On March 20, Mr Frederick Kisekka, a teacher at Good Hope Nursery and Primary School in Kalangala Town Council, walked out of the school gate hoping to return in a few weeks .
This was two days after President Museveni announced closure of schools and a ban on both religious and public gatherings as one of the measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
However, for the last three months, Mr Kisekka has been struggling to put food on table until recently when he ventured into fishing.
“I used to earn a monthly salary of Shs450,000 and other additional fees through coaching but I last received a salary in March. I decided to venture into fishing in May to make ends meet. I appeal to the President to think about reopening the schools,” he says.
Mr Kisekka is among the categories of people who have been worst hit by the lockdown .
On May 4, President Museveni started easing some of the lockdown restrictions by allowing shops selling general merchandise, shopping malls and hardware shops, to reopen.
Mr Museveni also permitted vehicle garages and workshops for metal fabrication and furniture to reopen as long as they wear face masks .
The President later allowed private cars and public transport to resume but schools, churches, mosques, bars, arcades, beauty salons, gyms and saunas remained closed .
Since the beginning of the lockdown in late March, many Ugandans have adopted a frugal life amid growing financial distress.
Ms Victoria Nayiga, a teacher at Bwanika Primary School in Kabarole District, says she relocated to her home in Kagote Village , Fort Portal Town and started engaging in baking, making crafts, baby dresses, jewellery, belts and crotchets.
Ms Nayiga says she also teaches students in the United States their native language, Rutooro, through an online App Zoom.
“For online lessons, I earn $30 per hour (about Shs111,921) ,” she says.
Mr Edward Mugiranabo, a teacher in a private school in Kabale District, says he has hired about three acres of land in the lower valleys on the Kabale-Katuna road where he is planning to grow Irish potatoes during the July to November season.
“Having been confined to my home in Kabale Town together with my wife and children for about three months , I used my savings to hire three acres. A 100Kg of Irish potato costs about Shs130,000 at farm gate price and by the time I harvest mine, it will have reduced to Shs120,000, which is okay. I expect to harvest about 120 bags if the season is favourable, and I expect to earn about Shs14.4m,” Mr Mugiranabo says.
He adds that the Covid-19 crisis has taught him never to depend on one income source.
Ms Annet Komuhangi, Ms Mary Birungi and Ms Rebecca Tumuhimbise -all former waitresses in bars and lodges in Kabale Town, say they have resorted to vending household items such as bar soap and fresh foods on the streets.
“I go to wholesalers who give me the price of the items,I later go on the streets and start selling them. When I return in the evening,he gives me a commission on every item sold, ” Ms Tumuhimbise says .
In Lira, Ms Mystica Angom ,a teacher at Piajet Nursery and Primary School, returned to her village in Adwari Sub-county, Otuke District, where she is doing farming after the school stopped paying her salary in March.Ms Angom was earning Shs280,000 monthly.
Mr Job Fifftz Enon, a DJ, says: “Before the lockdown, I could get a call for a musical show at least in a week, but all the shows were cancelled. I am surviving on live stream videos.”
Mr David Kanago, the proprietor of Giraffe View, a bar and Lodge in Fort Portal Town, says he is doing farming .
Mr Musa Anan, the manager of Hospital View Bar in Gulu Town , says they opened the hotel section to retain the visibility of the business and earn some money.
Mr Michael Kibwota, a DJ in Gulu Town, says he has accumulated debts, and does not know how he will clear them .
Mr Ben Kalokwera, a teacher in a private school, says he has been coaching students during the lockdown .
“ I spend the morning hours in the garden and I coach A-Level students in the afternoon,” Mr Kalokwera says.
Ms Fatima Kigongo, a teacher at Kyabagoma Primary School in Bukomansimbi District, says she has resorted to growing vegetables on her veranda .
Ms Shamirah Nantongo, a teacher at Universal Kindergarten and Primary School in Masaka Town , says she recently resorted to selling holiday packages to parents.
Ms Nantongo says she buys a package for a particular subject from Pearl Education Consults at Shs3,000 and sells it at Shs5,000 .
“I sell these educational materials door- to- door to help children since many have not got a chance to access study learning materials supplied by government,” she says.
Masaka Municipality has more than 1,000 teachers in private schools .
Many teachers in Teso Sub-region have also turned to farming . Ms Grace Ajalo, a former waitress at Bisina Hunters Bar, says together with her colleagues, they have now taken restaurant jobs. “The future is not certain since we don’t know when the lockdown will be totally lifted,” she says.
Ms Lucky Natukunda, a salon owner in Mbarara Town, has found solace in selling banana peelings to dairy farmers .
“Luckily, it doesn’t involve any costs, instead of people paying to dispose this garbage, they bring it at my home. I sell a bag between Shs2,000 and Shs3,000 and on average I sell 10 bags daily,” Ms Natukunda says.
Mr Moses Mugumya, a DJ, says he joined the public transport business using his brother’s car.
“I ply the Mbarara-Ibanda route, and on a good day, I can save Shs10,000,” he says.
Ms Esther Piranok, a waitress at a bar in Arua Town, says she acquired a loan of Shs300,000 to start selling cassava and maize flour at Awindiri Market.
“I have now started selling food items using the money I saved because I don’t think bars will be reopened any time soon,” she says.
In Kalungu District, Mr Moses Kakooza , a teacher in Lukaya Town, started selling ground nuts.
Mr Gashom Nkulanga, the officer-in-charge of planning at Uganda National Teachers Union (Unatu ) Kalungu branch, says many private teachers in the area largely survive on hand-outs from wellwishers. Mr Nkulanga says although they received some relief food from Office of the Prime Minister, it was not enough.
“There are many private schools in Lukaya with more than 20 teachers each. It was difficult to distribute the 500kg of maize flour and 200kgs of beans, each school ended up getting 20kgs of maize flour and 5kg of beans,” he says. Mr Frank Nsibambi, the chairperson Unatu in Lwabenge Sub-county, says they have petitioned National Agricultural Advisory Services to support teachers with seeds so that they can fully engage in farming this season.
Compiled by Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Alex Ashaba,Malik Fahd Jjingo, Polycap Kalokwera & Stephen Okello Patrick Ebong ,Isaac Otwii ,Charity Akullo Simon Peter Emwamu Robert Muhereza,Rajab Mukombozi ,Joseph Omollo, Fred Wambede &Felix Warom Okello