Youth unemployment is … wait. Don’t stop reading yet. I know that is a terrible way to begin a story, but stick with me, okay? I will make it worth your while. I will put in violence and romance and suspense.
So, youth unemployment is a major problem in growing economies, including Uganda’s. But there are situations where a particular youth decides to make a solution for himself or herself and employ himself or herself and break out of the trap of joblessness.
However, in the case of this one youth, a himself named Gama, his self-employment just created a bigger problem.
This is because Gama decided to become a thief.
He had quick feet, nimble fingers and and agile spine that enabled him to sneak into hostel rooms of universities without being detected and once there, to pilfer and pinch his choice of whatever he found lying around.
In this regard he was a good thief.
What he tended to steal however, were bras, boxers, Iphone cases, and DVDs of shows and music that could easily be obtained from better criminals, those who downloaded them illegally from the internet and stuff like that. Things he would find impossible to sell.
His thieves’ den was crowded with immovable junk. He sometimes thought he should just take it back to make room.
In that regard, Gama was a bad thief, one who would be better off unemployed.
Gama was standing at a bus stop one evening as was his usual job routine. He stood at bus stops trying in vain to fence some of the things he had stolen, a lanky, gangly fellow in nondescript t-shirt, fading jeans, ashy leather sandals and sunglasses. This dude was really bad at his job. He picked clothing that he hoped would help him blend into the background and then he decided to add sunglasses to the mix. Now instead of being well-camouflaged he stood out as the thug at the bus stop who wears shades at seven pm.
For yes, it was seven pm and, at the same bus stop, amidst the usual close-of-business gaggle of Kampalans, stood two boys in school uniform.
It was Chandler and Frasier. You may have heard of them. They are the stars of this story.
Fourteen and sixteen respectively, they were standing at the bus stop waiting for a ride.
“Frasier, I am thinking of the factors that led to the rise and fall of the Songhai Empire of West Africa between 1375 and 1591 AD,” said Chandler.
“Yes, that is a very interesting topic,” said Frasier. “But right now I am more concerned with the formation of the Andes mountain range. Volcanic and igneous rock fascinate me.”
“Not as much as Newton’s third law of thermodynamics fascinates me. I mean, that law must be the coolest law ever!” Chandler replied.
“You are right. It is the coolest ever!” Frasier agreed.
No. That is not what they were saying, of course. No one talks like that. I mean, these boys have weird kaboozi, but it never gets that silly.
“So basically, she said video games make us more violent and that is why she doesn’t like them,” is what Frasier was saying and naturally, Chandler was vigorously disagreeing with such a ludicrous idea.
“You know Fred Obbo? Fred obbo copied me throughout our history exams this term. Then he passed and I flunked. If video games make us violent, how come he is not in hospital? Why isn’t he beaten up and battered and bleeding in hospital, then? Why?”
“Exactly! Somebody needs to explain these things to parents so that they can stop hiding our Playstation games,” Frasier said.
“It is the internet. I blame the internet,” said Chandler.
Frasier agreed. “Yeah. Nobody regulates the internet so you can’t have any idea what our parents are reading and what crazy information they are getting.”
They paused to shake their heads at the ground, sadly, slowly, in recognition of this sad fact.
“So, as I was telling you, so mum said we should stop playing Assassin’s Creed and play Candy Crush Saga instead.”
Chandler looked confused. “What is Candy Crush Saga?”
“I don’t know,” Frasier replied.
“But you just said…”
“Every time someone tells me what it is I squeeze my brain until I forget completely. I don’t want that information anywhere in my head.”
Chandler then asked, “Why are those sunglasses coming towards us?”
“It looks like they want to talk to us,” Frasier observed.
Gama got closer.
“He is wearing sunglasses at seven PM. He doesn’t seem to know how to look at people efficiently. Will he manage to talk to them properly?” Frasier mused.
“We are about to find out. His mouth is opening,” Chandler said.
And contact was achieved. Gama was next to Chandler and Frasier.
“Nice shades,” said Chandler, because it seemed the polite thing to do. “Where did you find the type that work at night?”
But Gama was not here to pick up hints. He had other issues to pursue.
“Do you guys like music?” he asked.
This is one of the most perturbing questions one can be asked. If it is not deployed as a pick up line, it means someone is going to try and introduce you to a neo-soul artist who plays the cow horn and doesn’t comb her hair. Either way it is not a good question to hear. The boys gave Gama a blank stare in response.
“I give you this ipod here very cheap. Very cheap,” Gama said unfurling his fist to reveal a tiny gadget with a large round dial on its surface.
“Is that what I think it is?” Frasier was curious.
“What do you think it is?” Chandler was curious about Frasier’s curiosity.
“I think it is an ipod.”
“What is an Ipod?”
“I ronno,” Frasier replied. “Remember what I told you about irrelevant information that I don’t want in my head.”
Gama looked expectant, even through the sunglasses.
“Boss, sorry about the hustle but Ipods are obsolete, and so are people trying to sell ipods. You should have done this in 1974 or whenever ipods were a thing,” Chandler advised.
Gama looked furtively left and right, a task that was more difficult now that the sun had set and his eyes were still shaded by the fake ray-bans. “Cheap price,” he insisted. “Very cheap.”
“No, man,” Chandler counter-insisted. “No one wants an ipod. It’s no longer the dark ages. If you weren’t wearing those sunglasses you would realise that.”
“Yeah, we have phones now. That are like ipods which surf the internet, make phone calls and take photos,” Frasier helped.
“And play games. Some of them are lame but some are violent, too. Not that you should worry. We are immune to the effect of violent video games. You can feel safe around us.”
Gama’s mouth sagged despondently and Chandler and Frasier were struck with sympathy. It was a heavy weariness. He had been at the bus stop for hours trying to sell his crap. He had been there since noon, which was when he first put on the sunglasses. And now the day’s labour was amounting to nought. He had not made a sale.
Gama hung his head, his shoulders slouched, his spirit fell.
This sight tugged at the hearts of the boys.
The magic of patriotism is when a Ugandan will reach out to his fellow countryman in his time of need and give him not a fish, but a way to enhance his means of fishing.
Which is what Chandler and Frasier did. After telling him to throw away the ipod and sell the earphones instead, they left to enter their bus, with a freshly-purchased pair of fake sunglasses between them.
So I did not put in the romance I promised you, or the violence. But if you read the whole time waiting for it, at least you got the suspense, right?