On the cold morning of Wednesday, December 10, 2018, at around 8am, I meet 14-year-old Kajjoba (not real name), with a bucketful of boiled eggs ready to transact business on Nasser Road in Kampala.
Immediately after selling to a couple of clients by the roadside, he crouches down looking tired and drained. I ask him what is happening to him and he explains that he had spent days working without some good sleep.
He tells me he had arrived in Kampala three weeks earlier from Kalungu District where a person he knows only by face, picked him from his parents with a promise of a well-paying job in Kampala.
Kajjoba says the man, who had come to buy local chicken at his home in Kalungu, convinced his parents that he was old enough to work in Kampala. His parents almost immediately agreed and Kajjoba was brought to Kampala the same day.
He further reveals that on the day he was brought to Kampala, he shared the car in which he was brought with six other boys, although he cannot tell their whereabouts when they reached the city.
“After agreeing with my parents, the man put me in the car and on our way, we kept picking other boys and we were all brought to Kampala,” he explains.
He says on the way to Kampala, he recalls the man making a phone call to a one Rina, telling her to find them in Ndeeba.
“Once in Ndeeba, Rina turned up and after exchanging pleasantries with the man, she said: ‘This time I am taking one … onseera nnyo (you over charge me)’,” he says.
“The man replied: ‘This one is a hardworking boy and you are paying me just Shs120,000?’” Kajjoba adds.
He explains that what kept him strong was the his coming to Kampala involved his parents, who had exchanged contacts with the man.
After negotiations, Kajjoba was handed over to Rina and the man told him he was to start working for her. He would be paid Shs100,000 per month, with meals and accommodation catered for.
The 14-year-old is currently vending eggs in Kampala on behalf of Rina, who reportedly pays him Shs500 daily for lunch. As for accommodation, Kajjoba shares a room with 18 other boys in Katwe –Kinyoro, who do the same job for Rina.
However, Kajjoba believes that if paid well, in two months, he will go back home in Kalungu and continue with school.
He says unlike home in Kalungu, vending eggs in Kampala has many challenges, the biggest of all being the constant arrests by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) officials. He, however, says they are always bailed out since his bosses have several friends in KCCA.
“Getting arrested doesn’t worry us much since the bosses always come to our rescue. However, what worries us most is the fact that once arrested, the bosses tells us that the money used to secure our bail is deducted from our monthly salaries,” Kajjoba further narrates.
Meanwhile, 13-year-old Kamugisha (not real name) was picked from Bushenyi in almost a similar fashion by a man who had come to buy cows in December, 2017.
Then in Primary Seven Vacation, the former pupil of Butambuka Primary school in Bushenyi explains that he works for a one Nalongo of Katwe Kinyoro. Unlike Kajjoba, Kamugisha says his journey to Kampala did not involve his parents. He says he made the decision to come with the man on his own after he assured him of a well-paying job in the city .
Kamugisha says his boss, Nalongo, offers him accommodation and food and seven other boys doing the same work for her.
Unlike Kajjoba, Kamugisha says he and his colleagues are not paid a monthly salary but a commission per sale.
“In the morning, all the money from the sales goes to the boss but we earn a Shs100 commission per egg sold in the evening,” Kamugisha reveals.
For Kayongo (not real name), who does the same job in Katwe Kiganda Zone, his boss is a relative who allegedly adopted him following the death of his father, a UPDF soldier formerly deployed at Kakiri Barracks.
Just like others, Kayongo’s aunt, only identifies as Amina, employs four other boys to vend boiled eggs on the streets of Kampala.
A concerned citizen in Katwe, a Kampala suburb, who preferred anonymity so as to speak freely to this newspaper, told me many boys are fetched from especially up-country and ‘sold’ to prospective employers.
“We have so many houses in Katwe Kinyoro and Kiganda zones accommodating such boys. It is a continuous process because when the boys get used to Kampala, they run away to lead their own lives,” he explains.