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What defines me?

24 February 2017

I am a 19 year old aspiring writer and an author of an unpublished book called “LATELA LITORO TSA HAO “from Itumeleng Special School, a school for learners with intellectual disabilities. My diagnosis is unknown to me; however, my mother told me that at birth I was put on a ventilation machine for three days as I could not breathe on my own. My poor mother from the rural areas of Lesotho only noticed when I was 5 years that my right hand side was not functioning very well. Little did she know that she should have taken me to specialists to train me to use the left hand side.

My worst nightmares settled in when I started schooling with unsympathetic educators not understanding that I could learn in a normal class like other kids regardless of my very bad handwriting. My fear of educators and my mother’s ignorance on my disability made me suffer in silence since I could have told them about how best they could teach me had they asked. My oral communication could have complemented my written work. Their attitude and my mother’s ignorance pushed me away from mainstream education to a special school for learners with intellectual disabilities.

When people are drinking coffee like kings and queens I feel likewise but my shaky hands and my inability to use my right hand makes it impossible for me to do so. I believe, I am a very strong young woman who has never taken the value life for granted. From the day I was born I refused to give up in life. The only dark cloud that is hanging over me is the fact that I will never have a grade or a university degree because of my disability.

Though I have a disability, there is nothing that will stop me from being a writer and an author of a book. I would like people to know me as a person who succeeded in life against all odds. My support team is my family and the educators at my present school. I feel very frustrated because people with intellectual disabilities are seen as mentally incapable – people who have nothing to contribute to the society and are never taken seriously. The community does not have an understanding of who we really are and what we can do regardless of our disabilities.

We may not function well academically but with enough support and guidance through mentorship and coaching programmes, we can also be functional in society. I understand that success is measured by the grades and qualifi cations that you have achieved. We need to break the chain of looking down and societal expectation of how to be successful.

A person like me, needs coaching and mentoring to succeed as opposed to being labelled and stigmatised most of the time I only need help with writing because my writing is very bad and sometimes I get tired when writing. My other passions include public speaking, writing, fashion shows and reciting poems.

SUBMITTED: RELEBOHILE RAMATSHIDISO