When Uganda Registered It’s First Case…

By Mary Babirye

Before Uganda recorded its very first COVID 19, case, I had never taken the outbreak as serious as it was. The only time I considered it deadly was when I watched news on CNN, Aljazeera or BBC World News and saw how people were dying in European countries. However, when we got our first case, it dawned on me and I think on most Ugandans that we had to actively participate in the fight against the virus simply because it was now here. We had bought a very tiny bottle of sanitizer at home that we paid less attention to before the country recorded its first case and I also keep asking for the price of face masks every time I went to our nearby pharmacy without actually buying any, but after the news of the first case, I woke up to the reality of the outbreak and so did our entire family.  I went and bought a slightly bigger bottle of sanitizer, a five little jerry can of liquid soap the following day but failed to buy the face masks because of the increase in prices for them at that time. I should say that COVID 19 became so real after knowing that we as Ugandans could also contract the disease and as a result, it changed our lifestyle as we adopted new preventive measures like frequently washing our hands, using alcohol-based sanitizers on our hands and practicing social distancing to stop the spread of the virus.

The Lockdown and It’s Effects

Before the lockdown, I was working on a project that was aimed at providing internet / Wi- Fi connection to organizations and companies with a group of people but due to the lockdown, we were unable to push through with our work and so lost some clients. Since the lockdown affected almost all sectors of our economy, some of our clients too were affected. In addition to that, my Art and Craft business was also affected by the lockdown. I had to close the shop and probably think of other ways to market and sell my products.  I then started using my online platforms so that I could get one or two people that were interested in buying some of my products. I had also planned to go to Kenya and purchase some more African products, but I could not push through with my plans due to the lockdown and fear of contracting the disease.

While at home, I had so much time that I used to think of possible ways to earn money while working from home, carried out some research on things that can be made from home and later sold to people that needed them and later found out that some of the things that can made from anywhere are actually things that require skills that we despise. This made me realize how important it is for one to have a skill irrespective of their education and career path.

What Should Government Do?

In line with having better medical services delivered to the people in all parts of the country, I think the government should construct hospitals/ medical facilities in at least every sub-county of a district with housing facilities for medical personnel’s so that they are able to stay near these hospitals and be available whenever they are needed especially during times of crisis like now when the country is faced with a pandemic. The government should also train more doctors and provide incentives for them to encourage them to work in any part of the country. Free accommodation and an increase in their allowances could encourage doctors to work anywhere in the country even in rural areas.

The government should also put more emphasis on agriculture by providing seeds, garden tools, fertilizers or any other machinery to farmers and to those that want to start farming so that they are encouraged to carry out agriculture. Apart from providing all the necessary equipment and ready market for the agricultural produce, the government and the leaders should also encourage the young people to embrace agriculture right away from school by stopping practices that portray agriculture as a dirty occupation or one for people that are not educated. Some schools’ worst punishment for their students is to go and dig, weed gardens, clean kraals, or even harvest some crops.

If the government does not promote Agriculture as an important aspect of our lives and stop such practices in schools, then young people will continue to shun agricultural activities even as they grow up.  The government should tell teachers to teach students how to do farming in a  way that is normal so that they are encouraged to carry it on in the future knowing that it is for the betterment of our country instead of giving them punishments that portray agriculture as a curse in the country. I also think that one of the compulsory subjects in our schools should be Agriculture and it should be more practical than theoretical because it has been so evident during this lockdown like never before that people cannot live without food.

The internet, social media, talents, and skills have also stood out so much during this lockdown and I think the government should promote them so that people become more self-reliant like some have been even in this period.   The government should encourage schools to promote children’s talents and teach them different skills that are more practical and allow students to work even before they are employed. There is also a need for the government to promote the use of the internet, technology, and social media platforms by most people in the country by reducing the cost of the internet and encouraging schools to embrace the use of computers and technology while teaching students.