The Struggles of a Bright Disabled Learner

When seated in the classroom Seline Antonio looks like any other Grade 6 learners but once she stands up, her physical disability reflects the harsh reality faced by this 12-year-old on a daily basis.

Because of her disability teachers at Shinime ShIivula Primary School in Ondangwa are afraid that this bright learner may not be able to finish her education because her unemployed mother cannot afford a wheelchair.

“She cannot even use a toilet at school or get to the morning assembly or to the water tap which is less that 10 metres from her class. These places are simply too far for her. It takes her a long time to walk a few metres because of her condition,” explains Johanna Amutati, a Grade 6 teacher at the school.

Amutati describes Antonio as one of her brightest learners but her future looks bleak – if nobody comes to her rescue. This term alone she managed only to attend 15 days and was marked absent for 20 days.

Antonio’s mother is unemployed and ever since her parents broke up, her father, who used to support the family, also stopped offering a helping hand, according to Julia Paulu, Antonio’s elder sister. Teachers said they have noticed that there are days when Seline Antonio walks home by herself, and sometimes gets dropped off at school with a wheelbarrow.

“Learners knock off at 14h00 but I met her a few times around 16h00 still trying to walk home and she has to cross a busy road on her own. It is just a dangerous situation because in this world of today, people are evil anything can happen to her, she can even get raped while walking alone. But if she had a wheelchair other learners can help push her, she won’t even have to miss school because her classmates are very fond of her,” said another teacher at the school.

Relating her life to New Era, Antonio said her mother told her that she was born and grew up like any other normal child, until she turned two. Her legs allegedly started losing strength and at the age of three and she stopped walking.

When she started school, she was able to walk to school with clutches but lately, this has become very difficult as her body weight has become too heavy for her to carry with clutches. She does not use the toilet at school because the toilets are at least 200 metres from her classroom are just too far. And when she needs to drink, she sometimes sends Aune Uugulu, who is her best friend and desk mate to bring her some water.

She gets around the classroom and her home by crawling, which gave her bruises on her legs.

“All I need is a wheelchair so that I can come to school, even when there is no taxi money. Now the situation has become worse because we have moved from the house (shack) where we used to live and moved to another area which is further and where we don’t get taxis. If we do not get a taxi passing nearby then I cannot go to school,” she explains.

Source : New Era