“I stay with my sister at Kigarama Trading Centre, where she has a retail shop. I cannot afford the Shs400,000 for boarding so I chose day school, which is Shs80,000,” Amiina says adding: “Lunch at school costs Shs60,000 per term, which my mother and I cannot afford. In most cases I do not eat but wait until I return home in the evening.”
“My mother has been laying bricks for a long time and this is how all my other siblings have been able to go through school. So, despite the many challenges such as stigma, I am focused because I know what I want to be in future,” Amiina says.
Because she lays the bricks by the roadside, Amiina has had to endure stigma, especially from her peers in the village, although she also gets encouragement from the elders who say she will reap the fruits of her hard work.
“Many boys say I am ugly and dirty. Many girls my age isolate themselves from me, saying brick laying is for men and boys who have no future. However, I always tell them of my achievements such as the fact that my family has been able to build a house, from bricks I made,” she says.
Amiina also faces other challenges, including suffering from back pain since her job requires her to bend most of the time. However, she is determined and says nothing will deter her from achieving her goal.
A typical school day for Amiina starts at 5am. She opens her sister’s shop and cleans it before walking to school, about one kilometre away. She says during the first month of each term, her mother packs for her roasted maize or groundnuts which she carries to eat for lunch. During weekends, Amiina joins her mother in Iruhuura to make more bricks so that she can raise her upkeep, fees and buy scholastic materials.
Amiina says she will continue making bricks until she gets a better job which will enable her take care of her mother. “Since I perform well in sciences, especially Physics and Mathematics, I want to become a surgeon or an engineer,” she says.
Advice to other girls
Amiina says other girls should not feel sorry for themselves and wait around for handouts but work hard to make sure they secure a future for themselves. She advises against engaging in early sexual intercourse for money, saying this will only lead to unwanted pregnancies and diseases such as HIV/Aids.
She says her role models are her elder sisters, who studied nursing. “They advise me to follow in their footsteps and are always there to help me to face some of the challenges that they have gone through and overcome,” she adds.
“Government should help underprivileged girls, especially day scholars, by building affordable hostels inside all schools to cater for their housing needs,” Amiina says.
According to the 2015 National Service Delivery Survey, distance to school from the household is an influential factor in encouraging children to attend school and to increase new admissions. Information about distance to the nearest primary school is a useful indicator of children’s access to schooling.
A distance of three kilometres is considered acceptable by the Ministry of Education and Sports and is the target of the government. However, this distance seems to be longer for children who enroll in school at the target age of six years.
A daily school meal provides a strong incentive to send children to school and keep them there. It allows children to focus on their studies and helps to increase school enrolment and attendance, decrease drop-out rates, and improve cognitive abilities.
The same survey on “Provision of Lunch in Secondary Schools” found out that at national level, 87 per cent of the schools provided students with lunch at school whereas five per cent of schools reported that students go without lunch.
WHAT THEY SAY
Julia Orikiriza, mother
Amiina is one of 12 children in the family. She is very hard working and focused. She can make 2,000 bricks alone in less than a week and with the help of my other children, I managed to build a three-bedroom house in 2017 using bricks that they made.”
Elius Muhimbise, teacher “While many young women in Uganda, both graduates and youth, spend their free time idling, this 17-year-old engages in a job many think is for those who have failed in life. She should be proud because she is not only an inspiration to me but many people. Her bricks have not only been used to build a number of schools but also many houses in Kasenda Sub-county. I think such girls need to be identified and supported.”
Source: Felix Basime, Monitor Uganda