Brilliant disabled boy ‘too poor’ for school

By Eliaser Ndeyanale at Otandu

AN eight-year-old boy from Otandu village in Omusati region may have to leave school as his mother is unable to afford the private school fees and the boy needs a wheelchair to get around and be able to access education.

Blessed with a bright smile and bubbly personality, Titus Shoombe was born with an extremely rare congenital disorder known as phocomelia, which in his case is characterised by the absence of legs and an arm. He is in kindergarten at Tupopila Private School, for which his mother pays N$500 a month.

But last month Shoombe’s school fees were not paid, because his mother, Secilia Sheelekeni (45) is now unemployed, has four children and also had to pay for the computer course she is attending at Nakayale Training Centre near Outapi.

Titus crawls on his stomach to get around, dresses himself and feeds himself. He can also write and is able to sit on a chair by himself.

Speaking to Confidente recently  at Tupopila Private School, which is situated along Outapi-Tsandi road, Sheelekeni said Titus was supposed to be in Grade 2 this year but did not attend any school last year as they could not secure a place for him at any of the local schools.

“Schools are far and it is difficult to take him there because he does not have a wheelchair. I took him to a school in Tsandi last year but they could not take him, it’s probably because of his disability… They told me that they would get back to me but they did not. That made it difficult for me to get a placement for him.

“I brought him here, because although the school is a bit expensive, here he stays in the hostel and it makes it easy for him to attend classes. I tried to get him a wheelchair but I have not finished paying for it. I only managed to pay N$1,600. I need to pay [another] N$900 … but I am unable to pay the remaining amount because now I am unemployed.

“I was able to pay for him before because I was working for Etambo ELCIN church as the secretary in the church office. However, when I left the office to attend classes the salary also stopped coming in,” she said.

She added that Titus may be forced to remain in kindergarten or to leave school. If he happened to secure a place at a nearby school, the mother was unsure how he would get there because the front wheels of the wheelchair he currently uses malfunctioned and make it difficult for people to push.

Sheelekeni said there is no one in the family who can afford to assist her to buy a new wheelchair or to help pay for Titus’ school. She hopes that some Good Samaritans might offer her a job so that she can help Titus and her three other kids.

“I don’t have parents. My father died in the war for the liberation, while my mother died in 2003. I wish they were alive so they could support me with Titus’ issue,” remarked Sheelekeni, who said she suffers from high blood pressure.

According to his teacher, Andreas Kanyanga, Shoombe is one of the brilliant learners in his class. “He is confident and performs well in class,” he said briefly. The teacher also showed this reporter Shoombe’s academic report for last semester, and the report paints a picture of an intelligent and diligent learner.

Asked what he wants to do after completing his schooling, little Shoombe said he wants to be a police officer.