Sunday Vision-While several Ugandan students drop out of school for reasons like lack of lunch, or lack of transport to school, Stephen Wasige beat all odds, including disability, to reach heights in education.
Wasige was born in Jami village, Kamonkoli, Budaka district, to Phillip and Ruth Nerima Tiibwa. The fifth among seven children, he was crippled in the legs at the age of three due to polio and has depended on crutches since then to ease movement.
All his school life, Wasige has attended day school, except for his S1, and this meant walking to and from school daily. His parents could not afford fees for boarding school after S1.
"For my O' level studies, I used to walk for a distance of three kilometres to school. In order to get there in time, I had to be up by 5:00am to start the trek," Wasige explained.
As if this was not enough, his parents could not afford lunch for him and he had to depend on sugarcane for lunch. He sold banana juice during weekends to meet some of his needs.
In addition to enduring the three kilometre walk and the hunger, Wasige also had to deal with unkind students who imitated how he walked and always made fun of him.
When he joined Bugwere High School for S.1, the bullies hid his crutches for two days and he was only rescued by a kind student who later showed him where the crutches were hidden.
All this nastiness made his heart bleed, but did not give him reason enough to quit school.
"I used to cry about it, but my mother, who is also crippled on one hand, kept comforting and encouraging me. She used to tell me that disability is not inability, explaining that she faced the same challenges and did not let them stand in her way.
I remember my mother telling me: 'I was able to train as a teacher and besides that, your father looked beyond my disability and chose me for a wife. So there is hope for a bright future for you too. I felt encouraged," Wasige narrates.
Wasige paid heed to his mother's words and persisted through school. He too eventually qualified as a teacher with a diploma and later a bachelor's degree from Makerere University in 2009. He also plans to enrol for a master's degree and looks forward to holding an administrative role in Uganda's education sector.
He has taught in four secondary schools since 2001, including St. Tereza Girls' School, Masindi and is currently teaching Mathematics in three classes of Rock High School, Tororo as well as being the class teacher for S3.
Ever jolly and outspoken, Wasige says he has not had a problem dealing with students. Instead he has been able to tame even the wildest of them.
"Students have not teased me. In fact, I have been able to handle stubborn students who have chased other teachers from their classes and the secret has been to talk sense into their heads.
They have listened and changed their ways," he says.
Wasige started teaching in 2001, soon after he enrolled as a student at Nagongera National Teachers' College. He did not wait to finish the course, but started right away commuting from Nagongera in Tororo district, to teach at Butaleja S.S, in Butaleja district.
He is happily married to Prossy Musanya Wasige, whom he wedded in 2011 in Kamomokoli, Budaka district. They have three children.
Wasige adds that he has not faced hardship in his social life. He says he has had only two girlfriends in his life and the second (Prossy) became his wife. He believes it was God's special plan for him.
To others in a similar state, Wasige says they should not despair because disability is not inability.
He emphasises that they should embrace education, because it is a sure way for their wellbeing. He also tips disabled people not to opt for businesses which are unpredictable.