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A matter of faith

IMG_1769Mohau Serabele

Lerato Seqhomoko of Kolonyama ha Manama says she is “an ordinary Mosotho woman” committed to helping others and ensuring they do not face the same pain she endured when she lost her sight 11 years ago.

Last November, Seqhomoko, who lost her sight at the age of 15, passed her COSC examinations at the ripe age of 31 — thanks to her never-say-die spirit and staff and special facilities at St Catherine’s High School.

Narrating the sad story of her life to the Sunday Express, Seqhomoko said she was devastated when the doctor told her she would not be able to see again.
“That was back in 2002; I was doing Form B at the time and the doctor, who had a surgery at Orange Farm in South Africa, wrote a letter informing my school that my sight could not be restored.
“I could see a little at the time, and still recall how I had to deliver that letter and as I handed it to the principal, I knew that would be my last day at school,” she said.

Lerato, who was then living in South Africa with her mother, said she had to return to Lesotho soon after the diagnosis.
“I always look back and say I was actually sent back here to die.”

However, despite the loss of the critical faculty, Lerato said she never lost hope and tried to lead a normal life.

But by 2003, Lerato had gone completely blind and laughs as she recalls how she would pretend that she was still able to see.
“I remember walking into a certain shop one day and moving around like any other ordinary customer. But as I walked out, I missed the door and bumped into the glass window, shattering it,” she said.
“It sounds funny now but at the time, I was in so much pain and just could not come to terms with my disability.”

With no hope for the future, Lerato stayed in her home village of Kolonyama Ha Manama, and would spend her days doing nothing.
“Each morning, I would sit outside and listen to the voices of other children as they walked past my home on their way to school, which really pained me.
“But my desire to learn remained strong and I kept praying and hoping that one day, I would be back in class again.”

However, she would spend the next 12 years out of school, during which she would always wish to further her studies.
“The breakthrough came in 2009 when I met the principal of Kolonyama High School, Teboho Mokhomo. I had gone to the school to register my niece, and Mokhoma asked whether I was attending school. I told him how I had lost my sight but this man went out of his way to ensure I was back in class.
“That same year, at the age of 26, I was registered at St Catherine’s High School and started Form A again.
“I was the oldest in my class, and it felt like a whole new world. It was a huge challenge sitting in the same class with 12-year-olds, but I told myself never to give up.”

But before she could settle in her new school, Lerato was hit by yet another disaster with the death of her mother.
“My mother’s death was a great loss to me; she had always wanted me to go back to school. Sadly, she passed away as soon as I had been admitted at St Catherine’s, but I think she died happy because she had seen me go back to school although this was after 12 years.”

Lerato says as an older student, it was both fun and a struggle at St Catherine’s.
“The younger students were learning fast and sometimes I could not keep pace,” she said, further recalling how she would insist that all the students call her ‘ausy Lerato’.
“I was obviously their sister; that’s why I wanted them to call me so.”

The proud holder of a COSC qualification, Lerato says her dream is now to earn a degree in Social Work.
“I hope to enrol at the National University of Lesotho to study social work.

“I don’t want to see younger people going through the pain I experienced. You know, some people end up committing suicide simply because they don’t get enough support to help them deal with life-challenges. I want to spend the rest of my life helping people face challenges without fear.”

However, Lerato says she is hurt by the way people with disability are treated by society at large.
“I am saddened by the fact that some parents still hide their children when they discover that they have some form of disability.
“I hope the government can take measures to ensure young people with disability are given the chance to get into schools and lay the foundation of a better future for themselves.”


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