I did not plan to be a social media manager one day. My childhood dream was to become a pilot. This dream was shuttered in 2008 when I had no school fees and started struggling in additional mathematics.
In the end I had to repeat senior three and take on a different combination of subjects to pass my O’level. I cried for most of 2009 and 2010
My new subject that replaced additional mathematics were literature, technical drawing and computer. Yes, I had dropped computer because it was not in the same combination of subjects with additional mathematics.
I had to love the computer theory that I never liked although I was good at it. Computer practicals were my new found love.
I remember being locked in the computer lab after the lesson. Yes, even in my secondary I was locked in the computer lab. I learnt how to play music on a computer by myself.
My love for computers was so evident that I became the school computer lab Vice President. A position I never applied for or aspired for.
In high school, I never participated in the penpal friendships. Instead, I discovered social media sites on the internet. I was so excited to open my yahoo email.
This mean the world to me. Later on I came a cross MySpace while using the Ask search engine. The idea of having my name at the end of the url made me feel at home. This was my first social media account.
I followed many people, introduced this to my friends and we always looked forward to chatting on MySpace even though we sat next to each other in the computer lab.
Soon my fiends form other school joined in from school. I needed to post something but was not sure what was relevant. It took me week to compose a new post. Creating content was vey difficult.
I discovered Facebook accidentally and thought it was another form of MySpace. It was easy to set up an account and find friends. Every time I was in the computer class, I created time to visit my two Social media accounts.
In 2011, I joined Twitter and discovered it was very limiting on the amount of characters to type.
There was a huge vacuum for creating content for each of these accounts. MySpace had an update at the time Window XP was the best operating system and this was game changer for me. It gave me power to create themes for my account with customised images of myself. This was thrilling.
At the time, the only editing software on the school Compac desktop computers that used only floppy discs was Paint, Microsoft Movie Maker and Microsoft Powerpoint. Only the teacher’s computer had a CD writer and option for a lash disc. The biggest flash disc was 25MB or 512MB which were very rare to find.
After my O’level, I left home and came to the capital city Kampala to find work. I had no hope of going back to school. I remember sitting for my final examination itself was not easy.
As my classmates were reading and holding discussions, I was in Mbarara town looking for support to raise the remaining school fees balance of shs.100,000.
Auntie Sarah at Besania Scripture Union in Mbarara was very helpful. She counselled me and supported me to raise Shs.50,000. Even with this money, I knew for a fact I could not be allowed in the examination room.
I also never had a meal card because of the fees balance. Abraham came in and toped up the Shs.50,000 on Sunday after service at All Saints church Mbarara.
Monday was the start of the final exams and I did not have a bankslip to show full school fees payment. That morning, I said my prayer in tears taking God to let me sit these exams.
I ran to the front office as soon as it was open and gave the money to the school bursar. It was not a good experience.
I was stopped from entering the examination room by the director of studies until I presented proof of cleared school fees balance. I sat my first paper 30min late with teary eyes but God was with me.
My late grand mother asked me to go back to school in 2011. First term for senior five was already two months in when I joined. From Mbarara High School where I wanted to become a pilot to St Peters Senior Secondary School there I was offered History Economics Geography and Art. This was not the path to flying school. I had to completely give up on my dream.
My senior six vacation was spent under leadership and spiritual training at Amagara Bible Institute of Discipleship and Evangelism – ABIDE.
I was groomed into thinking straight and becoming a strong leader, better christian and how to read the bible. Above all, the time at ABIDE healed my wounded heart and spirit. I became alive again.
From there I joined Makerere Business Institute – MBI where I pursued a diploma in journalism. It was a rough time for me. I had no accommodation fees and so relied on the kind will of people and friends.
I used to stay with Rev. Dr. Ben Tumuhairwe in Kisasi. I walked everyday to Sir Apollo Kaggwa road to study for 18 months. The distance from home to school everyday was 16km.
In my second term at MBI, I applied for internship at the two top offices in government. My first application was at Uganda Media Centre – UMC which was under the Office of the President of Uganda and my second application was to the Parliament of Uganda.
Before sending in my application to UMC, I talked to my family about it. I was called a dreamer. I was asked if I knew anybody. I did not know anybody at UMC but I knew the God the creator of heaven and the earth. Everyone I said this to laughed at me.
I took time to pray before writing my application letter and had a 5 day complete dry fast. Most of the encouragement to persist came form my host Rev. Dr. Ben Tumuhairwe and hid wife Auntie Lilian.
That Monday morning, woke up before day break, put on my tie and walked from Kisasi to Celement Hill a distance of about 8km. By the time the sun was out, I was approaching Kampala Serene Hotel.
I submitted my application and walked to MBI under the scotching sun. Friday the same week, I had reached Kalerwe round about purely exhausted from the walking and fast when my phone rang.
“Hello, I am speaking to Yonna. My name is Angella calling from Uganda Media Centre. I would like to inform you that your application has been granted. Congratulations. Indeed you serve a living God.”Phone call from Angella at UMC.
I was so happy and could not hod back the tears. My reporting date was only 48hours away. Its at UMC that I met the government spokesman Mr. Ofwono Opondo.
Under his training, I learnt so many thing including my first photography job. My assignment was to join the president of Uganda HE. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in Jinja for the launch of the civil service college.
I had never been this close to the head of state. I kept being pushed away by his security but managed to get good shots. Later on, I was invited to Capital FM Uganda where I got my first job.
I managed the social media accounts and website. It was always busy schedule for me. I worked from 6am-12am. I never went to any school t learn social media. But I invested in books and free online trainings. These are the books I read:
- Guerrilla Social Media Marketing: 100+ Weapons to Grow Your Online Influence, Attract Customers, and Drive Profits.
- Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (And Other Social Networks).
With little knowledge on photography, I took on lessons from YouTune, Linda Course, Udemy, Corsera and other random pdf papers. This is did hand in had with video editing. My very first video to edit was one on the Iphone SE using iMovie.
The social media landscape keeps changing and so I had to adapt. Video became the most engaging type of content. Working with the celebrities at Capital FM and Beat FM Uganda to create videos or even take their photos did not come easy. I managed to study each individual and finally built trust to take their photos and make short clips with them. The most famous of these videos are the ones of Gaetano and Lucky which still happens to-date.
In 2017, I joined UNHCR Uganda as the Senior Pi Assistant and my job was to manage social media for the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees. This international event was hosted by the president go Uganda HE. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the United Nations Secretary General , Mr Antonio Guterres. The High Commissioner for Refugees Mr. Filippo Grandi was present including over 10 heads of states and many delegates form all over the world.
At UNHCR, I have been under training from many people from the former representative Mr Bornwell Kantande who is now Head of Regional Service Centre to Mr Joel Boutroue, UNHCR Representative in Uganda.
The knowledge I have acquired from Joyce, Terry and Duniya has completely shaped me. Working with a big team, I have learnt new skills and gotten a lot of professional support. Today I am a Chartered Institute of Marketing student pursuing a Diploma in Digital Marketing and later on a Maters.
The challenges of not having school fee to sit my exams or have a meal in the school dinning have been part of the fuel to not give up. I have always kept a smile on my face because I trust in God and in know for sure Yesu Namara. Do not give up.
This is the start of a fresh academic journey form me. I look forward to the day I graduate with my Masters and many more degrees to come. I want to inspire the candidates that were stopped form sitting exams to not give up. Work hard, pray and be disciplined, you will make it.