Down But Not Out

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… Student Proves Disability Is Not Inability

By Moses Magadza

Windhoek

A 27-year-old Namibian student who was involved in a serious accident, in which five people died while he was severely injured and paralysed six years ago, is defying his disability. He has enrolled at the University of Namibia to pursue his childhood dream: attain a degree and help develop his country.

Churupatti Katjivena (27) was once an athletic, powerfully built young man and as he grew up in Okakarara, life proceeded in even tenor.

“I had a burning desire to one day go to university and attain a degree. I wanted to become a teacher. I have always admired and respected teachers because of their role in shaping tomorrow’s generation. Every successful person went through the hands of a teacher and I was determined to become one,” he said in an interview.

He admitted that in life, some blows can be so severe that they knock one down so badly that getting back to one’s feet can be very difficult, adding that many people incapacitated by grim circumstances have resigned themselves to their new fate and accepted their misfortune as God’s wish.

“I am down but not out. Life is full of struggles. Through difficulty, I will succeed and realise my dream,” he said. After Grade 12 at Okakarara Secondary School, Katjivena changed his mind about being a teacher and enrolled for a four-year course in plumbing.

“I was a strong young man and I thought I would train for a job that called for physical strength. By the time I was in the third year of my studies I was so excited at the prospect of graduating and furthering my studies in that field,” he said.

Unbeknown to the ambitious young man, fate had other plans.

On August 11, 2002 he was one of 11 passengers in a vehicle that was being driven by his friend along a gravel road in Okakarara.

He remembered waking up in Windhoek Central Hospital two weeks later to bad news.

“I learnt that the vehicle overturned, that five people with whom I had been travelling had died, that I had sustained a broken neck and that I had been paralysed and would be confined to a wheelchair all my life. I was also told that I had spent two weeks in a coma. I was devastated,” he recalled.

He was discharged from hospital on December 16, 2002 and went to stay with his mother who is a nurse in Okakarara. Later his aunt, a teacher, took him to her house in Omatjete.

“The accident broke my body. It did not break my determination to attain a degree although every time I looked at my physical state I would wonder how I would do so,” he said.

Then something else happened that inspired him and boosted his confidence.
“I was watching television when the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) showed a disabled female student from the Polytechnic of Namibia. She had no hands and used her feet to write with a pen held between her toes. I could still use my hands, even though in a limited capacity. I could write and that girl inspired me,” he said.

He applied at Unam, was admitted and now says he is firmly on the path to self-actualisation through reading for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Administration.

“I want to thank Ms Jessica Barrow, an American volunteer teaching in Namibia for linking me up with a donor in the United States who bought me a battery powered wheelchair for nearly N$30??????’?????’?????????????

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