COVID lockdown in a foreign country
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/07/covid-lockdown-in-a-foreign-country/
By Maxy Magella Abenaitwe
The COVID-19 shutdown of Ugandan education has halted career-building knowledge and skills for 9,000 Uganda Christian University (UCU) students. The stories of students returning home or stuck a few hours away and picking up odd jobs and doing manual labor to get food instead of engaging in their studies are common. The lesser-known stories involve UCU’s students from countries outside of Uganda. Since mid-March 2020, international students have been stuck inside Uganda’s closed borders. Some wondered how they could survive a day in a foreign country with no relatives, the added language barrier and poor knowledge of how to get around.
These are two such stories – of Eziuzo Chizoba from Nigeria and Rogers Moras of South Sudan.
Eziuzo Chizoba – Nigeria
Eziuzo Chizoba, a second year Nigerian student of governance and international relations could not imagine how hard life would get if not for the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Ezekiel Kolawole, her host family. To Chizoba, it is not just a roof over her head but a life-transforming encounter.
From her host mother’s girl talks about Christ centeredness, saving capital for future purposes and premarital sex, Chizoba has made resolutions to polish her spiritual, academic and physical life. She now knows that she must build her future today if she must give back to a society that has shown her so much kindness.
“I have made up my mind to be a giver,” Chizoba says. “But in order to do this, I must first work on myself. Mother Ruth Kolawole always says that giving is a medicine for prosperity.”
She adds that her ambition for making money has grown. Chizoba looks at every aspect of life as an opportunity to earn a living. For example, she vended sweets in student hostels when she had travelled back to check on her property in Mukono. Chizoba earned $9(Shs32000) every time she sold off a tin of candy initially purchased at $4.5(Shs16000). She hopes to carry on with the business once studies resume.
In one bid to build herself, Chizoba deactivated some of her Facebook pages. She realized she had spent too much time on social media.
“I feel everything I do should have a positive impact on society and on me,” she said. “If it is a Facebook account, I need it to have motivating content. That’s why I intend to resume social media interactions only when I have something (significant) to offer.”
In the lockdown and without university classes, she also mastered cooking. She perfected various delicious dishes and snacks like plantain chips, pizza and chicken soup.
Rogers Moras – South Sudan
By end of October this year, Rogers Moras, a South Sudanese refugee student at Uganda Christian University was expected to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Procurement and Logistics Managment. To Moras, graduating was a free ticket back home – to reunite with his family in South Sudan and establish himself with quality employment. Unfortunately with the continued lockdown of academic institutions, Moras might not graduate soon.
“Uganda is a very beautiful country,” he said. “I enjoy being here. But I look forward to getting back home because I need to contribute to the growth of my country. Additionally, that it is where I belong.”
With the initial lockdown notice, Moras decided not to go home because of the high cost of travel and because he believed “the situation could settle within the thirty two days as per the (Ugandan) Presidential address.”
Thus, in addition to the financial and academic strains for all university students, as an international student, Moras suffers added despair with lack of socialization in a different country.
Despite difficulties, however, Moras has used the quarantine period to master skills such as baking vegetable rolex. He hopes to put up a rolex business around campus as soon as the university reopens.
Moras also has adopted a reading culture for purposes of self-improvement and stress management.
“Books help me get over stress and rebuild my hope,” he said. “A novel like ‘Becoming: Michelle Obama’ helped me understand that I choose how I see the world and that, my happiness depends on me. If borders are never opened, my life must go on even in a foreign country.”
Unable to access a gym, Moras has improvised ways to stay strong and healthy. He has developed self-made weights of two jerricans filled with wet sand and joined by a stick. He also jogs and climbs Ankhra hill in Mukono.
Lockdown has taught Moras to build relations with productive people, engaging in activities like debates and trade fairs.
He says: “I have vowed to live my life as if the present day was my last because I cannot be sure of what tomorrow holds for me.”
The writer of this article, Maxy Magella Abenaitwe, is a 2018 graduate of Uganda Christian University with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication. Before the lockdown, she was an intern for the UCU Standard newspaper.
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