You could have heard stories of biological parents of a child engaged in a court battle as they fight over who should take custody of the child.
It could sound like a Nigerian movie when a man and woman sire a child and they are excited until the child suffers an accident that leaves him blind. Then the father orders the mother to take the ‘‘cursed child” out of their home. Years later, the same man that denounced the child starts sending people to reunite him with the now adult son.
Aged 24, Isa Kagiri is a first year student of Community Psychology at Makerere University. He resides in Bweyogerere with his grandmother Joweria Namugamba. Until the age of five, Kagiri, enjoyed the love of both parents.
One day, his aunt accidentally threw a piece of red-hot charcoal at him which struck his right eye. The mother, with the help of the grandmother, took Kagiri for treatment at Namirembe Hospital. Unfortunately his sight could not be restored because he already had a defect in his left eye.
Upon going blind, the love he once enjoyed from the father faded instantly. “My father stopped playing with me, there were no more new clothes and sweets that he used to bring me on return from work,” Kagiri recounts, adding that he then cancelled plans to have him start school. This became a turning point in his life because his father denounced him, claiming in their clan, no one ever gives birth to the blind.
The bitter truth
“My mother told me that my father ordered her to find where to take me since he could no longer tolerate a blind child ,” he laments. According to Kagiri’s mother, the father ordered: “Woman, take away this blind thing to its rightful home. It cannot be part of my family anymore.” This animosity was intolerable as Kagiri’s mother decided to pack her bags and seek solace from her mother. It relieved her from the torture and daily torment of the husband.
Kagiri’s mother could no longer stand a man who had rejected his child in time of tragedy instead of sticking by him. It was not long before she also considered remarrying, leaving the visually impaired child to stay with the grandmother.
“My grandmother pulled double duty to make sure that I never lacked anything. She did and still is doing her best to take good care of everything I need. From my basic needs to anything else I ask for,” says Kagiri, adding, “she is my inspiration and I always pray for blessings upon her selflessness.”
As a blind boy, he seemed helpless as his age- mates were going to school while he stayed home. He always played with them over the weekend and holidays but not during school time.
“Whenever we would be playing with my mates, they could talk about their parents, especially their fathers. This prompted me to ask grandmother about where my father was. She tactfully responded, saying that he was abroad and that at an appropriate moment, he would come to see me and we stay together,” he explains as he scratches his head.
To save the situation, Namugambe consulted neighbours and friends on how to break news to the young boy about his father’s whereabouts. “One of my good friends in the neighbourhood told me to wait till Kagiri was mature enough and break news of what happened between his father and mother and why. It was not easy having to live with the information and waiting for my grandson to take it in,” says the old woman.
The mother kept on visiting him and providing some pocket money and other needs but her income was not stable so she could not offer adequate financial assistance since she had other children to look after.
One day, Kagiri’s lucky star shone when Fr Wazi Wazi Ongereng, a Catholic priest who used to visit his brother in their neighbourhood got concerned and asked why Kagiri was not going to school like the rest. As a clergyman, he got upset by this incident and he was compelled to offer a helping hand.
“Fr Ongereng discussed with my grandmother at length. He informed her about a school for the blind in Soroti. He encouraged her to take me there for studies,” he recalls. At first she got worried about how she would raise the school fees. But the priest told her that the school being for people with special needs was not as costly as those for people without such conditions.
Having liked the idea, Kagiri’s grandmother made arrangements for him to start school after Fr Ongereng had secured for him a place in St. Francis Madera School of the Blind Soroti. Namugamba defied the odds and began paying school fees for her grandson out of the little income raised from her handicrafts.
“I’m Muslim. I used to weave mats and baskets for different people from different mosques. Whoever bought my merchandise always recommended others to look out for me, saying they were quality products, thus establishing a strong clientele base,” Namugamba explains.
Since it was a school for the blind the school fees was subsidised. At the time of joining, it cost Shs15,000 it increased to Shs70,000, then Shs102,800 at the end of primary. And by the time he finished secondary school, it was Shs200,000.