By Andrew Masinde and Abou Kisige
He was not born blind. His sight was normal, until he was attacked by trachoma, which left him blind at the age of four. Suleiman Kabuye was born in 1991 to Musa Lwanga and Mariam Nanyonga in Kiwawu village Mityana district.
His mother was a peasant. His father passed on when he was one year old. Although he is visually impaired, Kabuye is bright and hardworking student.
He went to St. Francis School for the Blind in Tororo and later to Namungo Primary School in Mityana; where he passed with 14 aggregates in his Primary Leaving Examinations.
He joined Iganga SS, a girl’s school. It is permissible in this school because it was initially set up for students with disabilities. He passed his Senior Four with aggregate 38.
He sat his A’level exams in Iganga SS and scored 24 points. He is now in second year at Makerere University studying law on government sponsorship. Kabuye, who feared life would be tough at university, has gained confidence and is determined to make it through life and utilise every opportunity.
He sought treatment at a number of health units like Namirembe Hospital and Eye Care Centre in Kampala, Jinja Hospital and Soroti Hospital; but this did not save his sight.
Doctors referred him to Nairobi for further treatment, but his mother could not afford the expenses. After six years, with all attempts failing to get him to Nairobi, his mother also passed on. He lost hope.
“When I wake up in the morning all I see is darkness,” Kabuye says. But just like people with a normal eyesight, he also has dreams.
“My dream is to become the best practising lawyer in the country; one who is respected and a role model,” Kabuye explains.
Many disabled children are kept behind closed doors, yet they can make it in life. It is now 10 years since Liliane Foundation started supporting Kabuye.
They started paying school fees for him from his Primary Three. The Foundation also helps other disabled children. It has been operational in Uganda for 15 years.
The organisation also supports children with disabilities under the age of 25. “When Kabuye was brought to Liliane Foundation, we took him on.
The results have been good,” says Kenneth Nangai the programme officer at the organisation. “Kabuye is bright and I know he will make a good lawyer,” he adds.
The Liliane Foundation currently spends more than sh1b, every year to support over 3,000 poor disabled children in Uganda. The foundation, has supported over 40,000 in Uganda in the last 15 years.
Liliane Foundation was established in March 1980, as a private initiative of Liliane Brekelmans and her husband Ignaas. The foundation provides medical and social rehabilitation to children with disabilities in developing countries.
Most of the childhood disabilities in Uganda are a result of preventable causes, especially immunisable diseases and poor treatment of common illnesses.
According to statistics over the years, the number of disabled children in each district is about 4.5% of the total population.
Based on this, it is estimated that there are over one million disabled children in the country. The World Health Organisation estimates that the figures of people with disabilities could be double and perhaps even rise to 10%.
In Uganda, some of the commonest medical conditions that could cause disability are epilepsy, mental retardation and cerebral palsy.