Kampala -A 27-year-old single mother of four is having a new outlook to life, years after she dropped out of school to get married.
Josephine Takali was 17 years when dropped out of school in Kidongoole Seed Secondary School in Bukedea district after conceiving. She says that since she was struggling to raise tuition, abandoning school and settling for marriage sounded a better idea for her at the time.
But she didn’t give up her dream of, one day, going back to school. In February this year, more than 10 years after abandoning school, Takali enrolled for a Tailoring and Design course in Nalukolongo, Kampala under the Presidential Initiative on Skilling the Girl Child.
The initiative is a brainchild of President Yoweri Museveni launched in June 2017 to help young and disadvantaged girls attain vocational skills. It is meant to reduce unemployment rates of youthful girls by equipping the girls with skills in baking, tailoring, weaving, shoe-making and hair-dressing. Those who graduate are to be helped with start-up small businesses which can later grow to employ others.
On August 17 this year, Takali was one of the hundreds of young ladies dressed in yellow and black graduation gowns on their graduation day at Kololo Independence Grounds.
"I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the President of Uganda His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for the support he gives the girl child," she said.
Just like any rural based girl who is prone to early marriage, Takali is not any different. Ignorance, peer pressure and poverty are some of the reasons the then 17-year-old cited to opt for early marriage. She however says the burden of parenting four boys and rejection by the father of her children became hard to bear.
Two years ago, after giving birth to fourth child, the man who made her abandon school left her for another woman. Takali's only desire was to find a way back to school and this prayer seems to have been answered this year.
On getting the information about the Presidential program to skill the girl child, she travelled from Kapchorwa district, where she had relocated, to Kampala for the first time in her life.
She narrates how on several occasions she got lost or misdirected on her way to school. “I came to Wandegeya Market in Kampala where I was told to go and register. I was later told to go to Mutundwe but I didn’t know the directions to the place,” she says.
She faced other social challenges such as language barrier and traffic jam in a city where almost everything was new to her.
Once back in school in February, Takali chose Tailoring and Design because of the scarcity of well trained tailors in Kapchorwa.
“Tailoring is a good business for me since there are few tailors in Kapchorwa. It will help me earn income and provide basic needs for my family,” Takali says.
Each of the graduates is to be given equipment and one million Ugandan shillings that Takali hopes to invest in her tailoring business. This week, Takali received the money but she is still waiting for the equipment.
One of her friends, Marion Asiimwe, appreciated Takali’s attitude during training.
"One would see the passion Josephine had in class," she said.
Takali calls upon all the girls who have heard about this opportunity to take it up for every woman deserves to be independent. "I am not the most educated woman, but I am a graduate and I am glad I have where to start earning income from. At least I will be able to improve my family's standard of living," she says.
But Takali has one worry. After getting information that she had gone back to school and was about to receive money, the father of her children, whose name she declines to reveal, called her. “He called and said I should give him the money for better planning and management. But I already have my own plans,” she says.