The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused devastating effects to millions of children and youth across the world. At the height of the pandemic, nearly 90% of students were affected by the closure of Schools and Tertiary Institutions (UNESCO, April 2020). In an effort to control the spread of the second wave of COVID-19 in Uganda, the Government announced a national lock down, shut down all learning institutions and declared curfew. As a result many students were left stranded in various schools.
At Makerere University Business School (MUBs), over 280 students both Ugandan and foreign were left stranded in hostels due to high transport fares both within and outside Uganda, uncertainty of re-opening of learning institutions, some were undergoing industrial training and others infected by COVID-19 and didn’t want to infect family members. As a result, the students ran out of food supplies and other basic necessities as their parents were unable to support them adequately due to loss of family incomes and unemployment occasioned by the pandemic.
In light of this, FAWE Uganda reached out to the stranded students/youth at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) with relief food items including; rice, sugar, soap, cooking oil & sanitary towels for the young ladies. The objective was to support and enable them go through the difficult times in addition to saving them from different temptations .i.e. using wrong means like prostitution to get help, especially for the girls. The students had earlier petitioned Government to include them on the list of vulnerable Ugandans who were to receive cash tokens during lockdown, although their plea did not yield any positive results.
Ms. Susan Opok Tumusiime, the FAWE Uganda Executive Director said that, “MUBS has been a great partner of FAWE Uganda and we are happy to be here today. The food distribution was informed by the national study we conducted, that revealed a majority of children – girls were lured into early sex during this period due to lack of basic needs including food and sanitary towels. This has led to high cases of teenage pregnancy, early child marriages and sexually transmitted infections among young people. We therefore, could not afford to look on, we had to take action and do whatever we could to save the situation and avoid a repeat of what is happening to girls in different parts of the country.”
While receiving the items, Prof. Moses Muhwezi, the MUBS Deputy Principal said, “As an institution we were aware of the students’ needs, as it was brought to our attention by their leaders. The students stayed around for different reasons, some were doing internship, others didn’t have enough transport to take them home as the decision to close learning institutions was abrupt and transport costs skyrocketed right away, and the rest were COVID-19 positive, they did not want to return and infect their families. The situation has been very difficult; they did not have food and other necessities. We are glad that FAWE Uganda responded positively to our cry.”
MUBS Guild President, Ogwang Robinson appreciated FAWE Uganda for coming to their rescue. “The situation has been very difficult as students ran out of food supplies. Many have been approaching us for help but we had not yet received any form of support from anyone. Their parents could not support them fully because of the effects of the pandemic on their incomes as many have lost jobs and businesses collapsed. We have previously reached out to different stakeholders including Government for support but they have not responded yet. I thank FAWE Uganda for donating the different relief items to students; they are too paying tuition for some students here and we appreciate them for their continued support. I call upon other organizations including private sector to come in and support us since we still have many students without food.”
According to students, the situation has been terrible. Some of them moved from having three meals a day to two and one. “Some of us had to shift from our hostels and start staying like four in one room. We now share meals and eat once a day; there’s no money, the economy is closed and you can’t even get a job anywhere. Most of our parents were locked-up at home, they are not working and are unable to support us fully.” Circumstances have been much worse for female students as many could not even afford to buy sanitary towels for themselves.