How Children of Female Market Vendors have failed to go back to Schools, suffering in Lockdown

By Gladys Kigozi


It is every student’s preference to study and graduate from the university of his or her choice and become someone important in society. However, for the female vendors’ children working in daily open markets, the Covid-19 lockdown imposed by the government on March 18, 2020, has not left them the same. A similar lockdown was reinstituted by government on June 18, 2021, restricting female vendors to sleeping in the markets. The government dictated that to contain the spread of Covid-19, whoever was done with the day’s work, would not be allowed to return home without meeting their families.


At Kame Valley Market in Mukono Central Division, the experience of sleeping in the market for months left many vendors’ children with many scars. It was even worse for the female vendors who had to abandon their husbands and children at home to sleep over in the markets.

Mariam Awazilira, 44, a resident of Kikooza Village in Mukono Municipality told this reporter that sleeping in the market nearly cost her marriage. During the lockdown, Awazilira could not find possible means of checking on her children and husband, which infuriated the latter.

Her husband no longer provides for the family, saying that she should cater for everything, after all she made a lot of profits during the lockdown. The communication between Awazilira and the husband has also hit a dead end for almost a full year.

“When the government announced the reporting dates for children to go back to schools, I tried to sweet talk my husband to convince him to pay the school fees for our four children and to buy other scholastic materials but he ignored me. To date, the children have failed to report back to school,” she said.

Awazilira is worried that the lockdown could have ended her children’s education. “Before the lockdown, he was supportive to us,” she said.

She added that the husband insists that she should pay school fees for their children yet she has no even a single coin.

But Awazilira is not alone. Many other women who work in the markets have failed to raise school fees for their children too.

Annet Fabame, 45, a single mother of three also said the lockdown affected her so much.

By the time the lockdown was announced, she had just given birth and could not risk sleeping in the market with her two-weeks-old baby. She had no option but to stay at home and risk forcing her 16-year-old daughter to sleep in the market in order to support the family.

Her daughter, Lillian Nakagu, a Senior Three student of Mazolidi College in Nakaseke District, narrated that she had to work day and night and slept in their canteen alone. She said she neither had time to read her books nor had food to eat.

She said that the lockdown paralysed her mother’s business so much that it failed to recover almost a year later.

“I have failed to report back to school due to lack of school fees. I had a sponsor but since the outbreak of Covid-19, I lost contact with her and l am so worried that she might have died. I have tried to call her but no one picks my calls,” she said.

She added: My dream is to become a doctor but I have totally failed to go back to school because my mother cannot afford to pay my school fees. I am appealing to all well wishers to come to my rescue and support me,” she pleaded.

Nakagu said that she helps her mother to run their business of selling juices but life is still very hard and that sometimes they still sleep on empty stomachs, yet her four siblings have never reported back to school too.

Sandra Namuli, a mother of two students at Bishop’s Senior Secondary School in Mukono District says Covid-19 affected her restaurant and bar businesses so much that they failed revive after the outbreak of the pandemic. She has appealed to school administration to be considerate to some parents like her, who do not have the capacity to meet the new requirements set up by schools if children are to continue with their education.

The vice chairperson of Kame Market, Mr Robert Kigozi, says indeed Covid-19 greatly impacted their businesses, leaving many of his members with broken marriages and many children dropping out of school.

He says for the broken marriages that later affect children, they have tried their best to reconcile and mend the families but when the condition fails to normalize, they refer such families to the district probation office or to police for advice.

Financially, he says that their hands, as the leadership, are tied and cannot help out their members because Covid did not only affect females but men too. He appealed to the government for a bailout to the female vendors so they can support their families and be able to take their children back to school.

The Bishop’s Senior Secondary School head teacher, Mr Robert Kyakulaga, says: “Parents should find ways of paying the required school fees and other scholastic materials to fit in school’s programs set after the outbreak of the pandemic.”

The Mukono District Probation Officer, Mr James Ntege, declined to comment on the matter, saying he is not authorized to speak to the media. The officer in-charge of Child and Family Protection Unit at Mukono Police Station, Ms Ruth Nabirye, also declined to comment on this topic over the same reasons of not being authorized to speak to the media.

However, the Mukono Diocesan Education Officer, Rev Geoffrey Kagoye, says changes were made in all academic institutions at all levels but that they are ensuring that parents do adhere to the changes to have their children back in schools.

When contacted the Mukono District Education Officer, Mr Rashid Kikomeko, for a comment, our efforts were futile he was not in office and did not answer our repeated phone calls.

According to Oxfam, a total of “15 million learners in the country have been affected” as a result of Covid-19 measures “including 600,000 refugee children”.

In 1995, Uganda enshrined the Right to Education in the Constitution Article 30 which stipulates: “All persons have a right to education.” The Parliament in 2008 also passed the Education Bill into law whose objectives among others include: “To give full effect the Universal Education Policy of Government.” With the emergence of Covid-19 that has seen institution of tough measures that have left many children dropping out of school, it is certain that such a right has greatly been impacted.

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