Mum’s illness forced me out of school

Albert Elungat (right) and his mother Anna Alungat  sort vegetables at their home in in Olupe Village, Ngariam Sub-county, Katakwi District early this week. PHOTO | SIMON PETER EMWAMU

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 fourth instalment of the series, Shattered Dreams, Albert Elungat, shares why he dropped out of school after Senior Four following his mother’s sickness.

Two small huts stand fairly far apart from each other in the homestead of Anna Alungat in Olupe Village, Ngariam Sub-county, Katakwi District.

It is here on a misty Friday afternoon that I meet Alungat and her son, Albert Elungat, 20, plucking green vegetables for a day’s meal.

The setup of their home is enough to explain the humble life Alungat and her children live. She is a single mother of five children, and she says she has felt the brunt of raising her children single-handedly.

Elungat, a Senior Four dropout, tells me that their mother’s struggle is something they have lived to appreciate, because she is a humble person and has done all she can as a single mother to raise them.

When Elungat’s mother broke the sad news that he would not be able to join Senior Five because she had no money to pay his school fees, it was not a surprise to him. He has grown to watch her toil just because their father, who is still alive, has not been there for them.

“We have toiled throughout with our mother, doing every kind of petty work in the village to make ends meet,” Elungat, a former student of Fr Kegan Secondary School, Ngora District, says.

Prior to the Covid-19 lockdown and the subsequent illness that almost grounded his mother, Elungat says she had some small businesses but the spell of bad health during the lockdown stripped her of her capital as all the money was diverted towards treatment.

“When she told me she couldn’t afford to maintain all of us at school for A-Level, I didn’t worry much because I know how humble our home is,” Elungat explains.

Elungat adds that when the government reopened schools on January 10, his brother, Joel Okol, joined Mukura Memorial Secondary Scholl in Ngora District for his A-Level. 

“For me, I have remained home, doing all sorts of odd jobs to make ends meet. Our mother has nothing much to do, she is struggling to find money to resume her business but has not been successful,” he explains.

Elungat, however, still bears some hope that irrespective of the current situation he finds himself in, he will attain his ambition of becoming a teacher.

To raise fees for Okol, Elungat adds that their mother has to hire gardens to grow crops, because their father has not given them any land for farming.

“In her state, raising Shs400,000 every term for my other brother is a mountain to climb,” he reveals.

The Senior Four dropout says to be able to get back to school, he will require at least Shs700,000 for the first term for A-Level. 

“This could probably happen next year, now that I have missed the first term already,” he admitted.

Elungat adds that among other scholastic materials, he needs text books, exercise books and pens.

Alungat says one thing that makes her happy, irrespective of their current financial status, is that her children are humble and know how to work for their survival.

“If it was not for the sickness that almost grounded me during the two-year-Covid-lockdown, both my two boys would be at school,” she says, adding, “That business used to enable me get simple loans from a savings group to pay fees. When the business was shattered as a result of sickness, it meant that I couldn’t afford to have both children in school.”

She says she sat them down and resolved that one of them would have to remain home for some time because as a single mother, with hardly any other serious source of income, she could not manage to pay for both of them.

The mother of five says because of the current economic hardships, her other three children left home to go and make ends meet as casual labourers elsewhere.

Alungat adds that one of the problems that has seen her struggle is that in 2017, her eight heads of cattle were stolen by suspected Karimojong warriors.

“Under normal circumstances, I would be now having more than eight cows, which would be my source of livelihood.”

To keep her family going, Elungat says she does subsistence farming from which she gets food for her family and in case of good harvest, she sells some.

Elungat, who sat for O-Level exams in 2020, and passed in second grade, says to avoid peer group pressure, he has limited himself to staying at home and reciting his rosary to keep his faith strong and widen his belief that perhaps someday, a miracle could work out for him to return to school.

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