TOP
Wednesday,September 30,2020 10:43 AM

Akao's world crumbles under the weight of four blind children

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th June 2013 02:48 PM

After a grueling boda boda ride through overgrown footpaths, dodging bushes that hang dangerously overhead, we finally reached our destination.

Akao's world crumbles under the weight of four blind children

After a grueling boda boda ride through overgrown footpaths, dodging bushes that hang dangerously overhead, we finally reached our destination.

By Andrew Masinde

After a grueling boda boda ride through overgrown footpaths, dodging bushes that hang dangerously overhead, we finally reached our destination.

A huge mango tree surrounded by overgrown shrubs stands in the compound. Besides it are four dilapidated huts that house the family of Alfred Oketch and Ketty Akao in the remote village of  Namasale, Amolatar district.

As the motorcycle came to a halt, five children dressed in no more than rags raced towards us with broad welcoming smiles. Full of curiosity, the children’s eyes kept darting from the boda boda rider to me, bewildered at what had brought the strangers to their home.

But one girl and boy stayed lurking in the background. They seemed to be interested in what was going on, but something barred them from coming close. When I moved closer, I noticed they were blind.

Just then, a skinny woman with a waning smile emerged from one of the huts. She looked exhausted. She held a wailing child, while another child desperately clung onto her skirt. When Akao greeted me, I noticed the children with her were earnestly searching in all directions. My heart sunk. I whispered to myself, not these ones too. But then the worst dawned on me; they too, were blind.

Oketch and Akao’s marriage turned into a tale of misery when their tenth child, Daniel Okwir, was born blind. She kept praying that he opens his eyes, but it did not happen. “After a while, I came to terms with the fact that I had given birth to a blind child. As a parent, all I could do was to give him special attention and support him,” says Akao.

After three years, the couple had their eleventh child, Sarah Akullo. But Akullo showed similar signs to  Okwir’s. It was difficult to  accept the situation, but she, too, was blind. The couple tried to examine their lineage, but none of them had a blind relative. Oketch has another wife with whom he has 15 children, but none of them is blind.

In 2009, the couple had their twelfth child, Yob Pule. But they were dumbfounded that Pule was also blind. They decided to take the children to the nearby health centres. However, the medical personnel told them the defects could not be rectified. “We took them to different opticians in Amai (a not-for-profit private hospital in Amolatar) as well as Lira referral hospital, but they told us our children would be permanently blind. I could not help but think that my children where bewitched,” Oketch says.

After three years, the couple had their thirteenth child, Lazaro Odong. Although they prayed hard, Odong also came out blind. The blind children have taken a toll on the family resources. Akao was forced to depend entirely on her husband, a peasant farmer, since she has a full-time job of taking care of the visually-impaired children.

“I often wish that I had not given birth to the last four children,” Akao laments. This situation has left the couple desperate and in abject poverty. Their relatives have referred them  to witchdoctors because they think that the family is cursed, but they have refused the help because they are staunch Roman Catholics. In fact, this is the reason Oketch says they have not used contraceptive methods because he believes  children are a gift from God.

The couple says they have tried in vain to get help from the office of the disabled in Amolatar. The tenth born, Daniel Okwir, had this to say about being blind: “It is like I have been sleeping since I was born. I cannot see anything and I do not even know how my parents look.” Okwir would like to go to school, but the schools are not only too far, but he would need a guide and a white cane. Even if he was able to get to school, his parents would not afford his fees.

“I pray that one day we get our sight back because it is inconveniencing to keep calling people to guide you to places that you would have otherwise gone to on your own,” Okwir says.

District helpless

Judith Acana, the Amolatar district LC 5 secretary for education, says facilities for the blind and other physically challenged children in  the district are in a sorry state. “The district has only one school for the physically handicapped and there is less support to it due to lack of funding,” Acana explains.

“The school infrastructure is poor, the structures are dilapidated and in urgent need of repair. The school also lacks teaching and learning materials such as braille and white cane for the blind children,” adds Acana.

 

Akao’s world crumbles under the weight of four blind children

Related articles

More From The Author

More From The Author