11 year old girl Shamim Nampima is a P.6 pupil of Kyambogo Primary School. She’s quite a brilliant pupil, in the top quarter of her class of more than 100, over the last two terms scoring an average of 300 marks out of 400marks.
“I want to study all the way to university and become a medical doctor,” Nampiima says of her dreams for the future.
But the Kiwatule resident’s ordinary day is not like the ordinary day of most other P.6 children in city schools around Kampala. She wakes up in the morning, goes to school up to 4pm, and afterwards walks straight back to Kiwatule to engage in a money-generating income that will raise her school fees as well as contribute to the family’s livelihood.
That income-generating activity is vending avocado on her head around the greater Ntinda area. On a given evening you’re likely to find her, basket of avocados on head, walking through the neighbourhoods of Ntinda, Naalya, Kiwatule, Najjera, sometimes even as far as Kyaliwajjala. Looking for customers so she can go back home with some money to present to her grandmother who she stays with.
“I vend avocado till about 8.30 or 9pm and then go back home,” the little girl says, before adding when asked if she doesn’t fear walking back home alone in the night: “I am used so I am now fearless, and I have also learnt to watch out as I walk.”
And yet still, in spite of all that, the likelihood of going all the way through school isn’t so much, even in the young girl’s own eyes. Actually she’s presently spending most of her days at home because the Sh6,8850 she is supposed to pay at school is yet to be found, so on days when she’s not allowed in she returns home (her school is a UPE institution, but still pupils have to contribute something).
When she tells you of the situation back home, you realize that the financial challenges in Nampiima’s life shoot beyond just lack of school fees. Staying with her grandmother, she is one of eight children (all siblings and cousins) who live with the old woman in a one-roomed mud-and-wattle house that they rent in Kiwatule Central Zone (not far from St. Mbaaga Catholic Parish). These all take part in vending avocado in the evening after school, but the proceeds from the business are too little to support the family.
“Almost all the money we make from vending avocado goes on food, rent and treating Grandmother,” Nampiima reveals. “Grandmother is sick, she has some chronic illnesses that keep her buying drugs all the time.”