Lule advises the youth to focus and think about anything deeply before making the final decision.
“Do not lose hope because of a given situation. Do not give yourself a limit on how longer you are to live on earth because you do not know what God has in stock for you,” Lule concludes.
What the trainer says
According to Alemi, when Lule had just joined Kampala Range Rovers garage, he had an inferiority complex. He was always lonely but I slowly ushered him to association with other trainees. To Alemi, Lule is still a semi-skilled mechanic. His plan is to skill Lule so that he is gainfully employed and becomes self-sufficient.
“He is very hard working and works with passion. By the time he learns how to remove a car engine and put it back at the end of 2020, he will have mastered how to service cars,” Alemi concludes, adding that he still supports Lule with between Shs10,000 to Shs20,000 a day for transport and meals and also offers accommodation.
Advice to parents
To parents and guardians, Lule notes that a child does not have to suffer because of whatever may have happened between the parents.
“When you subject a child to suffering at a young age, they may gain experience about life but they hate the situation around them at some point as they grow up.
When you do not love the child because of one parent’s mistakes, remember that you both contribute to creating that person. When you spend time with a child, however busy you may be, you create a strong bond that will help them survive the harsh realities of the world,” Lule advises.
As a champion of hope in youth, Mustafah Lule says he shares testimonies with orphans and other youth to restore hope in them, emphasising the fact that no condition is worth ending your life over. In December 2019, Lule will be making approximately three years since he was introduced to car service and repair. His only challenge is that he cannot carry heavy things with his left arm because it is still in pain.
Lule is friendly to everyone at the garage and is hard working. He always wants to have his hands on something. He is also humble when asking for anything.
He talks to anyone freely and he does it with a lot of confidence. He loves what he does and when he wants to learn doing something he does not know, he asks for help.