By Galiwango Nsubuga
By the end of February 2020, things at all universities in Uganda were so far so good. Lectures. Classwork tests. Part time hustles. Chilling out with the boys. Banging KB with the girls. Movies. Music in Hostels and residences. Social media. Memes. “We run twitter.” “We influence conversations.” Campaigns picking up momentum. “We are influencers.” All the creativity and fun that is born of campusers was bustling.
Amidst all, we were chasing The Big Dream — that day when. A Fresher who, with a full semester on their sleeve, had eventually grasped the vibe at campus. A second year fellow who knows all corners of the society, was now a mastermind at campus. The politically charged were readying themselves to run for guild office. Campaigns were in high gear. Oh, the Finalist that was singing “two months to go.” “Team No Retake.” “Freedom Square is calling” (For those at MUK and MUBS.)
Well, fate struck. Okay, one major thing happened – the stubborn COVID-19 visited our country. Almost all the magic paused. On March 18, the government directed us to go back home as part of the measures to curb the pandemic that has taken the world by storm.
At first, we thought the pause would go for only a month, as the government said. We were wrong. It is clocking three months and counting. In the mix, proposals to ensure some colleagues go back to school to finish their run. Now, a viral meme on Whatsapp status goes, “Dear finalists, am sorry to say but you shaved for nothing, stay home stay safe.”
Needless to say, in his latest address on COVID-19, President Museveni said we should continue waiting for another month. After this month, they will tell us what to do.
Since we started university, we have never rested like this. Even in the availability of numerous rib-cracking memes and Tik Tok videos, we have never been this bored. As the uncertainty on when we shall go back to school continues, we have no inspiration to read our books.
As the lockdown eases in different sectors, and as many people develop ways to ensure continual studying for our youngins in Primo and High School, we are at home on a pause. For second years, this would be time for internship. Most companies, however, have withdrawn internship programs this year.
The president in one of his addresses said we can afford to have children of the country at home for a year than risking their health in the name of schooling. In Luganda they say “Obulamu bwe bugagga,” (Life is wealth).
We don’t know where this will end. Kwegamba, we are there.
The government has, nonetheless, proposed Long Distance Learning as the best current alternative, but can we afford it? Hard times don’t hit hard on the prepared. But none of us was prepared for this. Are the lecturers equipped enough to develop study materials for long distancing learning? Universities like MUBS have e-learning platforms which is being used to share notes, but is this the case at every university? Are softcopy pamphlet notes enough for learning? Besides, can every student afford a laptop or a proper smart phone to study?
The biggest question is, my dear fellow campuser, are you going to count it a dead year in your life? Optimists will say “Nope!” Where the pessimist sees challenges and predicts doom, the optimist sees opportunity. We are born optimists as Africans.
Let’s look at the positives and forge a way forward as we wait for measures from our elders. A pause in school doesn’t necessarily mean a pause in life. We are growing. We ought to continue learning.
With this amount of time on our hands, this is the best time to look at the practical skills in your field. This is the time to analyse and know what you’re studying and the role it plays in the grand socio-economic system. This is the best time to think hard about your career. We are a lucky generation. Information is in abundance. With a simple google search on your smart phone, you can know so much about anything. The adage goes, “Information is Power.” The best candidate in an interview is seen by the information they possess about their field. Info is on our disposal. Just 10 minutes of study everyday can make huge difference after a period of time. That is the law of Compounding.
This is the best time to connect with professionals in your field. With a simple search on Twitter or Facebook, you can get in touch with so many would-be mentors in your field of study. This is the best time for associations at school to work. These are meant to supplement what is being taught in lecture rooms to grow its members professionally.
The Marketing Students Association of Makerere University has used this time to have different learning sessions among its members and other undergraduate students interested in Marketing. We are using our WhatsApp group to discuss on various facets in the field of Marketing. We come up with a topic like Branding, we present ideas, we argue and at the end, someone committed to learning will go away with something. We are in turn also training ourselves ‘soft’ inter-personal skills like order, negotiation and leadership.
As the lockdown eases our other step is bringing in experts—professional in the field—to talk to the students. We ensure it is non-academic as possible. That is the job of lecturers. We discuss what is happening in the field, the trends.
We have done this before in physical settings with big companies like Stanbic Bank. We want to test it online, with platforms most used by campusers like WhatsApp. More can be done. With a few constraints like lack of internet at all time, more ideas are being developed each day to ensure we keep learning.
As the great Martin Luther King said, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”
The writer is a second year student of B.sc. Marketing at MUBS and the president, Marketing Students Association of Makerere University. Twitter: @theNsubuga