Seven-year-old stares at bleak future after Covid

Alex Kamya

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 sixteenth installment of our continuing series, Shattered Dreams, we bring you the story of a seven-year-old boy, whose sick mother is unable to take him to school. He has resorted to digging in people’s gardens for a fee.

“I feel bad seeing other people’s children going to school while mine is here at home doing nothing,” Ms Ritah Nalwadda, the mother of seven-year-old Alex Kamya, says.

Ms Nalwadda, a resident of Nalumunye, Wakiso District, says her son’s dream of going to school seems close to impossible ever since the closure of schools due to Covid-19.

In March 2020, President Museveni ordered the closure of primary and secondary schools, universities, and other institutions of learning as a way of curbing the spread of Covid-19.

According to a report by Unicef, Uganda was the country in Africa that closed schools for the longest time, close to two years. When the education institutions finally opened, a report by the National Planning Authority compiled in August 2021 revealed that 30 percent (4.5 million) of an estimated 15 million learners in the country would drop out.

Ms Nalwadda says her son was set to start school after the Covid-19 lockdown.

She hoped he would join Primary One at Sandwe Church of Uganda, Nalumunye, where the fees is Shs100,000 per term, and caters for school fees and other requirements.

However, Kamya was unable to start school because Nalwadda had no money after failing ill, a condition that stops her from doing strenuous work.

Nalwadda adds that like any other woman, she loves to work hard and would want take her child to school but the medical condition has prevented this.

She had the illness before the lockdown happened but accessing medical care during the period was difficult hence worsening the condition.

“I want to work for my children but I can’t because I am sick. Every time I try to do something, I faint,” she says.

Whatever little money Nalwadda is able to get goes towards paying for her medical bills.

And the people she was banking on to help her could not assist her as most were affected by the lockdown.

“I hoped that I could get help from people but everyone I reached out to said they could not help because they were at home and not working,” says a teary Nalwadda.


Resorting to work

While other children are at school, Kamya is forced to dig in other people’s gardens so that he can get money for food. On a good day when he gets at least Shs15,000, he gives that to his mother to buy medicine.

Even he is unable to study, Kamya still aspires to become a doctor.

“I have never gone to school and I have nothing to do about it right now because I know there is no money. In the future, when I get the chance, I want to become a doctor,” he says.

Ms Aceng Flavia, a teacher at Our Lady of Good Counsel Gayaza, says at their school, many of the students didn’t return because some lost their parents due to Covid and they have no one to pay their school fees.

She adds that even for those that were able to bring children to school, meeting the school fees bill is still a problem since they are unable to pay the full amount.

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