A year after graduating with an Honours Bachelors in Economics I find myself very lucky but very unlucky at the same time. I’m one of those Lucky Youths in Uganda today who have been able to attain University Education in a country where 2.5m Pupils enroll for Primary one but only about 0.8m of them complete Primary seven (and only 19% of them can manage a first grade); a country where close to a million Students enroll for senior one but only 40,000 graduate from University. In the same measure, I’m very unlucky to have been born and raised under a national leadership that does not care when 83% of its Youths can’t find a job in the land they truly and proudly call home. If you have spent 16 years in school and graduated from a college or University in Uganda and you have not found a paying job, you will attest to the facts of a life many of us are living in the city.
Going back to our Birth places (Villages)
The major reason why for about 5 years now, an average 2.5m Pupils start school but only 40,000 complete their educational journey with a college certificate is because of poverty. When you are lucky to complete college education, it is more likely that the tuition you paid in your last semester at University was from the sale of the remaining piece of land that your ancestors ever owned. By your time of graduation, your parents own only a piece of land where your mud and ruttle house, kitchen and latrine sit. In such a situation, you can never go back to the village to join your parents who till your neighbour’s land just to be paid less than a dollar for six or eight hours of labour. Your parents too will constantly remind you of your siblings’ school fees which you can never raise if you are going to work for Ug Shs 2,000 on a day translating to Ug Shs 60,000 a months. The most realistic solution is to walk around Kampala seeking a job that will pay you about Ug Shs 300,000 (about $120), from which you can afford rent and food but also save about Ug Shs 100,000 ($40) to send to your parents for your siblings school fees.
In addition, I for one, in any case whatsoever can never go back to my Village to compete with my peasant parents for the remaining bit of their land. My parents today are poorer because they chose to give me an Education and I can never pay back by going to them again to seek for survival. If the education I have attained is not enough to help me survive on my own, then I owe my parents an apology, for they wasted their time and money. Having justified why me and many others choose to seek survival in and around Kampala, permit me, take you through how we survive.
When you have no job, you definitely have no income and therefore the choice of residence is not influenced by the quality of the residence but the cost. Many of us reside in an 8sq feet single room in one of the many shanty Kampala slums, because it is more affordable. Because of the slum environment and the risks such an environment poses, you are often forced to make friends with everyone in the neighbourhood not just for security purposes but because you might need a spoon of sugar from one them, the next day when you have to drink your supper. You will also join local slum groups that meet quite often to pray to God to keep away the rains and the resultant floods or to contribute for a neighbour’s sick kid or even contribute for your female neighbour to have an abortion because she is not sure of the exact slum boy who got her pregnant.
Meals and Feeding
For any Unemployed Graduate, one meal a day is as normal as breathing in oxygen and out carbon dioxide. But wait a minute, what actually constitutes a meal for this class of Ugandan citizens? To save my employed readers from thinking, I’m talking about the best ever export from Busoga – A Rolex. Again for my non-Ugandan readers, we don’t have watches for a meal but a Rolex here refers to a combination of fried eggs and Chapatti. There are many advantages associated with having a Rolex and for us; the biggest advantage is not the high protein and Carbohydrate content but actually the fact that it is the only satisfying meal in Kampala that comes at less than a dollar. On a quick calculation, considering that we have only one meal of a Rolex daily, one spends just $24 on meals in a month. Yes, you read that right; $24 is what we spend on feeding in a month in a country whose economy is rumoured to be growing at a rate of 5.6%.
NOTE: as I type this, I’m not sure I will be able to afford a Rolex today.
Every morning I wake up and say a prayer, I’m cautious not to miss the Lord’s Prayer and while I recite the Lord’s Prayer I pause a little, with eyes set to the heaven (or rather rusty iron sheets that provide for my roof) and arms stretched out, I emphasise the words “Give us our Daily Bread”. It is always a crucial part of prayer because even when I go to bed every night, I worry about my ‘Daily Bread’ for the day that will follow. Many of us will spend the day trekking the streets and reading all public notices in a rather desperate hunt for a paying job. At the end of a fruitless job hunt, I retreat to my room, boil water mix it with tea and a few crystals of sugar before I hit Kasadha’s Rolex stall to grab my only meal of the day. After swallowing a Rolex, I will then rush to stand in a strategic position outside the nearest electronics shop to catch a glimpse of the day’s news. As we watch the news, me a Mukiga must explain to my majority Baganda slum neighbours with whom I watch the Luganda bulletin, whether it is Kayihura or the Police celebrating 100 years or why Government does not provide transport for Pilgrims going to Namugongo for Martyrs day Celebrations and recently a question I have not given an answer for; what it takes to be an NRM youth. In fact because, I explain to them in my not so good Luganda what comes out more articulately in a Luganda Bulletin, I’m now favoured for the Position of Councilor in the area and even today many of them have forgotten y name and call me councilor. Poor me, I’m not even a vote here. I use the rest of the evening to discuss with friends (Tweeps) on Twitter before I Pray and struggle to catch sleep.
The worst part of being Unemployed is when you are treated like cheap labour. If you are an employer out there, please learn to respect us who seek to help you achieve your dreams. By deciding to work for you, we set aside our dreams and instead offer to help you chase yours but it doesn’t make us less human or less of dreamers. If you spend Ug Shs 50,000 on fuel, 30,000 on Breakfast, 50,000 on Lunch, 100,000 on beer and another 50,000 on dinner everyday (a total of Ug Shs 280,000 or $112), you should never be so mean to suggest that any of your employees; any of the guys who help you chase your dream should earn as low as Ug Shs 200,000 ($80) a months. If in a day, you spend on yourself more than what you pay a graduate you employ in a month, be sure the darkest and Hottest corner of hell has been reserved for you, in fact ‘nkukolimidde’
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Till I get my only meal of the day, say a Prayer for me.