12 July 2012

Zambia: Felix Sikaonga Shares His Death Ordeal

THE dream of every school leaver is to secure a job with a decent salary.

Well! Matters of bread and butter remain a major pre-occupation for many people today, and when one gets a chance to be employed, they have a greater chance to take care of basic needs like food, shelter, clothes and so forth.

When Felix Sikaonga, 37, completed secondary school at Kantanshi in Mufulira, he joined the defunct Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) Mufulira Division; it was all blissful.

You could say he was lucky. Just straight from school he got a job as a miner working as a staff learner. Call it job on training.

Everything was going on well with him, until one fateful day in 1998 when his ear drums were almost blown off by a blistering noise while working under-ground.

"My ear drums were almost shattered. I couldn't believe what had happened to my ear drums. My left ear was blocked and I stopped hearing," he said.

It was a dark moment for the young man, as he could no longer work in the mines due to his noise induced deafness.

He had begun enjoying his work as a young miner, and suddenly the unthinkable happened.

For a moment his dreams seemed shattered and he wondered what would become of him.

When his dark moment came, he realised he could not hear and he panicked. His eyes widened with fear, and his heart was racing like a child.

True, he had no way of knowing how life would be like more so that his sense of hearing was crippled by violent sound.

"I hate to think about that moment in my life. It does not leave any good memories with it. I was in hospital for three weeks," he recalls.

He had so many things running through his mind, including how he would get on with life now that he was not fit to work at the mines due to his circumstantial deafness.

His biggest worry was how he would get to college, as he was just a school leaver when he joined the mines.

His story is one of pain, hope, inspiration and determination.

As holy scriptures say, "weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning," his life turned around when the Workers

' Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) came on board to attend to his case comprehensively.

He was assessed at 50 per cent disablement and the board compensated him in full (comprehensive insurance).

The board sponsored him to pursue a Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants (ZICA) programme at a cost of K38,000,000.

"I am grateful to the board for the support throughout the years. There was no way I was going to find money to sponsor myself for the ZICA programme," he said.

After completing his ZICA programme, he was given a job in 2010 with the board as a cashier.

It is like everything fell into place for him.

Mr Sikaonga is now a qualified accountant and suddenly, his life has new meaning.

He is a beneficiary of the WCFCB returning and placement programme which is providing rehabilitation to a number of people under its mandate.

There are 20 people under the returning and placement programme and they are spread out in different parts of Zambia.

The board has an under-standing with the institution of learning like ZICAS, Northern Technical College (NORTEC), National Vocational Rehabilitation Centre and several others.

A lot of people have gone through the programme and others are still undergoing training with various institutions.

"Some have been assisted with income to start business and they are doing fine. Others are doing different courses," said Maybin Nkholomba WCFCB public relations manager.

The board which is a social security scheme constituted under the Workers' Compensation Act Number 10 of 1999 of the Laws of Zambia is mandated to compensate workers in respect of accidents suffered and diseases contracted during the course of employment in accordance with the provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act.

As for the robust replacement and returning programme, he said the purpose of the initiative was to eliminate poverty and help people re-integrate in society after they have under -gone rehabilitation.

"We want them to live a normal life." he said

Being a social insurance scheme to which employers in the public and private sector, except the State, make payments, the board is able to carry out its mandate from remittances made by employers signed up to it.

Rehabilitation counsellor Rodgers Chishimba is happy with the progress being made by those on the programme.

"Some of them are into farming and business. It is a good development on our part as a board," he said.

Ultimately, it is one thing for someone to recover from an accident; it is another thing for them to start life all over again.

For Felix Sikaonga his life has restarted.

He is in perfect condition. He has new job and he has recovered his sense of hearing. He is a better man now who is looking forward to a brighter future.

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