Apio dropped out of school after family business collapsed

Sarah Apio during the interview at her home in Kobulubulu Sub-county, Ochero County, Kaberamaido District, on Monday. PHOTO / EMMANUEL EUMU

What you need to know:

  • When the country announced lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 to curb the spread of Covid-19, the most affected were school-going children, many of them staying home for close to two years. We bring you stories of how the pandemic affected learners; some of whom have never gone back to school. In our third instalment of the series, Shattered Dreams, we bring you the story of a former student of Amolatar High School in Lango Sub-region.

Twenty-year-old Sarah Apio from Kobulubulu Sub-county, Ochero County, Kaberamaido District, would under normal circumstances be joining university or any other tertiary institution this year.

However, this has not happened due to a number of factors, which were compounded by the Covid-19 lockdown.

Apio lives with her mother Jane Agon. Her father, Joseph Olobo, died in 2020.

At the time the lockdown was declared in March 2020 due to the pandemic, Apio was in Senior Two at Amolatar High School in Lango Sub-region.

Her desire to carry on with her education was quashed after their local brew business, which was their only source of livelihood, collapsed when the government closed bars and drinking joints.

Prior to the lockdown, the family operated a bar business where they used to sell local gin (waragi). When the operating capital got used up during the hard times of the lockdown, they had to close the business.

“That did not only shatter our day-to-day livelihood as a family, but it also shattered my dreams of carrying on with my education,” Ms Apio narrates.

Prior to the lockdown, Apio says she had other school fees challenges, which saw her out of school for almost two years. The effects of the lockdown made it worse, causing her to drop out of school.

The 20-year-old says the closure of drinking joints, coupled with strict vigilance from the security personnel who were enforcing the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SoPs) forced their only business in Kobulubulu Trading Centre to collapse.

Since then, they family has not had a definite source of income to take care of the members, as well as pay fees for Apio and her five siblings.

“When the schools were reopened earlier this year, I watched my friends pack their belongings and returning to school,” Apio explains, adding that at that time her mother couldn’t turn to anyone for help.

“We were a helpless family and continue to be helpless,” she says.

Apio says all she is looking to do now is find a man to marry her off, since they are a peasant family most of whose relatives are peasants too with many challenges of their own.

In Senior One and Senior Two, Apio says she used to pay Shs300,000 in school fees, a fee now unmanageable by the family.

Ms Agon says only one child, a daughter is working, in the police force.

“I have to care for the other children amidst all the troubles I have, that have made me unable to send her back to school,” Ms Agon explains.

“When the bar business collapsed due to Covid-19 lockdown, I remained with no source of income. My prayer right now is for the rains to return and I cultivate some cash crops to enable me find some small capital to start some other business,” she says.

Agon says her late husband left the family destitute, but that her daughter understands the situation she is in.

“On a good day before the Covid-19 lockdown, I would make about Shs30,000 from the bar business. But not that is no more,” she says. Agon adds that she would save Shs5,000 each day and by the start of next term, she would have enough money to pay the school fees.

Apio says she had hoped to become a nurse and fill the void in Ochero County where there is no government health facility, forcing patients from the area to trek for kilometres seeking health services. That hope now seems farfetched as her widowed mother cannot raise the money needed for school fees and other scholastic materials.

“To have my entire term catered for, I need Shs600,000,” Apio states.

She says she now has nothing to do apart from attending to domestic work at home as they wait for rains to return so that they engage in farming.

“If by good luck someone offers to pay my fees, I will warmly receive it because I need to go back to school,” she pleads.

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