Sharon Mbabazi is the new talk of campus and the nation although not like Bad Black (the slay queen). Mababazi has become famous for laying bricks. Brick laying in Uganda is a men’s job.
The third child in a family of five, Mbabazi comes from Masooli village in Gayaza Division. She has been laying bricks for the last eight years to meet her school dues and other needs.
This job has earned her not only fame but she takes pride in the mud from which she mints money. “This is not the kind of job a girl of this renegade generation would pride in posting about on social media but I do,” she said.
Mbabazi’s fame came to the limelight recently when she posted her pictures while dressed in a tattered dirty shirt engraved in mud. The pictures went viral on social media with many Ugandans wondering whether it was a true story. She has since drawn local and international media attention.
Most girls in Uganda would pride in posting pictures at KFC, Garden City or fancy office setting.
The Genesis of Mbabazi
From Primary three Mbabazi watched her father Steven Ssemasaka, 55, laying bricks to fend for his family. As she grew up, Mbabazi began appreciating the value of playing in mud and slowly picked interest.
At only 10 years, she had started stepping in the mud and the learning process did not end until she mastered the art, which has become the source of her tuition and upkeep.
Left at the care of only her father after the death of her mother in 2005, Mbabazi was even ready to take on tougher jobs at a tender age.
Mbabazi’s father was mainly able to provide her daughter with a few basic needs such as food and education. She had to figure out her way through the rest of the needs such as pads, and the under ware.
“It was only from bricklaying that my children would be able to provide themselves with other basic needs. So I laid a foundation for them by teaching them how to do it,” said Mbabazi’s dad Ssemasaka, adding, “Right now, I am ageing and it is important that my children take over from where I have stopped.”
Mbabazi says the tough conditions at home consolidated her resolve to lay bricks. “Besides the challenges we had at home, I was always being sent home for school fees defaulting and the kids at school used to laugh at me. So I got tired of that situation and I made up my mind to start laying bricks.”
She adds: “I remember one time I did not have a nicker. So I went to one of the men who had laid bricks and asked him if I could help him organise his bricks so that he could pay me Shs1000. When he paid me, I used it to buy pair of nickers.”
She revealed that she treasured that nicker a lot as she wore it from Primary Six until Senior Four. So she learnt the value of working to attain her own life.
After Senior Six in 2013, she took a dead year and sat home, looked for what to do but failed. However, when she was granted a half bursary at Mutesa I Royal University, Kampala Campus, she was supposed to raise the other half which prompted her to concentrate on bricklaying for a solution.
“There was no choice but to go back to bricklaying, the job has since helped me raise the tuition, buy myself other necessities and take care of my other siblings,” she said.
“I want to become somebody one day just to show those that used to laugh at me that what used to happen to me only made me stronger than they thought.”
Achievements from bricklaying
Besides paying her tuition and meeting her other needs, Mbabazi told The Standard that she has been able to install electricity in their small house, and she plans to construct a better house for her father and siblings.
“I don’t lack anything right now. Whatever I want I have hope I will get,” she said. “My bricks give me hope that I will get anywhere I want to be.”
Before she goes to school every day, Mbabazi together with her siblings lay 1000 bricks. However, this has come with its cost on her education such as being late to school sometimes, she says.
After every three months, Mbabazi says she is assured of making Shs1.5m from her bricks business although she said sometimes clients don’t want to pay up their dues. Also when it rains most of the bricks are damaged.
She said that she intends to expand her business to making concrete bricks which are more profitable than the ordinary bricks she makes out of soil.
An ordinary brick costs between Shs150 and Shs200 while the concrete one may cost about ten times more.
Mbabazi is pursuing a degree in Mass Communication and is in her third year.
Word of wisdom
“I want to tell my brothers and sisters who are complaining about lack of jobs to make themselves useful by doing something productive with themselves,” she said.
Mbabazi added: “Going on the street to cause chaos because you have no job is going to cost your family even more to treat you if you are injured, or bailing you from police. There is more to life than losing ourselves.”