Lawrence – The computer Whiz Kid

by ACT

  • Posted on June 5, 2020

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Lawrence, eating his one meal a day in lockdown in Kampala (2020)

After 3 months under strict lockdown, Uganda, one of Africa’s many landlocked nations has started lifting its restrictions. Citizens living in the border region with neighbouring Rwanda fleeing the threat of conflict between the two nations, added to shortage of food due to shutdown of transport system and widespread poverty, have brought Kampala, the capital city to crisis point.

Lawrence Odenyo moved to Kampala last October to study computer science at the University of Kampala. In just his first term of the first year at university, he has won the prize for data collection and presentation. Lawrence started with a big bang. Coming from a village near Jinja in the east, the move to the densely populated, traffic choked but lively capital city was a big attraction and exposed him to a different, fast moving environment. But the excitement has been cut short by the covid-19 pandemic. His story of success and breakthrough into Kampala University IT community is on hold. It is currently being re-written as a story of survival during this time of covid-19 crisis.

Lawrence has been forced to leave his term-time accommodation at the university to return to his rural and isolated village, far from the conveniences needed to continue his studies. With time in his hand, he penned this article that took him back memory lane.

Lawrence is 24 years old and one of 6 children. He has 4 older siblings and a younger brother.  His father died of cancer in 2002 when he was six years old. Life was tough for the family. His mother had stayed home to look after the children and so had no means of income. His teenage older siblings went to work as farm hands and were paid with food from the farm.

Life became so hard his mother sent him to live with the local church pastor, in the hope that he will support him to go to school.

He was one of 5 other children sharing one room in the pastor and his wife’s 2 room home. Through the local church, ACT came to their support and sent him and the other children to school. Lawrence was 10 when he started primary school.

‘Before ACT my life was going nowhere. It was a daily challenge of wondering if there would be food to eat or would I ever be able to go to school.

He still remembers vividly the first day he went to school in his new school uniform, school shoes (his first ever pair) and holding his satchel, with pencils and crayons in it. It was a great experience and it made me feel so proud.  Prior to this, his earlier attempt at school in his poverty with no school uniform, worn out clothes and on bare foot was traumatic and resulted in bullying and a real fear. If this is what going to school meant, I didn’t want any of it.

I did very well at school, completed Primary 7 at Walukuba East Primary School in 2012 and passed to Goodheart Secondary School, Jinja and did my 6th form education at Jinja Senior Secondary School, where I sat the A-level exams at the end of 2018, with the results coming out in mid-2019. I did very well and gained admission to Kampala University. ACT has supported me all the way.

‘In Uganda, just 4% of the population have been able to access higher education. I am truly privileged.’

Before the pandemic I enjoyed a routine of study, attending a prayer group with friends and doing part-time work to supplement the support from ACT to pay for my student accommodation and for any extras I need.

He hopes that the lockdown will come to an end soon and a cure found for covid-19 so that he can return to Kampala to resume his studies. In the meantime he is helping at home in the village, he has no internet connection, and doing all he can to keep his mind alert. Lawrence hopes to complete his degree in 2022. We at ACT are determined to help him to get there.

ACT is for the children otherwise forgotten

With your support we can help many more children like Lawrence to reach their potential in life. There are many children requiring a sponsor. Please consider sponsoring a child with ACT or make a donation to help us, particularly during this difficult time? Your help means a lot to us. Please click here.

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