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 this instalment of the series, Shattered Dreams, Maria Assumpta Namuli, shares the pain she has to go through to ensure her children go to school.
The smile seems far from Maria Assumpta Namuli’s face and it is evident that something is awfully wrong. That said, she is welcoming and does not heap whatever is disturbing her onto anyone.
Soft-spoken and calm, Namuli, a resident of Makindye, Kirundu Zone in Kampala is a mother of seven children aged between two and 16.
Namuli is saddled with the complete responsibility of taking care of all these children.
“I have no support because while I have a man in my life, he does not take care of the children or educate them. My biggest source of income was making and selling samosas. I supplemented this with washing clothes for other people. With the income from the two jobs, I took care of the children and educated them,” she narrates.
With a zest to see her children through school, before Covid-19 happened, Namuli went to Friends’ World Primary School, Wakiso, which not only gave her three older children a vacancy but also a bursary.
“The school fees was Shs500,000 for each child and at first, the bursary was Shs200,000 and then it increased to Shs250,000. With that, I was paying Shs900,000 at first, which later dropped to Shs750,000 every term. The mode of payment was that whatever I got, I took to the school,” she shares.
The younger children, meanwhile, studied at Uganda Martyrs Primary School and the agreement was that she makes and delivers samosas for the school canteen on a daily basis.
“At the end of the week, I got a receipt for delivered items. On a daily basis, I took samosas worth Shs10,000 to the school,” she narrates.
This arrangement worked well but with time, her health deteriorated when her chest started hurting.
“At the moment, I can no longer make samosas because the doctors advised me to stop using firewood, which I used as fuel. That is because I have been at it for seven years and the smoke from the stove made me develop asthma,” she says.
Namuli opted to concentrate on washing clothes but the onset of the lockdown in 2020 threw a spanner in the works, mangling up all the work opportunities. Consequently, there was barely money to spare, not even to ensure all the children returned to school when they reopened in January.
“When schools reopened, my only option was to get a loan to take them back then pay back as the term progressed. I got the loan through a friend, who got the money from a credit facility. While I am not so sure how much she borrowed [on her behalf], I only asked her to give me Shs500,000. I would then repay her Shs20,000 every week for 10 months,” she shares.
Namuli says she could not take the loan personally because she could not afford the many requirements for one to get the loan facility.
She also says she needed to work extra hard, which made it impossible for her to attend the many meetings that the loan schemes held for their clients.
“I took loans for the whole of 2021, and I am still paying the last one I took, where I have a balance of Shs80,000. While I no longer take loans, today, I am involved in a cash round where we are about 40 people and we make a contribution of Shs20,000 on a weekly basis. That is collected and given to one person per week,” she shares.
Another effect of the lockdown was that the school could no longer give her children bursaries.
“I started looking for another and, thankfully, got one at Charity for Africa’s Child in Nsambya Sharing Hall. However, the half bursaries then were starting from Shs300,000 onwards yet mine was Shs250,000. I thus got for the one who was joining secondary school and my contribution was Shs370,000. The two in primary each need Shs300,000; that totals to Shs970,000. Thankfully, along the way, one of the children in Primary One got placement at Lwagula Memorial School where he is on a full bursary,” she says.
Making samosas now is out of the picture and the earning from her other source of income – washing clothes, are not definite.
The peak moments are when the children are at school because then, she can wash for at least two or three clients in a day.
“Sometimes I earn Shs10,000 or Shs15,000 from a single client, with the highest so far being Shs25,000. I also have a small stall at home so that even when there are no clients, we can get some proceeds from it for food. Thankfully, the man helps me with rent,” she says.
While some of the children are studying, some are not in school, including one who is supposed to be in Primary One and another supposed to be in Top Class.
“These should have been in higher classes but when Covid-19 caused school closures, I did not want them to be promoted automatically hence asking that they remain in their current classes so they get a better understanding of what they should do,” she says.
With a bent head, Namuli says while she has managed to have some of the children go to school, she is not sure how they will finish this term.
“I do not have money that can start a business capable of taking care of them or pay their school fees,” she says.