By DIANA MUTHEU
If anyone told me a few years back that I would learn to love myself just as I am, I probably would not have been believed them. My Name is John Lokuta and I’m 23 years old. I was born and raised in a marginalised village of Baragoi, Samburu county. I’m a fourth born in a family of eight children. I was born with short forelimbs.
The journey of my life has been very tough, but when you have a dream, you can’t judge the whole path because of the small difficulties you come across.
You pursue the dream and forget the challenges.
I went to primary school at Baragoi primary, sat for KCPE in 2009 and attained 351 marks. I joined Maralal high school, just 105 kilometres from my home. I then proceeded to secondary school where managed to score a mean grade of B+ (plus) in KCSE. When I was in primary and secondary school, it felt different being the odd one out. I despised myself and was often a loner. I hardly had any friends as I always avoided interacting with my fellow students.
At this stage, I suffered a lot. I remember wearing dirty uniform in high school because I could not wash the clothes. The struggle of getting by changed my cold demeanour as I sought to make friends and get the assistance I needed. Luckily, I made good friends who made life at school a lot much easier.
In my daily life, I must be assisted to do all the chores including bathing and washing clothes. I thank God for good friends. I have friends who help me with all my chores and am grateful for their care.
I joined Technical University of Mombasa in 2014 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration(BA). In campus, I met people who understood and appreciated me. Mingling with other people made me realise that other people were also struggling with various problems. I was not the only one who had difficulties in life. The new environment in the university changed how I felt about my condition. It is at that point that I started to embrace and love myself.
I forgave those who had despised me especially from my primary and secondary school years. Looking back, I realise that they meant no harm; they were just young and clueless about life and about my condition. I have learnt to be understanding and appreciate other people just as they are.
With new confidence, I became outgoing and got involved in numerous co-curricular activities. For instance, I joined both the Red Cross and scouts’ movement. I also played football majorly in position seven or 10. I enjoy playing football.
At first, people think they will hurt me when I am in the pitch. What most of them fail to know is that I have perfected the tactics of manoeuvring the pitch’s terrain since I was a young boy. When I get hold of the ball, I dribble, pass or shoot skilfully. In case I fall down, I rise without any challenge as opposed to what many would be led to believe by looking at me.
I formed a local football team in my home area called Saint Martin FC. We have competed in numerous matches and competitive events that have seen me win three titles as the best player.
Besides not being able to fully take care of myself, my condition has also presented other problems in the past such as discrimination.
I remember visiting a county office where I had an official appointment. I was not very conversant with the offices so I decided to ask for assistance. I approached a man who was standing in the corridors and before I could speak, he told me “sina kitu bro” (I have nothing to give you brother).
I was appalled. The man had assumed that I needed his charity. He viewed me as a mere object of pity. Such treatment is insulting and greatly demoralises people living with disability.
My family has been very supportive all through my life and such acceptance makes life much easier. Also my home church, Baragoi Catholic Parish, has stood by me, recognising my achievements in the different stages of my life. The church chipped in to pay for my secondary school education and later on when I completed Form Four, they gave me a job as a teacher in one of the local schools as I waited to join the university.
John Lokuta, 23, was born with short forelimbs but this has not stopped him from passionately pursuing his dreams. PHOTO| DIANA MUTHEU
During my time at the university, I served as the representative of people living with disabilities and lobbied for amenities that would cater for accessibility of the students with special needs.
Every university needs ramps and toilets that can be conveniently used by people living with disabilities. Being a leader helped me push successfully for these basic provisions in our school. I also created awareness by holding many forums and trainings with management, students and community members to help them understand the challenges faced by people with special needs.
I hope people with disabilities can rise above their challenges and pursue their dreams but we need help from the government and the society. We need opportunities from the government and acceptance from the society.
The only disability I know is the disability of brain. According to my parents, it is only when you cannot think, comprehend and communicate that you can claim disability.
First Published by Daily Nation