By Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie, Advancing Leaders Fellow 2013, SIT Graduate Institute 2013
In To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee wrote, “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” but today, I want to do my best to help understand the world from the perspective of a disabled child. Owusu is a small brilliant boy who stopped schooling because of lack of a mobility aid (a wheelchair) and because his school is inaccessible. He wants to be cared for as all children cared for in his society, and he does not believe his disability should prevent him from getting an education.
Owusu’s disability is a result of having polio as a young child. When he reached the age of three, his mother would carry him back and forth to school. However, as Owusu grew, he became too heavy to carry and he could no longer go to school with the other children. For more than four years, he has stayed at home. Fortunately, Empowering and Enlightening People with Disabilities—Africa (EEPD AFRICA) has come on board to donate a wheelchair to Owusu.
Owusu is 11 years old now, but still in first grade. If he had been able to stay in school, he would be in fifth grade. Though his education has been delayed, he still believes he can make it through the educational system if he is fully included. Here is what he had to say when he received his wheelchair and a path back to his education.
EEPD AFRICA Rep: How do you feel?
Owusu: “Eh Awurade tiase,” which means my God reigns. I feel so grateful and happy because this is a very big surprise. I never thought I could use a wheelchair, because my mother said, it is very expensive—that is why I have been crawling on the ground in the house for so many years.
EEPD AFRICA Rep: How much do you think this can help you?
Owusu: It will help me because I will go back to school and meet my old friends. Um madam, this will be very helpful though I have never used it before, I have seen how independent people become the moment they sit in it. I guess I will also be doing things on my own when I become a doctor in the future.
EEPD AFRICA Rep: When do you intend to return school?
Owusu: Tomorrow. Even though I know the campus is full of stones and gravel, I believe somebody can help by pushing the chair for me. Tomorrow, nobody will carry me to school but I will go myself.
As I always see on the advertisement on the television, I believe, very soon, our school will be accessible and I will not need anybody to push me around again. Thank you very much madam. Meda ase paaaa.
As EEPD AFRICA workers hear all these touching words from this smart boy, we are inspired to fight more for our cause because the young ones are looking up to us. They believe in us, and so we must ensure that change happens and so they don’t suffer the pains I went through growing up in Ghana. In less than a week, Owusu was able to make it to the school and I wish you had been there to share in the joy and happiness that surrounded the classroom as well as the whole school.
I wish you could sit in a wheelchair just for one day and experience some of the realities Owusu faces every day. I hope this post has helped you begin to understand the world from the point of view of a person with a disability. I challenge you to “Roll in my chair.”
We are still raising funds to make more positive changes, so please be part of the campaign and donate through our website: www.eepdafrica.org.
Join the Advancing Leaders Fellows in making a difference by donating to the fellowship program. Your support changes the lives of our alumni and the communities they serve. And be sure to follow Sefakor on Twitter and on this blog as she develops her project.