26 February 2013

Uganda: Kyagera Is Limbless, Not Unlimited

Despite being born limbless, Job Kyagera has some of the best handwriting in his class.

Kyagera writes remarkably well, his chin and stumps taking the place of a hand to guide the pen over the book.

The compassion that overwhelms you the moment you set eyes on Kyagera wears off and bewilderment takes its place when you see how active he is. The young lad is full of energy.

Born without hands and feet

Kyagera is a P5 pupil at Musana Nursery and Primary School in Buseyi, Iganga district. He was born 10 years ago. His father, Nelson Kange, passed away in 2003. Kyagera lives with his mother, Joy Nabirye, a resident of Bubbala village in Iganga district.

At first glance, Kyagera cuts the semblance of an amputee. The short stumps that run from his shoulders give the impression of miniature arms that were amputated just before the elbows.

The same can be said of his lower limbs that look like shrunken thighs cut off towards the knee joints.

His Remarkable Story

Kyagera's life is nothing short of amazing. "Kyagera is among the top five pupils in class when it comes to good handwriting.

The fact that he uses his neck to write, yet still manages to write much better than able-bodied pupils is just unbelievable," says Yonah Ibanda, Kyagera's headmaster.

Ibanda took Kyagera under his wing when his mother could not afford to care for him.

"In January last year, his mother, Nabirye came carrying him on her back, seeking help. She said she did not have the means to take care of him. Of course, I could not turn him away. Anybody could see that he needed help," Ibanda recalls.

He adds: "I asked Nabirye how Kyagera was going to feed himself or write since he had no limbs. I was so shocked when she handed him a piece of paper and a pen and in hardly five minutes, he had written two sentences, in good handwriting. Nabirye also assured me that he could feed himself well."

As food is brought, I watch Kyagera with curiosity. The plate of food - rice, posho and beans - is set before him on a stool. On his wheelchair, Kyagera bends over to his food and with his mouth, digs his teeth into a chunk of the posho.

He dips it in the soup and straightens himself before starting to chew. Not a trace of bean soup or food soils the sides of his mouth or his clothes.

It is this uncanny adaptability that has enabled Kyagera to adjust to his new surroundings. After being admitted to the school, Kyagera hit the ground running.

"He was never stigmatised or looked at differently by his peers, something I had been wary of. He also won them over with his affable character.

Kyagera is jovial, funny and always full of life. Even in his wheelchair, he participates fully in activities just like a normal child. He takes part in the choir, and is active in church," Ibanda says.

At choir practice, Kyagera raises his arms and gestures in unison with his fellow choir members, as they sing a church hymn. The glee mirrored in his face as he sings with his peers, affirms that he indeed relishes taking part in school activities.

In the evening, after the choir session, I chance to see Kyagera play with his classmates. Darting about in his wheelchair, he shouts with joy when he heads the football in the game.

His teammates gesture at him with excitement. Ibanda says it is this normalcy that really surprises people and that on joining school, Kyagera refused to be given any special treatment and does not feel sorry for himself.

"He wants to be treated just like any other pupil despite them having a physical advantage over him. The boy has such mental toughness that he is twice as hard working as his classmates. He finishes his assignments before most of his class members," Ibanda says.

Help on the way?

Musana Community Development Organisation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that supports Musana Nursery and Primary School, are trying to help Kyagera to acquire prosthetic limbs.

The NGO tried to get him artificial limbs, but because he does not have joints, he could not be readily helped. So the first attempt fell through. But they have not given up. Consultations on how to best help him are still going on.

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