By Jessica Sabano
Several children of school-going age in Mukono District have abandoned home learning and resorted to income-generating activities in quest for better standards of living during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Rosemary Namuddu, 9, along with her six-year-old sibling vend pineapples and vegetables in Lwanyonyi Village, Nama Sub-county.
They said: ‘‘We used to study via television during the first lockdown but since our parents lost jobs, we abandoned home learning and went to a neighbor who employed us.’’
These two children, both pupils at Lwanyonyi Primary School in Mukono District, noted that at some point- they only feed on porridge all day.
“That’s why we decided to go hawking. We sell these items in both trading centers and villages as we move door-to-door. We earn Shs2, 000-4, 000 daily depending on what we have sold” they said.
Ms. Annet Namakula backed her children’s decision stating that: “I am a matron at a secondary school but I lost my job due to Covid-19. I welcomed my children’s idea of selling green vegetables and other items,” she said.
Ssali Magoba, 12, a pupil at St Francis Primary School, who was found washing motorcycles at a washing bay along Kampala-Jinja highway in Mukono Town, said: ‘‘It was a better alternative for me to look for money to help my parents whose businesses were affected.’’
For Ali Kizito,16, their television got a mechanical problem forcing him to look for income-generating activities at a washing bay where he earns Shs5,000-10,000 per day.
Primary teacher Alice Kigozi says these children are simply tired of staying home and that is why they resort to such activities.
‘‘With time, some children may become criminals or victims of crime. Since over 300,000 teachers are vaccinated, let the government reopen schools and put tough directives,” she said.
She added that there is no way a parent can refuse his or her children from getting after money when families are starved.
“I recently met my pupils fetching water at a construction site at Shs500 per jerrycan,” she said.
The Mukono District Education Officer, Mr. Rashid Kikomeko, is now warning parents against allowing children into infant labour.
“We have put up a team of inspectors and parish chiefs who are going to move in different areas identifying parents who have allowed their children to get into income-generating activities,” Mr. Kikomeko said.
He added that this team will sensitize and also help get these children back home and stop child labour in Mukono District.
Mr. Kikomeko further said parents should adhere to government changes and help their children study online until they reopen schools.
Education for the rich
Ms. Ruth Sekindi, Director Monitoring, and Inspections-Uganda Human Rights Commission said the social inequality has widened as children of the rich are studying online and those from poor families are out doing other activities.
“How many Ugandans can afford a smartphone, computer, or data bundles?” she asked.
Last week, President Museveni told the nation that only higher institutions will reopen on November 1 and other educational institutions will be granted resumption in January 2022 only after 4.8m people are vaccinated.
According to Oxfam, a total of 15 million learners including 600,000 refugee children have been affected by Covid-19 in Uganda.