A physically deformed orphan who scored Aggregate 7 in last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) has her sights set on becoming an accountant.
Petwa Kyakuwaire, who scored only distinctions in all subjects, including Distinction One in Science for his Division One grade, was the best candidate in the physically handicapped category nationwide.
In the results released last week, a total of 445 special needs candidates sat for PLE, including 45 physically handicapped.
Kyakuwaire, 13, from Bukaye Village in Nakalama Sub-county, Iganga District, has been a pupil at Musana Nursery and Primary School in Iganga.
“I want to be an accountant,” Kyakuwaire, who lost both parents while young and has been living with her aunt, Edinonisi Nanyama, says.
She has decided to continue her education from Musana Vocational High School, saying she would be assured of maximum care.
Both institutions are run by Musana Community Development Organisation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO).
Kyakuwaire has been on a full bursary at the school, with the NGO meeting all her needs, as well as that of her younger sister Ann-Mary Nabirye, who got Aggregate 11.
Nabirye was specially enrolled in the school to act as Kyakuwaire’s caretaker.
“She was brought in purposely to support the sister but the pupils have loved Petwa and have always supported her. Nabirye has ended up just being around because the pupils do it all for her,” Ms Damali Namwende, the heat teacher, says.
Ms Nanyama, in her mid-60s, says her niece urges children with similar or related challenges, to accept who they are and ‘know that appearing different from others does not make them different.’
“Her ability to rise above such a plight encourages other children to pursue their goals regardless of their disability,” she says.
On Saturday last week, a team from the NGO visited the family in Bukaye, this time in a party mood. They carried the news of her excellent performance in PLE. Clad in a sleeveless stripped dress, Kyakuwaire beamed with a smile as Ms Nanyama urged her to bring the mood on.
Kyakuwaire’s arms end where the wrist joints were supposed to be. The lower limbs end at the knees. She was born that way, to Tofu Naigaga and Paul Kafuna.
But her parents died, leaving her with eight siblings and just a name. Kyakuwaire means ‘whatever He [God] gives you.” With no hands, legs, mother or father, that name was a good consolation.
Kyakuwaire’s resolve not to let disability define her life is perhaps best illustrated in her ability to write so effortlessly. Her handwriting is remarkably neat and she seems to hold the pen with so much ease with the stump at her wrist.
“I saw her write and it is unbelievable,” says Daniel Kazungu, a journalist who brought Kyakuwaire’s performance to the attention of this newspaper. “The speed and the neatness, you will believe in God if you didn’t.”
“She had the best handwriting in her class,” corroborates Ms Namwende.
Peers and teachers have described Kyakuwaire as a bubbly girl and she says she never felt out of place at the school where “everyone was very supportive.”
“Never at one time did I feel left out, the entire school, including learners, teachers, social workers and support staff were supportive to me,” she says.
The 2020 PLE was pushed back to April this year as the Covid-19 pandemic overturned the global order. With schools closed, candidates were forced to rely on reading materials from home.
“The school kept sending us study materials,” says Kyakuwaire. “So I didn’t stop studying even during the lockdown.”
She credits her good performance to the NGO that gave her a full scholarship so that she did not have to be tossed around over school fees.
Ms Namwende described Kyakuwaire as a “hard working pupil of simple character loved by everyone in the school.”
“This has made her life easy as everyone scrumbles to make her comfortable. Her performance has been good all through and her target was to get Aggregate 4,” the head teacher added.
A chance appearance
Musana was founded in September 2008 when a team of Ugandan and American university students, on a working visit in the rural communities, discovered 162 children living in an orphanage in deplorable conditions.
Seeking to give the children a better life, the group founded Musana Community Development Organisation to give dignity to the vulnerable in rural communities. They started by absorbing the majority of the orphans.
In 2014, Mr Yona Ibanda was watching a local TV when the story of Kyakuwaire caught his attention.
Ibanda, the public relations manager at Musana Community Development Organisation, looked for contacts of her guardians and managed to reach her aunt Nanyama.
Days later, Mr Ibanda and a team from Musana visited the family in Bukaye. Kyakuwaire could not believe she was going to school. And it was not just a school but one that was offering to take care of everything she needed to study.
She was enrolled in Primary One as a boarder along with her sister as her caretaker. That was the turning point in the life of the child whose aunt, Nanyama, cannot be thankful enough to Musana, especially with the organisation extending the scholarship to cover the rest of Kyakuwaire’s education.
The school made various adjustments to accommodate and ease her stay. The toilet was modified and the classrooms and school environment were made accessible with ramps at every necessary point.
“All her fees, school requirements and medical needs are taken care of,” the NGO director, Mr Haril Isabirye, says. He reveals that the NGO provides scholarships to more than 1,200 vulnerable children and youth.