My Pandemic-Shaped Degree in Public Administration
Patrick had just enrolled on a Master's programme when the lockdown for Covid-19 shut down his country. However, this period of forced isolation helped him to discover a healthier way of life.
Covid-19 has had devastating effects in Uganda. I was most impacted by lockdowns that disrupted my academic studies. Uganda outlined and instituted 34 measures on 18 March 2020 to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. For anyone to move for any health emergencies, permission would be sought from the Resident District Commissioners for the use of private transport to take a sick person to the hospital. Additionally, government vehicles that didn’t belong to the army, Police or Prisons, were pooled and deployed at the District Health Offices, with their drivers, staying in tent compounds, ready to help in those health emergencies.
Covid-19 arrived when I had just enrolled for a Master’s degree in Public Administration and Management at Uganda Management Institute in the winter of 2020. I enrolled on the weekend program and attended four physical classes before the lockdowns. These lockdowns affected me physically and mentally because there was a migration from the usual physical one-on-one classrooms to online classes, popularly called ‘virtual learning’. This was a totally new experience for me and it dramatically increased my psychological stress and anxiety. Studying from home with my three children all around me was almost impossible – I could not concentrate during lectures, as my children would hover all around me drawing my attention to their school songs and asking for my participation. Secondly, the poor internet network connectivity and small bandwidth exacerbated my problem with virtual learning. I missed an opportunity for student-to-student class discussions and social interactions due to the strict Standard Operating Procedures instituted by the government.
Thus, these lockdowns resulted in feelings of dullness, frustration and anxiety which affected my academic achievements and attainment of excellent grades in my professional career.
My personal finances were squeezed when the vehicle sales at my workplace, Cooper Motors Limited, plummeted and so were my commissions, given the fact that my income is both salary and commissions. The slow flow of finances affected my education sponsorship as I saw an increase in the fees for my studies as well as those of my children (who had also started to study through virtual learning). My stress further increased because I had to buy them tabs and data which are expensive in Uganda. Also, the increase in food prices expanded the already difficult situation.
COVID-19, however, introduced me to newer lifestyles of walking to keep fit, doing domestic exercises and cycling. During this period, I bought myself a bicycle to enhance my movements and improve my personal health, as cycling remained a non-restricted means of transport during lockdowns. Before the pandemic, I had been used to only driving to and from work. Today, it has remained a norm for me to cycle my bicycle every evening within and around the places where I stay. I hope to stay healthy and protect the environment as cycling does not emit pollutants into the atmosphere, hence it helps to make a remote contribution to the sustainable development goals in the 2030 Agenda.
The COVID-19 pandemic had severe impacts on the first part of my academic studies. But when the pandemic slowed down and the lockdowns lifted, the country opened up and I was able to meet with other students in person to do my last MPA examinations in July and August this year. I am currently working on my research proposal and, upon completion and successful submission, I shall be graduating mid next year.
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