New Vision (Kampala)

27 February 2013

Uganda: I Still Ride a Boda With My Degree

Bruno Tukei, 37, earned his tuition fees by riding a borrowed motorcycle. He now boasts of a degree from Kyambogo University, write John Semakula and Henry Nsubuga

For three years, Bruno Tukei, 37, earned his tuition fees by riding a borrowed motorcycle from 6:00am to 4:00pm before going for evening class at Kyambogo University. In December 2012, he graduated with a degree in finance and accounting.

Tukei is a fighter. He has tried out various trades, including teaching, charcoal burning and fishing before settling to be a boda boda rider.

After graduating with a diploma in secondary education from Nkozi National Teacher's College in 1993, he was eager to secure a job as a teacher of history and christian religious education.

Tukei worked hard and taught beyond the official working hours despite the meagre pay.

Unfortunately, he suddenly lost the job when the school closed the A' level section which he taught, because the number of students had dwindled.

Tukei, who had then started a family, was stuck. He needed a serious source of income to sustain the family.

Braving the odds

Unlike children who can go back to their parents when they are stuck, Tukei could not. His parents were broke and instead expected help from him. They had been displaced from Teso by the insurgency that hit the region in 1987 after the National Resistance Army captured power. They settled in Namayingo district and were subjected to horrible poverty.

Tukei was picked up by a Good Samaritan who sponsored his education until S6 when he passed well and got a Government scholarship for a diploma in education.

With his hands tied after losing the job, Tukei resorted to charcoal burning and petty trade for over a year.

In burning charcoal, Tukei says he met more peace and freedom than what he found in the classroom where the pay was very small. Tukei would hire a forest and cut trees to make charcoal.

Together with his young wife Grace, also a diploma holder from Nkozi, they slept in the forest to ensure the charcoal they were burning was safe.

Working on the island

One day, the couple learnt about teaching opportunities in a Government aided school on Kalangala Islands. The job opportunities were in Bukasa SS. The couple chose to go to Kalangala and rejoin their profession.

They joined the headmistress who had just been promoted and posted to Kalangala. She is the one who had given them the job tip. But the Kalangala jobs were not as rosy as they had anticipated. On reaching the school, they discovered there were very few teachers so they had to teach more than one subject.

"We worked tirelessly. We were determined to convince the headmistress and parents that we were good and deserved the jobs," Tukei says.

The fruits of their efforts were realised at the end of the year when the school got its first-ever first grade.

The good performance excited the head teacher and parents. They promised to help the couple get on the Government payroll.

The Tukeis were told to fill a chain of forms but the process did not materialise. One day as they were still waiting to hear from the Ministry of Education, new teachers were posted to the school.

With all that the couple had gone through in the teaching profession, the Tukeis chose to abandon teaching again and venture into fishing and charcoal burning.

They worked hand in hand in their new areas of work. He would go out in the night to fish while Grace smoked the fish.

Back to the mainland

In 2008, the Tukeis had savings of sh370,000 from their business and chose to relocate from the Islands to the mainland. They settled in Seeta town, Mukono.

The couple's beginning at Seeta was very tough. They first stayed at a friend's home as they mobilised funds to rent their own house.

Later, Tukei got an old motorcycle which belonged to one of his in-laws and decided to venture into the boda boda business. At first he had no stage and struggled to find one.

He would work day and night and after two months, Tukei had saved about sh900,000. The couple moved into a rented a house in Seeta.

To-date, Tukei lives in a rented house in Ggwafu, Seeta, but they have dreams of building their own.

In 2009, Tukei went for further studies.

Every evening he rode to Kyambogo University for studies and after attending classes at about 9:30pm, he would get back to Seeta to resume the bodaboda business.

In December 2012, Tukei graduated with a degree in finance and accounting. On his graduation party, Tukei also wedded Grace at Namilyango Catholic Church in Mukono in recognition of her perseverance.

Though Tukei has not yet got a job, he greatly thanks God for his achievement. He will continue riding the boda boda until he gets or creates another job. His advice to graduates is "never despise a job."

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