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Tuesday,August 04,2020 04:49 AM

Armed with ambition

By Vision Reporter

Added 5th June 2012 01:10 PM

His overgrown hair is unkempt and his beard is almost running wild — there is every indication that 26-year-old Juma Kabenge has not visited a barber in a long time.

Armed with ambition

His overgrown hair is unkempt and his beard is almost running wild — there is every indication that 26-year-old Juma Kabenge has not visited a barber in a long time.

By Watuwa Timbiti
 
His overgrown hair is unkempt and his beard is almost running wild — there is every indication that 26-year-old Juma Kabenge has not visited a barber in a long time.
 
Whereas most people in Bugembe, a semi-slumy suburb of Jinja town, have for years known him as a footballer, exceptionally skilful and with dribbling skills that have, most often than not, left his opponents sprawling in unspeakable defeat, his disability notwithstanding, Kabenge is a dancer, kareoke performer and is socially intelligent.
 
Sadly, beyond his karaoke and spectacular footballing brilliance, lies a grim script of his life — his mother died and he does not know his father. Kabenge, who lives with his maternal grandmother, says his mother told him his father denied responsibility over him.
 
“I do not know my father. I have never seen him since I was born, but my mother, Amina Mwanana, told me he lived in Kenya. My mother died in 2000 when I was in P4,” he says.
 
Kabenge adds that his mother, however, told him his father, Abdallah Kabenge, had refused to take care of him, saying he could not father a deformed child. 
 
Although he is a well-built young man, his hands are palmless — each of the hands narrowed down into a finger. The hands are normal from the shoulders, but permanently folded at the elbows. 
 
Futile quest for truth
Weighed down by his mother’s revelation, a restless desire to know the truth gripped Kabenge — he wanted to know his origin.
 
“One woman told me that before moving to Kenya, my father lived in Nazigo in Kayunga district. I got directions to that place and went there. The old woman, whom I now suppose to be my paternal grandmother, welcomed me warmly and cared for me for two days.
 
She said she understood my problems, but she was not helpful in any way. She only told me the person I was looking for had long left for Kenya and she could not contact him,” he sadly narrates. 
 
This futile quest elbowed him into crestfallenness — his journey from Kayunga back to Jinja was a moment of painful silent reflection on the unknown he was pursuing.
 
“I decided to give up. I realised I needed to move on and confront life as it came my way. Since then, I have struggled through life, with the support of my maternal relatives. I hope I will have the strength to move on to the farthest point I can go,” he says.
 
Kabenge’s resolution is best reflected in his decision never to forgive his father, even if he came out today seeking reconciliation: “I would not listen to him. I would only tell him that I have no father because that is the bitter reality I have lived with for years,” he says with a stern emphasis in his tone.
 
“I am an adult, so I would not accept his pleas. Even if he summoned an entire nation to convince me, I would not let him into my life. True, Islam preaches forgiveness, but I cannot because that is the position of my heart,” he adds.
 
Education
Kabenge had a relatively good school life, although he did not make it to the top of the education ladder. With his disability, learning to write was not a cup of coffee — it was a hard tiring experience.
 
“I began studies not at the common age for most children — I was a little older than most of my colleagues in P1 at Bugembe Blue Primary School in Jinja. This was really a difficult time for me. I did not know how to handle a pen. So, I could not easily write like my colleagues.
 
This depressed me so much. However, I had a friend who was more than a brother to me — he used to write down notes for me. During exams, the questions were always read to me and I would respond verbally. So, marks were always awarded on that basis,” he recalls.
 
Despite having notes written for him, he wanted a challenge. So he always attempted writing with the legs, but always dirtied the books. 
 
However, with determination and more practice, he began writing with his hands in P5. But still, it was not easy — he says he always felt shy because of his staring class mates. 
 
“They always stared at me, either in shock or bouts of curiosity,” he says passively. However, their prickly looks did not deter him — over time he emerged with one of the best handwritings in the school.
 
Regardless of the writing hiccups, Kabenge says he enjoyed school — almost every pupil was his friend. Notably, being in the school football team endeared him more to the pupils and the teachers.
 
 “Upon completing P7, I got a fully paid scholarship from Town View Mixed Secondary School in Iganga courtesy of my footballing skills, subsequently making me the darling of the school,” he proudly says.
 
“I, however, left the school when I was in S2 and joined St. Thaddeus in Bugembe — I was tired of the confining nature of a boarding school. So, I wanted a change of life and a free environment. Secondly, I felt detached from my grandmother, with whom I have lived since my childhood. Boarding school was, therefore, a gulf between us.
 
Life at Thaddeus was even better and more fulfilling for Kabenge because most of his classmates were his childhood friends and the school is within the vicinity of his grandmother’s home — he felt at home. 
 
However, at the end of the first term of S4, he left and went back to Town View, following pleas and promises from the school management of better care. So, he started studies in second term until S5 and decided to drop out.
 
“My decision did not go well with my grandmother, but that was my decision. I had suddenly developed an unfathomable disinterest in studies. I began looking at studies as troubling. Actually, I was not in charge of my life — something beyond my control was driving me,” he reminisces.
 
Subsequently, the disinterest inescapably gagged Kabenge’s dreams — he always envisaged a good simple job in future that would not require more energy since he cannot easily do menial work. He always thought of pursuing law.  
 
However, although Kabenge’s dreams seem to have flown away, he beams with hope and some satisfaction: “My dreams have been shattered, but at least my life can still move on — I use my brains and skills to survive and where necessary, provide from the little I get for my grandmother and girlfriend.”
 
Any regrets?
“I really have no regrets. Perhaps I can only say if God had given me hands, normal like those of other people, combined with the creativity of my brain, I would be richer and perhaps better than most people,” he affirms.
 
Kabenge, therefore, pities those who have normal hands, but cannot work and instead engage in criminal tendencies, such as theft to survive: 
 
“Despite my physical limitations, I have got money through clean ways. So let others borrow a leaf from me. I am confident and I have moved on because of the sense of self-worth I have developed over time.” 
 
“I dance at parties regardless of the size of the audience and do Karaoke. I also display ball juggling skills during shows, attracting financial rewards from the elated audiences. It may not be much money, but it makes a difference in my life,” Kabenge says.
 
Business dreams 
Since most of his performances are done on weekends, his ambition is to start a small business such as dealing in shoes and clothes, if he gets some starting capital, so that he can keep busy during the week days and push his life a notch higher. 
 
“Additionally, I can work. I request people who have some work to consider me for some employment. I can relate well with people of all kinds and make businesses move on,” he appeals.
 
 
Expert's advice
It is regrettable that Juma Kabenge has had to undergo such an experience. However, it is equally good that he has decided to move on and mould his destiny —  it is the right way to go. Kabenge’s mother, on the other hand, should have made an effort to show him his true father. Telling him that his father abandoned him because of his deformed hands was not helpful in any way, perhaps it even depressed him the more. Kabenge had every right as a child to hear his father deny responsibility over him than hear that only through his mother.
 
Secondly, the father might have had his reasons that she might not have revealed to Kabenge. So, he should be given some benefit of doubt, especially if he suspected the mother of some unfaithfulness. However, if after establishing the truth one day, he feels like reconciling with his son, Kabenge, although his bitterness is understandable, should consider forgiving him
 
Lastly, conceiving a child takes two people. Therefore, whatever child comes at the end of the nine months, whether normal or abnormal, should be the responsibility of the two concerned persons. To abandon a deformed child is the most unfortunate thing you should never think of — looking after such a child is more taxing than even looking after a normal one.
 
Anne Asiimwe, Care Counselling Centre, Bukoto

Armed with ambition

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