By Tom Gwebayanga
An 11-year-old boy in Jinja district has become a source of public attraction because at his age, he can expertly repair radios and mobile phones.
Hatim Sebanja, a Primary six pupil at Kizinga Primary school in Budondo Sub County is so gifted that he can extract spare parts from one radio or phone to another using the tiny screw drivers he made from bicycle spokes!
According to his uncle, Muhamad Walakira, 38, Sebanja started fixing electronics in 2011 and has since graduated into fixing radios and smart phones.
"What he does surpasses his age. His intellect awes many and locals come here for his services and my home has turned into a repair center," Walakira said during an interview recently.
Sebanja came to the limelight recently when The New Vision found him cuddling a five-liter jerrycan that was blaring music. On closer look, all the radio's components were assembled inside the jerry can, with the switch, tuner and loud speaker, protruding outside. He later showed the New Vision his tool box containing screw drivers, tongs, phones and radios awaiting repair.
"I started when I was in P4 and I use the money I get to pay my lunch fees and to buy some scholastic materials," Sebanja, who is an orphan and sickler said.
Asked how he got the screw drivers and other appliances, Sebanja said he made his tools from bicycle spokes but interestingly, he cannot recall the number of phones and radios he has so far repaired. “I can't just recall because I don't keep records. Indeed they are many," he said.
He explains that the easiest phones to repair are those that have fallen in water and only require opening, cleaning and exposing to mild temperatures to dry.
He adds that he can remove and replace phone ear and mouth pieces and has the capacity can detect and fix some faults in network connection without any testing device but the more complicated cases he refers to more experienced phone repairers.
His mother, Zainab Kasoga, 32, said her son initially acquired the skills from a visiting relative. "A relative, Muzafar Waiswa, visited us and spent a week repairing radios and phones as Sebanja watched keenly," Kasoga said, adding," When he left, the boy immediately started practicing and is now a genius."
His charges depend on the magnitude of the fault, ranging from 2,000/- to 7,000/- ,the money that has helped him pay fees and buy exercise books but the challenge he's yet to get more experienced technocrats to enrich his career.
"Time comes when I need advice and other appliances and in the process, I lose some customers because I refer them to Jinja," he says.
The LC1 Chairman, John Sande said to some extent, the boy has saved the community from the expensive town phone doctors and relieved them from travelling long distances for repairs.
Sebanja is the fifth child of Sirimani Walakira and Zainab Kasoga, the residents of Kizinga in Budondo Sub County. The couple had nine children but three died, before Walakira also passed on 2007, leaving Kasoga a widow with a family to fend for. Kasoga sells sweet bananas at the nearby trading center.
Due to financial constraints, Kasoga is too poor to afford school fees for all the children, some of whom are in secondary schools; the challenge that at times blocks Sebanja's attendance in school.
"We at times use the money Sebanja gets from his work to buy food and that frustrates his studies because by the time fees is needed, there is no penny left," her mother says.
Being a sickler, Sebanja is often absent from school. Kasoga said given a good education, which she cannot afford, her son would turn out to be more valuable to society.
The Director of Kammengo Technical Institute in Rakai district, Charles Ebong said with formal education, Sebanja can become a professional engineer.
"He's a promising young man and can move to heights but needs to attain secondary education to broaden his brains," Ebong says.
Stephen Mubiru, the Ambassador Designate to Malaysia said Sebanja can harness his talent in government aided vocational schools like St. Joseph's Vocational Training Center -Kamuli.