(A Letter from Fatuma)
Off on my way to Namanve at the outskirts of the city ten kilometers on Kampala – Jinja road to visit a funding source, I was informed of by a friend, I spotted a very smart and gentle lady crawling by the roadside. I asked my driver to stop so we can say hello to her. Introducing myself as a wheelchair maker, the lady’s full attention and interest turned towards me, for she badly needed one as I saw it for myself. “I am Alice Nyamanzi a student of Greenlight Secondary School.” said the intelligent lady hastily before I inquired about her details.
Alice who after further inquiries pointed out with much curiosity that she wants to become a veterinary Doctor if accessed with mobility and financial support to pay for her tuition, gave me an expression, of a trapped creature curious to explore the world but unable to fight for its freedom – like a bird in its cage perhaps.
My brief interview with Alice a very gifted lady indeed, and the enthusiasm expressed in her face, prompted me to pay a visit to her at her house the following day. Visiting Alice at her father’s residence 7 kilometers at the outskirts of Kampala city and listening to what she went through as a disabled girl, made me emotionally attached to her. She reminded me of my school days, when she mentioned about her dismantled calipers. One of my crutches ones got broken too when, I was ten and in primary three, I spent couple of days missing classes because there was no orthopedic workshop near my village to fix it.
Alice: “I was previously living with my Uncle who asked my Dad when I was still five to allow me live with him. My Uncle has been a kind hearted man if it were not for his negative attitude towards my schooling. He bought me everything I asked for, including toys when I was young, but has never shown any interest at all for taking me to school. Out of my own efforts, I secured an admission at a school half a kilometer away from our house. My uncle never liked the idea. Though he had not stopped me physically from going to school every morning, he always discouraged me by uttering confusing wards like ‘how can a seek person also educate, where will they find the job’. Every time I am off to school, I heard those biting wards. ”
“One day my uncle who worked as a trader in a distant market to our village was off for his work, he left behind a message with the wife before, I had left for school that, I should spend that day at home, no reason though was given. He past via my school and warned the teachers not to inquire about me if, I stopped attending school. When he come back home that evening he went straight for my calipers, which, I wore every morning when living for school and dismantled them on pretext of fixing the broken parts.”
“The following day when I wanted to live for school, I inquired about my calipers, he only told me they were in pieces and that he would fix them a week later. That shattered all my hopes of attending classes that week. When one week was over he called me in the house and told me never to ask him about those calipers anymore and that I should stop going to school because he won’t pay for my tuition and he doesn’t like the idea. ”
“I decided to ask him later that I wanted to visit my Dad who lives in the City; he agreed to the idea and transported me back to him. Now I am living with my Dad who had secured for me an admission near the house for my primary education and, when I finished my primary, I was admitted to a secondary school 1½ kilometer from our house. Since my uncle dismantled my calipers, I could not use the crutches without them so, I learnt how to crawl everyday to and from the school.”
After her narration, I asked Alice about few things including how she cops up without any kind of mobility appliance.
Fatuma: Don’t you find it tasky to crawl for 1½ kilometer everyday – to school and back?
Alice: People who walk for long distances do not find walking very hard so I too find crawling the only un-avoidable means of mobility. Sometimes some people without physical disabilities ask me what it takes to crawl and what, I think about crawling. I often challenge them that no one stops to think how to walk or of what’s needed to put one foot in front of the other, yet the way, I see, walking involves a certain combination of movements of the arms and legs, of balancing and of changing the weight. So given my condition, I do not need to decide, every time I have to crawl to and from the school, the Church and to my friends and relatives houses, if I do it I will have given in to the trap. I have realized that my courage to keep my head high-up has made many girls at my school befriended me. They are not bored or afraid of my company because, I am always active and creative and not dependant on any one for any help except when it’s really pressing. I love studying chemistry, biology and English literature more often alone and sometimes with friends at school. I enjoy reading for pleasure too to boost my English understanding.
Fatuma: What do you think of lately about your uncle’s behavior towards your schooling?
Alice: (Giving a wry smile) I think my Uncle thought educating me was first of all troubling to me and a waste of the scarce resources and time. According to him, I will not find a job because of my disability even if I am educated. When he learnt later that my father got an admission for me in another school near the city, he got so ashamed and felt as if he had pinned a butterfly on a board only to find it was alive and struggling anxiously to be free.
Fatuma: How does your father respond to your dreams, does he seem supportive?
(Alice who seemed to have very positive thinking about her father, whom I unfortunately found had left for the country side to attend a funeral says) My father apparently agrees with my idea of becoming a veterinary Doctor and thinks I can make it but, suggested that according to him studying humans is more interesting than animals.
Fatuma: How about paying for a wheelchair for you, can your Father agree to buy a chair for your mobility?
Alice: My Father was a fish monger who never went to school, but had a thriving business of fish selling. I am certain he would have accepted to pay for a wheelchair for me but, by bad lack he was denied license to sell fish for two years now. Since then his income has been crippled. He can only afford to pay for our basic bills like food and clothes.
Fatuma: If a well wisher agrees to pay for a wheelchair for you, how will it change your life?
Alice: A wheelchair will radically change my life as it will enable me first of all to reach school in time and remain clean for the whole day from the irritating dirt I encountered every time I crawled.
Please share Alice’s story with your friends if they may want to contribute to her course or give something as a seasonal present to other needy persons with disabilities of her category. We have on the list two other very needy people who were enlisted but missed from the recent batch sponsored by the local council because they reported after the selection was done. One is called Joseph Lukwiya 13 years old and attends school but has now grown too heavy for his mother who always carried him to school on her back. The other one is Esther Mbabazi 25 who was involved in a terrible motor accident two years ago that injured his backbone.
The cost of a wheelchair is UD $350. Thank you very much in anticipation.
(From the Webmaster: The following piece is just one of many such stories the people at MADE can relay. In this case, the story touched a number of benefactors and money has been raised for Alice’s wheelchair. Yet there is much yet to be done! Alice could benefit from having her ‘calipers’ (braces) fixed and new crutches to give her even better mobility for short distances. Both Joseph and Esther still need wheelchairs, and- although Fatuma never brings it up- the MADE shop always has the need for better tools and equipment. Please consider donating to this worthy group.)
For details on contributing to MADE, please use the contact information below: