What you need to know:
Upon going blind, Isa Kagiri’s father rejected him at five years. More than 15 years later, the father is begging to reunite with him. He shares his ordeal with Steven F.Mandu
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.
“In 2000, I joined Primary One in Madera and after seven years, I scored aggregate 15 in Division Two. I continued and joined the secondary section of the same school and completed 0-Level where I scored aggregate 25,” Kagiri says with a smile. He was admitted to Iganga Senior School for A-Level and completed in 2012 after scoring 16 points. It was from here that he went to Makerere University to pursue Community Psychology.
Kagiri is an intelligent and composed young man who says he looks at his predicament as a milestone that pushed him to work harder and succeed. “Being blind does not mean sitting and wishing things were better than they are or pitying oneself,” says the 24-year-old, adding, “I’m instead inspired to be hardworking and innovative.”
Apart from his academic path, he has also decided to embark on a music career. “I love singing and right from my primary days, I was always a member of the school choir although my actual music career started last year when I started recording music for commercial purposes,” he explains.
He adds that he records his songs at Dream studios and Fire records with Tony Houls who has been very instrumental in shaping his singing career. His areas of interest in music are reggae and ragga although he hopes to venture into afrobeat as well.
He says: “I have so far recorded six songs although the most popular ones are Abadigize, Gumboots and Situation which have already got airplay on FM stations like Beat FM, Capital FM, Simba FM and Dembe FM. As a blind artiste, his only challenge is improving his music career in terms of video shooting and promotion and he appeals for support to his passion and career.
Joweria Namugambe, Kagiri’s grandmother, says she is very proud of her grandson who has not let him down. She describes Kagiri as a hardworking, forgiving and intelligent boy who will go an extra mile to attain success. According to her, he is now a role model to most of his cousins. They always refer to him as their best example and they want to be like him in future.
Namugambe says she beaten all odds to raise Kagiri into a responsible and successful citizen. “Raising school fees has never been easy for me but I always made sure I squeeze my meagre income from my handicrafts to take him to school since he has always been a bright boy,” she notes.
On his father
Kagiri says because he has never got in touch with his father since he became mature, he does not miss him because his grandmother is his everything. However he is ready to forgive his father if he came and apologised to him. “Perhaps, having learnt of my academic progress, he has started sending people to ask me to go and meet him. But, I always tell them that he is the one to face me since he denounced me in my childhood,” he stresses. “My father never made any comeback attempts until recently, perhaps as a result of realising that
I am at the university and trying my luck in music,” Kagiri says. However the grandmother is of the view that Isa should never go back to his father and should just ignore any call for a reunion. “I think Kagiri’s father does not even deserve to be called father because he abandoned him at the time when his son needed him most,” Namaugambe says. She quickly adds :”however,I cannot decide for Kagiri since he is an adult he has a right to decide whether to forgive his father or not.”