By John Semakula and Henry Nsubuga
After graduating with a diploma in education in 2003, I found it extremely hard to sustain myself. The biggest challenge I had was paying the sh70,000 rent for two rooms in Dandira, Mukono Central Division. I was paying fees of sh200,000 for my two siblings every term, so it was hard to make ends meet. I was only earning sh180,000 from the fi ve schools where I was teaching.
Things got so bad, I had to hide from my landlord. I would leave home very early in the morning before he woke up and return late in the night. I owed him rent for several months. I started looking for ways to cut costs and my first option was building a house, although with my meagre income, it seemed like a dream. I had no money but with enthusiasm, I started looking for land.
Soon, I had identified a plot at Lwanyonyi village in Nama sub-county. The seller wanted sh1m but I could only raise sh400,000. Luckily, he landlord allowed me to pay him in installments. After paying the sh400,000, I did not have a coin. The following months, I continued dodging my landlord. But my rent arrears had accumulated to a record high and no amount of sweet-talking could convince the landlord to be lenient with me.
Ssekajja engaged in the actual construction work of his house
After toiling for months, I cleared the landlord. Then I started laying bricks. I was always busy during day, running from one school to another in a bid to make ends meet. But whenever I returned home from school, I would go straight to laying bricks. I have so far laid 140,000 bricks. At one point my wife felt sympathetic because I was working too hard and joined me in laying the bricks. I sold the first set of bricks I made and bought sand at 30,000 and two bags of cement.
In 2005, I started building the house. Each weekend I would buy two bags of cement and since I was also the potter, we would only build on the weekends when I was not committed anywhere else. I did not have money for a plan, so I took the builder to the land and explained the kind of house I wanted. It was a seven-room house.
The builder made measurements and soon the construction began. Being the potter, I dag the foundation. I also didn’t pay the builder in cash. I gave him bricks in return for his service. I had a bicycle, which I used to move building materials like cement, so I also saved on transport. But at the roofi ng stage, the builders I had hired were suddenly stopped by officials from Nama sub-county for building a house without a plan.
Work came to a halt for a while as I tried to secure a plan. The plan cost me about sh380,000 which paralysed my other programmes because I had not budgeted for it. I also settled for a high quality roof. I admire good houses and I wanted to give mine the best look. I did this in phases. Each sheet cost sh50,000 and I needed 60. My house is not finished but its my dream to have it fi nished soon.
After partly roofing the house before even fi xing doors and windows, I convinced my wife to move into it. I was tired of paying rent and whenever I saw the landlord investing in anything using the money I paid him in rent I felt very bad. One day, he bought a cow using the rent I paid him. The day I entered my unfi nished house, my neighbours gathered. They wanted to see the kind of person who would enter a bushy and unfinished house. But although it was insecure, it a big relief from paying rent.