They call me Tham­sanqa, l am an al­bino

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion/feature - Fea­ture Mkhu­l­uli Ncube Crys­ta­bel Chikayi and

AT the sight of a lit­tle boy with peeled skin, Gogo Cyn­thia Moyo chick­ened out. She had never seen such “abom­i­na­tion” all her life, let alone in Gwambe vil­lage, Bulil­ima Dis­trict, Mata­bele­land South Prov­ince. Her nights turned into a hor­ror set. She saw the peeled boy ev­ery night in her dreams and would jump out of bed with a scream so loud it would wake up every­one in the house.

The sight of the boy gave Gogo Moyo hee­bie-jee­bies; she had hal­lu­ci­na­tions.

“The child turned me into a bun­dle of nerves. He scared me greatly. I’d never seen any­one like him in my life time. I failed to un­der­stand what he was or what went wrong dur­ing his con­cep­tion.

“I hardly slept; the boy vis­ited my dreams ev­ery night. I had feel shiv­ers run­ning down my spine. I would have blared vi­sions of him stand­ing in the room look­ing at me,” said Gogo Moyo, who is grand­mother to Tham­sanqa Vundla, an 11-year-old boy liv­ing with al­binism.

She said as a grand­mother, she never helped nurse the boy when he was young.

“I wanted us to re­port the birth to our chief and let him know an un­com­mon crea­ture had been born into our fam­ily.

“I was scared of what the vil­lagers were go­ing to say when they saw the child. But the boy’s grand­fa­ther con­vinced me that the boy had al­binism, which is a com­mon con­di­tion,” said Gogo Moyo.

“Tham­sanqa is the only grand­child I never nursed. I couldn’t hold him even when he cried, or change his nap­pies, or even get near him. I would watch his mother and her sis­ter help each other nurse him. It took a very long time for me to ac­cept him as a nor­mal child,” said Gogo Moyo.

Tham­sanqa’s mother, Miss Pre­cious Moyo, said mo­ments af­ter giv­ing birth to her son and hold­ing him in her hands — she felt scared.

Fear of what the in-laws would say gripped her but she re­mained coura­geous as she had seen peo­ple liv­ing with al­binism be­fore.

Miss Moyo has four chil­dren and Tham­sanqa is the only one liv­ing with al­binism.

She said fel­low vil­lagers came up with count­less the­o­ries as to why she had given birth to a child with al­binism.

“When I had fi­nally ac­cepted that I’d given birth to a child with al­binism, ru­mours started cir­cu­lat­ing. The ru­mours said a child with al­binism is born when a woman prac­tices bes­tial­ity.

“Some went on to say I had slept with a snake. But my in-laws un­der­stood the con­di­tion and didn’t read much into the ru­mours. My brother-in-law is the one who named the child Tham­sanqa,” said Miss Moyo.

She said tak­ing care of a baby with al­binism was chal­leng­ing as she had no knowl­edge of the con­di­tion.

And now, 11 years later, Miss Moyo said it is still hard tak­ing care of a child liv­ing with al­binism es­pe­cially in a place such as Plumtree where tem­per­a­tures are usu­ally very high as the place is close to the Kala­hari desert in Botswana.

“I ex­pe­ri­ence nu­mer­ous dif­fi­cul­ties be­cause my son needs ex­tra care. It gets very hot in our re­gion and when it does, he de­vel­ops wounds and cracks on his skin. His lips, hands and legs turn red and he cries in an­guish at night.

“I didn’t know how to deal with these wounds so I’d give him a cold bath and ap­ply aque­ous cream all over his body. When I took him to the clinic, the nurses gave me sun pro­tec­tion cream which helped shield him from the ef­fects of the sun’s rays.

“Now, I don’t have the sun screen lo­tion and I can’t af­ford to buy some,” she said.

Had it not been the school head of Gwambe Pri­mary School, Mr Chadrek Nkobi, Tham­sanqa would still not be in school.

By mere chance — which would change his life dras­ti­cally, Mr Nkobi bumped into the boy, who was cross­ing the road while he drove past, and in­quired why he was not in school since he was of school-go­ing age.

“I saw the boy cross­ing the road when I was com­ing from work and I re­alised he was of school-go­ing age but I had never seen him at the school. Due to my in­quis­i­tive mind, I stopped the boy to ask why he wasn’t in school.

“I looked for his par­ents and con­vinced them to bring him to school even if they had no school fees for him,” said Mr Nkobi.

“Some chil­dren even cried in class when he was around. To make mat­ters worse, his teacher was also afraid of him as she had never had a close en­counter with a per­son liv­ing with al­binism. But they later got used to him and now he is play­ing and en­joy­ing like the rest of the pupils,” said Mr Nkobi

De­spite en­cour­age­ment from the school head, Miss Moyo said she felt more com­fort­able hav­ing her son at home in­stead of tak­ing him to school as she was scared other chil­dren would ill-treat and make fun of him as she had ob­served when he was play­ing with other chil­dren from the neigh­bour­hood.

“Tham­sanqa went to school late be­cause I was afraid of the way other chil­dren would treat him. I was scared that he would be iso­lated. When the school head fi­nally con­vinced me to take Tham­sanqa to school, he came back home say­ing they were call­ing him inkawu (mon­key), just as I had an­tic­i­pated,” said Miss Moyo.

Al­though Tham­sanqa even­tu­ally saw the walls of a class­room, he had a tough time ad­just­ing to school life as other chil­dren were scared of him. They had never seen a per­son liv­ing with al­binism be­fore.

Mr Nkobi said it took the other pupils a while for them to get used to hav­ing Tham­sanqa around. The kids were scared of him.

“I in­tro­duced Tham­sanqa to the school while hold­ing his hand so that the chil­dren could see that he is harm­less.

“The big­gest prob­lem was in his class­room. His classmates would run from him and squash each other in one cor­ner be­cause they were afraid of him.

“Some chil­dren even cried in class when he was around. To make mat­ters worse, his teacher was also afraid of him as she had never had a close en­counter with a per­son liv­ing with al­binism. But they later got used to him and now he is play­ing and en­joy­ing like the rest of the pupils,” said Mr Nkobi.

He said Tham­sanqa has po­ten­tial to ex­cel in school but has chal­lenges with his eye­sight.

“The school does what it can to make Tham­sanqa feel com­fort­able at school. All the teach­ers know that he is not sup­posed to re­move his hat so that he is well pro­tected from the sun.

“Our big­gest chal­lenge right now is that of his eye­sight. When in class, he can hardly read what is writ­ten on the chalk­board. He some­times just lis­tens to his teacher and not fol­low il­lus­tra­tions on the board,” said Mr Nkobi.

Miss Moyo works at a re­tail shop in the vil­lage and she earns very lit­tle and as such can­not pro­vide even the ba­sics re­quired by Tham­sanqa and her other three chil­dren.

She sur­vives from hand to mouth and said her ex-hus­band only sends money af­ter a long time which in most cases is not enough.

Tham­sanqa is Xhosa mean­ing “good for­tune” which is ironic given the chal­lenges his par­ents and the boy him­self have gone through since his birth.

Mr Chadrek Nkobi, Head­mas­ter of Gwambe Pri­mary School

Tham­sanqa’s mother, Miss Pre­cious Moyo

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.