When COVID19 first surfaced in Wuhan, China nobody imagined that the virus would, in a blink of an eye, spread to every corner of the world. The virus caught the world off guard and has since infected around 9.3 million people and killed nearly half a million (at time of writing).
Uganda was one of the later nations to record cases of COVID19. The first case came on 22nd March 2020 when a 36 year old male returned from Dubai and was identified as infected by a temperature gun check at Entebbe airport. The cases have since spiked to over 797, although fortunately all of these have recovered.
In late March, Uganda announced a lockdown. Most of the economic activity came to a halt, and private and public sector workplaces closed. The lockdown saw education, tourism, internal trade and the informal sector, among others, forced to close. Consequently, millions of people were deprived of their livelihoods and locked into their homes as the government enforced a raft of directives under the Public Health Act.
Through this series of interviews, I sought to document the effects of the pandemic on Ugandan youths.
Kieran is a 12 year old pupil of Sir Apollo Kaggwa Primary School and recounts warm memories of the time before COVID19.
“I miss playing with my friends at school. I miss my teachers too.”
Young though he is, he is highly cognizant of the hefty costs incurred by his parents to support his educational endeavours.
“My parents paid too much school fees which has been wasted by covid.”
However, in learning to cope with this new normal, Kieran began to take online classes.
“My parents download for me online assignments which I do from 8am to 4pm. I later play with my siblings and watch TV with dad and the day closes.”
Kieran is grateful to the government for doing it’s best in combating the deadly virus, however he appeals to his teachers to be consistent in disbursing the class assignments amid the financial crisis they’re facing due to the delayed reopening of schools.
Christine is a College student in Kyambogo and a leader in the Uganda National Students Association. She expresses her dismay at how the new online mode of teaching is excluding marginalised students on low incomes.
“As a student, I can’t access all online content because I cannot afford a smartphone. COVID has badly hurt our school life to the point that by the time normalcy returns, our parents may not be able to afford school fees since the majority have been laid off from their workplaces.”
She worries about the stigmatisation of COVID positive students who may be discriminated against and isolated by their mates. She also adds that students may struggle to grasp the difficulties teachers have in dispensing their duties.
“It will be hard to cover everything in the syllabus. Even when teachers will rush to finish, students will hardly capture what we taught.”
Agatha is a student entrepreneur and a psychology graduate from Makerere University. She decries the sharp claws of COVID that have destructively dug into her private investment.
“As a business person, it’s hard for me to stock, the sales have shrinked, and reaching out to customers is hard due to high transport fares. […] However, this time has hatched intimacy with clients. Honesty is now existent. I sincerely speak to clients and tell them that I will or won’t manage to do this.”
The young entrepreneur urges the government to cut administrative costs and at least divert it into supporting innovative youths projects.
Alitubeera is a weather correspondent at the Entebbe meteorological station. The ruthless impact of the pandemic has led to cuts in her monthly pay.
“People now get half salaries: the lucky ones, jobs have been lost and livelihoods hardened with loans also piling.”
She however appeals to young people to try to be creative and adapt to the new normal.
“Work from home if you can, engage in farming and grow short term crops like vegetables,”
She lauds the government and NGOs for trying to support those suffering through the pandemic.
“I’m grateful to the government and NGOs that have reached out to the needy people in this time […] I’m thankful to the media too for sensitising the masses by teaching them about the virus, how to sanitise, social distance and so forth. I can’t leave out the medical frontline workers for the good work they’ve done.”