WHEN we hear the word disabled, most of us set a scene of someone begging on the streets. We picture a world of unhappiness where all dreams are shattered. Well, there are people who will not let their physical disability and the stigma that comes with it deter them from achieving their dreams.
Margaret Masilla refused to let her disability shape her destiny. She is a beneficiary of the Madhvani Scholarships at Kampala International University and a representative of students with disabilities.
â€œPeople advised me to go and start begging on the streets but I knew only a pen could help me,â€ says a confident Masilla. Her warm smile lights the room as we begin the interview.
Masilla was born to Aineas and Judith Muhindo 25 years ago. She was a normal baby. Two years later, polio invaded their home. Her parents tried all they couldâ€¦ moved from hospital to hospital. Unfortunately, it was too late, little Margaretâ€™s life would never be the same again. â€œMy parents have never come clean with me about what really happened, but Iâ€™ve heard stories from relatives. They told me its polio that disabled me.â€
Blinded by childhood innocence, Margaret never knew she was disabled. To her, she was just like any other child. However, the harshness of life could not let her enjoy this innocence for long; she came to realise her disability through a neighbour.
â€œI was playing and did something that annoyed her. She said my mind was lame, just like my body. I went to my motherâ€™s mirror and looked at myself carefully,â€ she narrates tearfully. She then realised she actually did not look like her playmates. From that day, she decided she had to prove the lady wrong â€” her mind was not lame.
Despite discouragement from people, Masillaâ€™s father decided his child would attend school just like anyone else. â€œPeople said he was wasting money on a lame child; however, he believed in me.â€
At Sebwe Primary School in Kasese, life was not easy for her. â€œDuring P.E, my classmates would remove their clothes but I was allowed to remain with mine. It made me feel sad,â€ she remembers.
Some children would laugh at her, calling her names. Masilla recalls her worst moment: â€œWhen I was in Primary Three, the teacher didnâ€™t like me because I was lame. He kept demoting me, yet I was always at the top of the class.â€ She recalls days when she would go home crying and feeling alone. All this did not put her down; however.
â€œMy disability gave me courage. As long as I was in school, my life would be better,â€ she affirms.
Masilla joined Rwenzori High School in 1997. The school was impressed by her efforts and she was a warded a scholarship. â€œI had many friends... students who were not concerned about the way I looked.â€ Since she could not participate in sports, the school made her a team manager. â€œI loved sports. I went everywhere the team went.â€
In 2004, she joined Kyambogo University. She completed a diploma in Computer Science and Cisco Networking in 2005. â€œMy father was paying my fees with money from a piece of land he had sold,â€ she says. Although her father was not financially stable, he insisted she pursues a degree in Computer Science at Kampala International University.
In her second year at Kampala International University, her father failed to pay her fees. â€œI felt helpless.â€ However, this was not the end for her.
â€œI saw the notice for the Madhvani Scholarships and immediately applied. They are paying for me until I finish university,â€ she says.
After she finishes school, she plans to help her 11 siblings go to school. â€œWith education, nothing is impossible.â€
She describes herself as one who hates quarrelling. â€œI was walking in Kansanga and a lady spat when she looked at me. She was disgusted by the way I look but I just ignored her,â€ she says.
And just like other people, Masilla has hobbies. She loves music, reading and travelling.
WHAT TEACHERS NEED TO DO Since teachers play a big role in determining how children with disabilities feel about themselves, they should the following:
Blind Masilla refused to go beg on streets