TRIBUTE TO A BRAVE GREAT WARRIOR
By Masingita Masunga
About 8 years ago I was asked to look for a special school for a boy from my home village who has Cerebral Palsy like me. Hitekani Bilankulu was at Grade 6 at the local primary school. Typical of me instead of looking for a special school, I applied to a mainstream model C independent school which is not cheap for him, a move that made some people uncomfortable but I am used to that therefore I was unfazed.
I am not taking anything away from special schools, I did my high schooling in one for that matter, but I am an advocate of social cohesion, inclusive education and inclusive society. More than that, Hitekani may have a disability and may come from a disadvantage background but he still deserves the best in life, if it can be made available to him so I wanted to open a world that would give another person with a disability better opportunities and greater possibilities than I ever got. From the day he went for the aptitude test it was a challenge at the school but also some didn’t think he deserved to be there.
He was accepted, it wasn’t easy for him and the school as well, there were a lot of adjustments to be made on both sides, for Hitekani it was being in a different world and culture than what he was used to which also meant that he had to repeat grade 6 even though he had passed it. One could sense doubt and reluctance from some of the remedies, massages and suggestions that came from some at the school but I dig my heels in it. At the same time, there were also encouragements and support from others especially the top management and teachers.
One of the positive outcomes that came early was that a relative who had struggled to deal with Hitekani’s disability ( I will always sympathise with people impacted by disability and will not criticise them because we live in a world that is very harsh towards disability) now saw him in a differently light. Things became challenging financially for me from time to time which affected Hitekani’s school fees, eventually last year I just couldn’t afford at all but my parents took over especially because he was in grade 12, adding to the burden caused by my financial distress, was the pandemic and the fact that his mother had to work somewhere else which meant that he was now fending for himself most of the time.
Hitekani encountered many challenges last year and I was really concerned about him hence I became emotional when I got a message from him that he has not only passed with bachelors, but he also got 2 dinctitions, talk about triumph of the human spirit. Hitekani’s story shows that given a chance inclusive education can work in an amazing way ( I am well aware that it is not possible for everyone) Secondly, It really does take a village to raise a child, Hitekani made it because we parented him together all of us involved. Thirdly, Hitekani has demystified the stereotype that people with disabilities are intellectual and emotional delinquents whose feelings need to be micro managed and he has proven that we have the same capacity as everyone to think and handle pressure and disappointments of life. Last but not least, the greatest leadership principle of all, is that the success of a leader is when their successor succeeds beyond what the mentor/leader has achieved.
Hitekani achievement in matric is far beyond what I achieved in matric, I don’t see it as a threat in anyway but as a reflection of my mentorship and empowerment because as they say: a candle doesn’t lose its light by lighting another. But above all, I would have never thought that by being kind to another human being eight years ago, I would be impacting a life of a low paid frontline worker (his mother) who is needed by our country right now. As we go through these challenging times I hope we could be a little kinder to one another and we could hold each other’s hand, it is through kindness that we can truly transform lives.
My greatest hope for Hitekani is that he furthers his studies and achieve beyond measure, I am unfortunately not in a position to help him do this ( I am not looking for pity) but I hope that there will be another army of Angels that will take over from us and help this African child soar to greater heights. Hitekani, it looks like we made it, look how far we have come my baby, Mama Masingita hopes for you to live an above normal life, we did it champ, against all odds.