How Covid-19 cut short Wanyama’s education

Allan Wanyama vends samosas in Mbale City to raise money to go back to school. PHOTO / OLIVIER MUKAAYA

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. In this tenth installment of our continuing series, Shattered Dreams, we narrate the story of a 20-year-old boy, whose parents separated and no longer provide for him. He lacked school fees, dropped out of school and resorted to vending samosas.

When schools reopened early this year after two years of closure due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, Allan Wanyama’s parents could not afford to take him back to school.

A former student of St Edward SS in Manafwa District, Wanyama completed Senior Four in 2019 and passed in Third Division, but now, he has had no option but to resort to vending samosas to earn a living.

Wanyama, who hails from Mayenze Village, Bubulo Parish in Buwagogo Sub-county in Manafwa District, says his dream was to become a veterinary doctor, which now seems quite distant.

“My dream was to continue with my education so that I become a veterinary doctor, unfortunately, my parents failed to raise fees to take me back after the schools were reopened,” the 20-year-old says with a smile as he looks at his white bucket containing samosas of varying costs, ranging from Shs500 to Shs1,000.

Wanyama says he continued to remind his parents, Mr Pantaleo Wanyama, a policeman from Bukiende Sub-country in Mbale District and his mother Ms Esther Nambuya from Mayenze Village in Manafwa District, about the importance of returning to school. However his father who has since separated from his mother, told him that there is no money for school.

“I don’t blame them so much because they had been paying my fees until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic,” Wanyama says.

The separation of his parents after they developed a misunderstandings, around the time the government reopened the economy, made the situation even worse, he narrates.

“We are 12 children, but my father cannot support all of us. We are many and my mother has no job. We are living a hard life with no one to offer a helping hand,” he says.

Wanyama states that he has lived a grueling life ever since he was a child and hoped an education would be the way out of a miserable life for him and his siblings.

“I am not in school, but it hurt me because this is where I had put my hope so that in future I can be useful, more so, to my mother,” he says.

When he realised that his chances of going back to school were dim, Wanyama hatched a plan to move to Mbale City to look for odd jobs so that he can raise money and be in position to go back to school next year. For the past four months, he has been hawking samosas on the streets of the city and has become a darling to many, who have developed love for his fresh snacks.

“My employer pays me Shs7,000 daily for hawking the samosas and he has also provided me with a place where I am living,” he says.

He adds: “I save part of the money I earn and at a given time, when I have saved enough, maybe at the end of this year, I will be in a position to go and study a course in mechanical engineering.”

Before this vending job, he had earlier tried his luck in Lira District, where he worked for a period of two weeks, selling sweets.

“But I was forced to return to Mbale because I was being paid Shs5,000 every day, which was not enough. On top of that, I had nowhere to sleep,” he says.

The language in which to communicate was also a problem.

“I faced many challenges, including the language barrier. I could not speak to any of the locals so I failed to make enough sales,” he narrates.

Brian Wabwere, a workmate of Wanyama says seeing Wanyama failing to return to school reminds him of the time when his own parents failed to pay his school fees and he resorted to doing odd jobs to survive.

“I also failed to return to school because there was no money, and I stopped in S1. Seeing him breaks my heart because this is how our dreams all die,” he said.

Character

Mr Zakaliya Malima, a close friend of Wanyama, says it hurts him that despite being hardworking, honest and disciplined, Wanyama has dropped out of school.

“He is very bright, but it hurts me that there is no money for him to return to school to pursue his dream. He has been trying to save the little he gets to go back to school, but it’s not enough. He needs help,” he said.

In order to go back to school at St Edward SS, Wanyama needs about Shs350,000 which caters for fees for the day section, the uniform which consists of a shirt and a pair of trousers, as well as some scholastic materials.

Wanyama, however, is hopeful that one day, he will return to school to pursue his dream of becoming a veterinary doctor.

“I have not lost hope. I will continue to pray to God and work hard so that I can take myself to learn another profession, which I can afford if I fail to pursue that of the veterinary doctor,” he says.

What can be done

 In January, Educationist Fagil Mandy told Daily Monitor that there is need for specific interventions to the different categories of learners that are at the risk of dropping out of school.

“There are many reasons, some negative, others positive because some students could have acquired skills to survive on. We need to be clear about the actions we take about different cases. 

‘‘We need to look at the categories that are not coming to school. Some have lost relatives that were supporting them, some have learnt new skills, and some have got fed up of school because they found nothing very useful at school. To the pregnant girls, if you do not study each case, you will not be able to handle it. Each category should be studied and the solution based on their realities,” he said.

    According to Mandy, government needs to put in place community programmes to absorb those that will not resume school and further the skills during lockdown.

 “We need community programmes for those who will not come back to school, for example skilling projects. Skills and knowledge can be acquired outside of formal school,” he added.

NGO

Ms Bev Roberts, the director of programme development at Save the Children, a non-governmental organisation, said: “ Lets support pregnant girls and child mothers to get back to school. If your child is disabled or your neighbour’s, you can help them get back to school.”

Save the Children had earlier reported one in five children in fragile countries, including Uganda, had dropped out of school because of rising poverty, child marriage and child labour, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The agency also warned that those who return, but fail to catchup due to lost learning time and automatic promotion to the next class,  could also be lost. 

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