A final year student at Kyambogo University has learnt better to live off hand skill, than solely academics after picking lessons from an unpredictable nationwide lockdown in instituted in March last year.
The lockdown was to put in place as one of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic that has claimed more than five million lives globally. Some 3,200 of the deaths were in Uganda.
Joy Kutesakwe, who was in the final year of her Chemical Engineering course at the time of the lockdown, realized that she could sustainably earn a living from dressing people. Kutesakwe reveals that following the first two months of redundancy during the lockdown, she picked inspiration from a Facebook text of a lady who had learnt to make clothes for her children during the same time.
However, making crotchets with her hands as her initial venture was slow for Kutesakwe and she decided to venture into tailoring. First, she spent time watching tailoring tutorials on YouTube.
Through her persistence, she got a physical teacher who was already in the business to teach her with a sewing machine. Being the fast learner she is, in two months she had started selling clothes.
According to her, market in this kind of business has never been a challenge to her as her clients get her more customers whenever they put on the clothes she has made for them.
On top of earning a minimum of 200,000 Uganda Shilling a week, Kutesakwe has started attracting market for events’ attire which is more paying. Last month, she got an order to make maids’ dresses for a wedding function.
Kutesakwe, who also lost her job as a social worker among children due to school closure, has decided to make the most out of her hand skills as a she envisions having a fully established cloth making company in future.
Through savings from a part-time job she got at the end of last year, she bought her first sewing machine which she has since replaced with another.
Meanwhile, Kutesakwe who feels that she should have started this a long time ago, is using her experience as a platform to encourage other students to put their hands-on skills to work.
Gloria Kirabo, a classmate to Kutesakwe, notes that unlike a number of students who hang in balance with nothing to do during the lock down, the rising seamstress returned to school with more value added, to the admiration of her colleagues.
Hannah Nankya , Kutesakwe’s first client, noted that she has moved on from her first orders to more with the seamstress because she is good at her work and her products are affordable.
Academic institutions have been under lockdown for almost two years. Even with provision for higher institutions of learning to use the staggered manner for lecturers, business has never been the same since last year. Students have ventured into sustainable activities like mastering hands-on skills.