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Lukabwe, boda boda rider seeking to change narrative on ‘society failures’

Allan Lukambwe waiting for clients

Allan Lukambwe waiting for clients

Boda boda rider Allan Lukabwe became a social media sensation in October, 2021 when his plight to pursue university education won him a scholarship at Victoria University.

Two months down the road, he is focused on lifting others out of illiteracy, writes JOSELYN NAKITTO. Back in October, 2021, Daniel Lutaaya, a journalist with NBS TV, stopped a boda boda rider in Mengo for a lift.

Boda boda riders are notorious for their unsolicited banter during the journey but this one was different.

“He wanted to learn what it takes to be a successful journalist; the ethics, etiquette and salary. I was astonished,” recalls Lutaaya.

“He was asking for opportunities to further his studies.”

It was after disembarking from the boda boda that Lutaaya probed a little more about this young rider. He learnt, with surprise, that this was indeed not an ordinary rider but a young man on a mission. Welcome to the life of Allan Lukabwe.

The 22-year-old finished his A-level in 2019 but was unable to continue with his studies due to lack of funds. After Lutaaya posted about his meeting with Lukabwe on Twitter, there was an outpouring of emotions from people and the chance meeting opened up Lukabwe’s dream when Victoria University offered him a full scholarship to finish his university education.

At the moment, he is firmly focused to complete his Bachelor of International Business.

“I’m just lucky to be where I am today,” he said when The Observer met him at Victoria University. “I refused to give up even when my family thought otherwise.”

Lukabwe said when he completed O-level in 2017, his parents wanted him to go abroad to work.

“They [parents] have been working in obutale bw’omubulo [weekly markets] since our childhood but the returns have been dwindling in recent years. They told me to start working and save money to go to the Middle East but I managed to persuade them to help me at least complete A-level,” he said.

Lukabwe joined Mengo Senior School and in spite of hardships to pay school fees, managed to complete A-level with 12 points.

When the country went into a lockdown in early 2020, Lukabwe was advised to forget university education and start earning something in order to lend a hand in taking care of his seven siblings.

“I am the first born out of eight children and all of us we are boys. Five are still in primary level and one in secondary level. The one who follows me dropped out of school in senior two. My parents continue to use the little they have to take care of them. Since the young ones look up to me for guidance, I started to help whenever need arose,” he said.

His first venture was making liquid soap as the Covid-19 fear increased demand for it. He had to ask different liquid soap entrepreneurs what ingredients they use. He eventually put different things together and made liquid soap.

Unfortunately, he got robbed and all his equipment was taken. Then a few weeks later, a motor accident left him with bruises that took almost a month to heal. However, Lukabwe picked up the broken pieces, purchased a motorbike that he paid for in installments. This journey and life’s mission would cost him his youth in the struggle and hustle.

“The motorcycle is not yet fully mine,” he said. “I have to pay Shs 60,000 per week. The earnings I get from riding vary but the minimum I get each day can be around Shs 20,000. At the end of the week, I can save around Shs 50,000,” he said.

Realizing this time-lag for Lukabwe, his situation caught the attention of Dr Lawrence Muganga, the Victoria University vice chancellor, who offered Lukabwe a full scholarship.

“We uphold to our stand for the transformation of human resources of this country such that they may empower themselves to be able to take care of themselves first, take care of their family, and later on be beneficial citizens of this country or human capital. While there are many people in similar situations, Lukabwe caught our attention and we have decided to support him in his life’s dream. We gave him a full scholarship and recommended that he does not quit his boda boda venture as we provide a very flexible learning arrangement for everyone,” said Dr Muganga.

Allan Lukabwe (C) with Daniel Lutaaya (L) and Dr Lawrence Muganga

At the university, Lukabwe is a star of sorts but keeps a low profile. Many of his course colleagues described him as an enterprising person who is destined for success.

At the moment, Lukabwe is focused on succeeding academically even though he admitted that managing both school and boda boda is not that easy.

“I revised my timetable carefully; I ride boda boda three days a week on Monday, Tuesday and Sunday after prayers in the morning. The rest of the days, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I have lectures. I also use those days to discuss with other students at university and doing the assignments given to us. That’s how I manage working and studying,” he said.

“I feel so grateful to have got a second opportunity at academic excellence. What I know is that one day it will lead me where I want to be in future because I believe with education, there are clear paths for everyone to take in this life.”

Lukabwe also hopes his story will inspire many youths to remain focused on school.

“Many of my friends in the boda boda business had good family backgrounds but gave up with school so easily. They often struggle with comprehending simple things when dealing with elite customers but ever since they learnt about my story, many are considering rejoining school,” he said.

“I also plan to put the knowledge which I have acquired into practice. I believe by the time I complete my course in three years’ time, I will be able to start something beneficial not only to me but also to the community where I come from.”

Lukabwe also has some inspiring message for the youth, especially boda boda riders.

“Firstly, our job is seen as that for the academic failures, whereas not. I want to change that narrative of failures. Boda boda riders need to learn to invest in social capital. If it wasn’t for Lutaaya, Dr Muganga wouldn’t have known my story to give me a scholarship. Social capital creates trust and opens doors for opportunities. I would like to advise youths out there to never lose hope,” he said.

“Nelson Mandela once said that one should either win or learn. Therefore, my fellow youths, don’t give up. Work hard and do not undermine jobs, just keep it in your mind that nothing is permanent, today you may be nobody but one day you can become somebody. I have already been exposed to the mighty and powerful at Victoria University but I still ride my boda boda. Therefore, use every opportunity you get positively, be polite, kind and disciplined to everyone you meet out there and take education seriously if you get chance to have it. I thank the Almighty God for the gift of life. I also appreciate everyone who has done anything for me especially my parents, because they used the little they had to help me reach this far.”

For now, the sky is the limit to what Lukabwe can achieve.

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