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Against the odds

tebohoMohau Serabele

Born in a poor family and with a debilitating condition, 19-year-old Teboho Senamolele is living proof that with determination, everything and anything is possible.

Teboho Senamolele, 19, will go down in history as probably the first Mosotho child to excel in his studies despite living with a debilitating condition, Cerebral Palsy (CP).

In 2013, the soft-spoken, wheelchair-bound Teboho surprised all and sundry by passing his Primary School-leaving examinations with a First Class, in spite of the affliction which impairs movement-control due to severe damage to the brain during one’s childhood.

The youngest in a family of three siblings, Teboho’s mother, ‘Matebello Senamolele, narrated a heartrending tale about her son’s birth and upbringing in Ha Moholisa, Maputsoe, during an emotional interview with the Sunday Express.

`Matebello says being the only son in the family, Teboho immediately occupied a special place in the home, but circumstances could not allow her to be always there for her boy.

“Because I had a demanding job at one of the clothing-manufacturing factories here in Maputsoe, I did not have the time to breastfeed my son.

“I had to rush back to work as soon as my two-week maternity leave was over, otherwise I would have lost my job,” she said.

Teboho was, therefore, left in the care of his elder sister, Tebello, who would nurse him during the day whilst their mother laboured in the factory.

“I would milk myself early in the morning and put the milk in a bottle. Tebello would then feed Teboho this milk throughout the day, until I returned home from work.”

However, ‘Matebello says she soon realised “something” was wrong with her son.

“When he was about five months old, I discovered there was something unusual about him. He would not cry and hold things the way babies at his age did. I also realised that his limbs were deformed, and in panic, I rushed him to hospital where he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.”

The condition meant he would be confined to a wheelchair for his entire life — news which ‘Matebello said left her in a state of disbelief.

“The doctors said Teboho’s condition was very serious; they told me that my baby would not be able to speak or walk on his own since his limbs were totally deformed. I was also advised to start taking him for regular physiotherapy.

“However, the daily visits to the hospital were too expensive for me, so after a few weeks, I decided not to take him any more. I accepted him as my God-given child and chose to live with him the way he was. I am thankful that he has grown to become the man he is today.”

According to Amohelang Ramoholi, an Educational Psychologist at the Maputsoe-based Ferrando Resource Centre for Differently Abled Children, CP is not very common in Lesotho. Ramoholi however, said the condition leads to a series of other health-complications which include vision, hearing and speech problems.

“Actually, children with CP have learning disabilities; they are classified as learners with special educational needs and require specially trained teachers,” said Ramoholi.

Yet Teboho has defied the odds — thanks largely to his never-say-die spirit and assistance of his sister Tebello.

“I can now easily read and speak both English and Sesotho. I also have a very keen interest in writing poetry,” he said.

Teboho types his verses on a computer, which is no mean feat since both his hands are deformed.

According to his loving sister Tebello, the quest for education became evident when Teboho was about eight years of age.

“I remember it was in 2002 when he started to develop a keen interest in reading and writing. He actually asked me to teach him, which I gladly did.

“I would use old newspapers to teach him the basic A,E,I,O,U, and he caught-on very fast and soon, he was able to form both Sesotho and English words on his own.”

Their mother, ‘Matebello, added when Teboho was about 12 years of age, he shocked everybody in the family when he read a popular Sesotho literature book, Arola Naheng ea Maburu.

“He read the book from cover to cover without difficulty,” ‘Matebello said. “He demanded that we all sit down and listen to him reading that novel and in two days’ time, he had finished the book.”

‘Matebello said nobody could believe Teboho was able to read such deep Sesotho.

“After that pleasant surprise, I decided to bring home some used magazines which he would read without any difficulty. He actually used to play word-puzzles in the magazines, working with his sister.”

According to ‘Matebello, it was only in 2013 when Teboho was 19 years of age, that the family decided to send him to school.

“It was a hard decision because the family could not afford to pay his school-fees. But I felt he had to go to school because the things he was able to do were exceptional.”

With the help of the Hlotse office of the Ministry of Education and Training, Teboho was admitted at the Ferrando Recourse Centre for Differently Abled Children — a Catholic institution which trains Maputsoe children living with various disabilities.

Following an in-depth assessment at the centre, Teboho was declared fit to sit for the Primary School Leaving Certificate examinations despite never having been inside a classroom before.

“It was my first time to be in a classroom, and I was not expecting to write exams so soon. But I told myself I could do it, and I am happy to say I did not disappoint myself and those who believed so much in me.”

Although he has difficulty speaking, Teboho said he has made a decision to face life’s challenges head-on.

“I’m not disabled; I am just differently abled, so I chose to face the exams and life in general, without fear.”

His Standard 7 teacher, ‘Machake Shai, said  Teboho is simply a gifted young man.

“I feel proud to have been his teacher,” Shai said. “He came to school four months later than the other students, but he surprised them all because he was able to catch-up quickly and become a star in his class.

“Officials from the Department of Special Education in Leribe came to assess Teboho, and also test his fitness for exams.

“He passed the assessment and was declared fit to write the Standard 7 final examinations which he passed with flying colours.

“It was my first experience working with a student with Cerebral Palsy, and Taboho is living proof  that we all have special gifts, which we must use according to God’s wish.”

On his part, Teboho says he feels happy with his Standard 7 achievement.

“I am looking forward to pursuing further education in high school. I hope that one day, I will  become a lawyer so that I can fight for the  rights of children with disabilities.”

Yet Teboho’s dream of going into high school could go up in smoke. Although he has been admitted into one of the high schools in Maputsoe, his mother, who is the only breadwinner in the family, has failed to raise the required tuition fees.

“I would love to see my son proceed to high school, but my wage, from the factory, is not enough to pay the fees, and also cover our daily expenses as a family,” ‘Matebello said.

“I am the only one working in this family, so I cannot afford the fees.”

Meanwhile, while he anxiously awaits his high school debut, what Teboho can do for now is while-away time reading novels and newspapers.


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