Lockdown: Private teachers find lease of life in odd jobs 

Teachers lay bricks in Mijunju Village, Kabira Sub-county,  in Kyotera District on August 12. PHOTO | GERTRUDE MUTYABA

What you need to know:

  • A nationwide survey conducted by Daily Monitor indicates that most teachers in private schools, whose salaries have been suspended, have turned to brick-making, riding boda bodas, and food stalls.

With schools still closed over the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of teachers have taken to odd jobs to earn a living.

A nationwide survey conducted by Daily Monitor indicates that most teachers in private schools, whose salaries have been suspended, have turned to brick-making, riding boda bodas and food stalls.

The teachers say during the two Covid-19 induced lockdowns over the last two years, they have hardly earned any salary. They also say the government’s Shs20b stimulus package has not been forthcoming, leaving them in despair.

Among them is Ms Deborah Acuro, a teacher at Crane High School in Soroti, who has turned to selling food stuffs and fruits in Pamba Market, Soroti Town.
Ms Acuro, who sells avocado, lemon, oranges, silver fish and ripe bananas, says she earns about Shs10,000 per day.

She explains that before the lockdown, she had accumulated savings of Shs3m but she says all this was spent on buying food, paying rent and medical bills during the closure of schools.
“Things were progressive before the outbreak of Covid-19. So, I used what was remaining of my meagre pay to start this business,” Ms Acuro explains.

Mr Jonan Mwegamire, a teacher at Parental Nursery and Boarding Primary School in Bushenyi district, says he received his last salary in May.
Mr Mwegamire says when the President first closed schools in March 2020, he started selling matooke on a bicycle.
“But my bicycle was stolen after seven months and I became stranded,” he says.

Last resort
During the second closure of schools in June this year, Mr Mwegamire says he turned to sand mining to be able to feed his seven family members.
Mr Trevor Yebazamukama, the proprietor of Parental Care Nursery and Primary School, says while he acknowledges the desperate condition of his teachers, he has no capacity to help them.

“We used to cater for these people because they were doing a great job for us but nowadays I don’t have the capacity,” he says.
“I talk to them regularly. Some have started small businesses such as shops and making chapatti, and others who don’t have the capacity are at home,” he adds.
Mr Yebazamukama reveals that he is struggling to clear bank loans.

Mr Benjamin Owor, a teacher at Posuna Primary School in Magola Sub-county, Tororo District, has resorted to selling herbs that treat sexually transmitted infections.
“Some of us expected to benefit from the Shs20b Covid-19 fund for teachers but we have not seen anything,” he says.
For Mr Nabil Katongole, a teacher at Nkokonjeru Primary School, however, the lockdown has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“I have discovered life outside chalk. I’m now operating my own shop selling electric appliances and I also do mobile money services,” he says. Mr Isaac Nanoka, a teacher at Midland Primary School in Mbale City, says he has embarked on farming.
“I embarked on gardening and last season, I managed to harvest five sacks of beans. I also grow other foods such as Matooke and cassava, which made me survive with my family,” he explains.

Mr Aloysius Katureebe, a teacher at Crown High School in Kamwenge District, says he last received salary in April this year and in the first lockdown, he spent eight months without pay.
“Even the salary I was getting was half, and by the time schools were closed, I was still demanding some money. I am only waiting for the government to announce the reopening of schools,” he says.

Mr Wilson Bagonza, a teacher at Light Secondary School, Masindi, said he last received his salary last year in February, prompting him to join boda boda, from which he earns between Shs10,000 and Shs15,000 per day.
In Busia District, Ms Moreen Sima, a teacher at Busia Pride Nursery and Primary School, says she used to earn a salary of Shs300,000 per month and free accommodation.

“Since March 2020, I have not earned any salary; the school was only paying for my accommodation and the landlord evicted me over non-payment of rent,” she states.
She has decided to enrol for a tailoring course.  “Unsure of when schools will reopen, I enrolled for a tailoring course and I also want to enrol for a catering course,” she says.

In Kamuli District, Mr Rogers Dhizaala, 32, says he will never go back to class and “beg” for a salary.
Mr Dhizaala, who was teaching Entrepreneurship and IT at Mountain Olives Academy, says Covid-19 has opened his eyes to use his IT skills to earn a living.
When the lockdown came, he had two school computers at his home, which he had taken to update.

He used the two computers to record music on people’s phones at Butende Trading Centre.
“I was just playing music in the trading centre, sometimes recording music on people’s phones when God brought in a man from Kampala who paid me Shs50,000. That is when I realised that this was a more serious business than teaching,” he says.
Mr Dhizaala says he also took on news reporting for a local radio station in Kamuli and with his IT skills, he was good at voicing, which now earns him twice his school salary.

He now plans to enrol at a media school for professional skills.
For Mr Wilber Agaba and his wife, who are both teachers, life has never been the same since the first closure of schools last year.
“Shortly after education institutions were closed in March 2020, I decided to put together my savings and those of my wife to buy a motorcycle, which I started using for boda boda business,” he explains.

Before the second lockdown, Mr Agaba says he would earn an average of Shs15,000 per day. “If it was not the boda-boda business, my family members and I would be starving because of no income,” Mr Agaba says.
Mr Enoch Katende, who leads a group of private school teachers currently engaging in bricklaying in Kyotera District, says life had become very difficult.

Life skills
The teachers who are doing the business in Mijunju Village, Kabira Sub-county, have so far made about 8,000 bricks.
Mr Katende says their plan is to produce at least 50,000 bricks.

“We came up with this idea to raise some money that can take us through this second lockdown and we are optimistic that this will become a side income even after this difficult period,” he explains.
Ms Shakirah Nalubega, a teacher at Khulafa Islamic SS, Ndejje, says the lockdown affected her badly since she lacks a side business.

“I am really surviving on Allah’s mercy, it is only handouts I receive from some family members and friends, which keep me going. Life is not easy at all, I last received a salary in May and currently there is nothing because schools are closed,” she says.
However, she commends her employer who still gives her free accommodation.

Ms Doreen Nakakande, a teacher at Kasaana Junior School in Masaka City, says she is lucky that her husband and family provide her with basic needs.
“I have no side business, but when I successfully go through this situation of the pandemic, I will set up one. Some of our colleagues got fed up and have since abandoned the profession completely to do other jobs,” she says.

“A big number of schools around no longer offer accommodation because the directors also claim that they have no money and you can’t blame them,” she adds.
Mr Godwin Kirwana, a teacher at Johanet School, Mpigi, said the first lockdown taught him a lesson and he ventured into farming.

“I have continued to do farming, mostly growing some crops and rearing some animals. I cannot demand for salary now since the learners who bring in money are currently at home, but our director is a good man because he continues giving us free accommodation,” he says.

Recently, owners of private schools under their umbrella, National Private Education Institutions Association Uganda (NPEIA-Uganda), revealed that a total of 600 private schools across the country are on the verge of being sold over unpaid loans and accumulated interest. 

According to Dr Wako Muzinge, the general secretary NPEIA-Uganda, banks have started deducting money from their accounts. He said with the  current second closure of schools, they will not be able to pay off the loans amounting to about Shs5 trillion. Dr Muzinge appealed to the government to intervene and save schools from being auctioned by the banks.

Compiled by Simon Peter Emwamu, George Muron, Milton Bandiho, Joseph Omollo   Alex Ashaba, Ismail Bategeka, Phillip Wafula, David Awori, Sam Caleb Opio, Robert Muhereza, Phoebe Masongole , Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa ,Gertude Mutyaba Malik Fahad Jjingo & Brian Adams Kesiime