Teen makes heartrending plea
SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD Ntaoleng Lesoja from Mabeleteng village could give anything to become mobile and be able to attend school just like any other girl her age.
However, for the past 10 years, Ntaoleng has not been able to fulfill her dream and enjoy the mobility most people take for granted.
At the age of one year, Ntaoleng was diagnosed with a rare condition, which affected her legs from the knees downwards, and left her unable to walk.
Ntaoleng crawls to help herself around her home and her hardened and darkened knees show the excruciating pain the teenager has endured over the years.
While Ntaoleng said she longed to play with other girls outside her family yard, her parents are not comfortable to let her crawl to their neighbours’ homesteads.
This fear has resulted in her isolation from the rest of the community from the time she was two years of age.
However, after learning about the girl’s plight, the Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture, ‘Mamahele Radebe requested Ntaoleng to be a special guest during her visit to the village on a tourism awareness campaign held a fortnight ago.
And for the first time in 14 years, Ntaoleng saw the bigger part of her village—a wish she had always longed for over the years. With the help of two relatives who carried her to the tourism events, Ntaoleng could not hide her tears as she looked around her and seeing many new faces.
“I am happy to see my village and to be around so many people for the first time. This is a dream-come-true for me since I don’t venture outside the house that much,” Ntaoleng told the Sunday Express.
Although this is not supposed to be the case, Ntaoleng is one of the many children whose dreams are shattered by their physical disability.
In an interview with the Sunday Express, Ntaoleng showed no signs that her disability affects her mental or any other of her faculties.
Ntaoleng spoke intelligently, and said she was aware her inability to go to school was due to her parents’ failure to afford the costs associated with her condition. However, the teen said it would make her happy if she could be accorded the great opportunity to go to school.
“I can learn just like any other child but my problem is that I can’t walk, so I need to be in boarding school. If only I could get a wheelchair, it would make it easy for me to also get to the classes on my own,” she said.
“I have no problem with my hands and can write. Even after I graduate at the university, I would be able to work because I am healthy.”
Both Ntaoleng’s parents are unemployed and her mother, ‘MaNtaoleng Lesoja, said it was hard to accept the possibility that there was not much she could do to help her daughter.
“The pain of seeing her unable to walk and as parents, failing to help her, is just too great. She is my first child and I always imagine what she might have become were it not for the disability,” she said.
However, what seemed to cause Ms Lesoja so much pain was the belief that she caused her daughter’s disability.
“When I was pregnant, I did not take the traditional medicine I was supposed to have taken, on time. I was careful with my last three children and they did not develop any strange illnesses,” Ms Lesoja said.
Ms Lesoja explained although she had taken her daughter to various hospitals after noticing she had a problem, the physicians could not help the situation.
“As parents, we should have sought help from as many specialist doctors as possible, but because we are poor, we could not afford such consultation and treatment.”
However, the Minister of Tourism, Ms Radebe, said while lack of specialised treatment could have caused Ntaoleng’s disability, there was no reason why she should not be in school.
“It broke my heart to see such a beautiful and intelligent girl not going to school all because of her family’s difficult circumstances.
“There is a lot we can do in our own personal capacities and also as government, to ensure many children like Ntaoleng are afforded the fundamental opportunity to be educated. That way, they can have a brighter future because with the capacity to take care of themselves or employ people who can, in future, help them, life would be manageable. Seeing her like this is very painful because I have noticed that with support, she can be whoever she chooses to be in life.”
The Minister donated a blanket and a food parcel to Ntaoleng and promised to seek more assistance on her behalf.