By: Paul Kachela
I am a former student at St. Mary’s Special School and an Albino person, identified as visually impaired.
Fear is a killer of self-esteem. I have lived in the world of fear for so many years, I thought this is how life is and I never thought I could conquer it. I was afraid of doing things at home, because most people in my family and my village didn’t accept me. My fear was constant because I didn’t know what people were thinking of me.
At my home, they never allowed me to do any work or even to share the bedding with my age mates. My father and his family never acknowledged me from the beginning. My dear mother was beaten by my father until she accepted divorce and later died of depression.
I then started living with my mother’s youngest sister Dorothy, until Mr. Peter Nsama and Mrs. Agnes Chama Nsama helped me to start school.
God used these people to find a better life for me. They had a child who was physically handicapped, with lower limbs which were non-functional. At that time, he was in Grade 3 at a school for the physically handicapped.
The Nsama family helped me start school by explaining to my parents the importance of education. My parents had been very opposed to providing me with an education until the Nsama family insisted I attend school. At that time, I had a bad smell about me because of painful sores all over my body, due to poor hygiene. It was Mr. Peter who came to my rescue by providing sunscreen and antibiotics. I was cured fully by the time I went to school.
I started my primary Education at St. Mary’s School in 2000. The Nsama family never minded my affliction and I was taken and introduced to the head teacher. To my immense surprise, Mr. Peter introduced me as a relative and before leaving he emphasised that I be taught Braille.
I had no self-confidence before I stepped on the grounds of St. Mary’s School. It was there I came to realize my potential. My inner fear was really a killer to my personal innovation and creativity. I started building my confidence slowly, as I was praised by my friends and teachers.
In the beginning, I was among the slow learners and my late teacher Maureen tried her very best to make sure that I knew how to read and write. It was a struggle and I remained for two years in the same grade. I was determined to catch up.
I immediately joined a Braille Club and during our first meetings, the teacher introduced us to various pieces of equipment used to produce a book. I was immediately fascinated by the process.
My success began step by step. I started helping my teacher who was in charge of the special unit. My hand writing was so poor he encouraged me to practice writing as much as possible. I created a plan and identified two sighted students who were reluctant to write subject notes. I started writing for them with my secret goal to improve my hand writing. They liked me so much, I achieved what I wanted and gained their friendship.
My desire of helping others had started a long time ago at my primary school where I was available to teach others how to write and read Braille. When I joined Mwense secondary School, we the albino and blind students, faced a lot of difficulties since our class exercises were not always transcribed into Braille.
Our teachers at the special unit were sighted and not very fast in transcribing into Braille. To make matters worse, our teachers were teaching other classes for the sighted and in most cases Braille work was marked last. This bothered me and I began to transcribe work from Braille to written work, so the work of the blind and sighted students was marked at the same time. What a great joy! I was able to narrow the gap between the blind and sighted students.
Even today, as a college student in my second year, I still perform the same works for my blind students at the college and during my holidays. I spend some days at St. Mary’s and transcribe for two blind teachers as they are very slow in writing and reading of Braille since they lost their sight at a later age. I help them with joy.
I completed my secondary education and went to a teacher training college in 2020 and pursued a course in English and Braille writing. Presently, I am in my second year, and in the month of April to June, I was at St. Mary’s Special School for my teaching experience. There, I enjoyed my teaching and I worked with Mr. Joseph in the transcription department.
He trained me to use the thermoforming machine, a photocopying device for the blind where a plastic paper called Brailon is used. When braille work is written, it needs to be thermoformed to produce books or notes. I was also able to reproduce diagrams, for the blind students to increase their understanding.
My heart swells when I see the happiness my work brings to the visually impaired and blind students. The literature I provide expands their understanding of their studies and helps them learn about the world beyond our villages.
I also write literature books for the lower grades in our local language. I am usually identified as a “Moving Library” because if one is in need of some reading materials, in no time those materials will be given. I feel proud to be called that.
Just recently, I started learning how to repair a Perkins braille machine, which is in the form of the manual typewriter. My ability to help others makes me confident and I feel very proud of myself, as an Albino who is able to contribute in a small way to assist my visually impaired community.
Surely, every success starts with a step.
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