26. Mike

Participant-31-Portrait

Honestly, my parents weren’t going to take me to school, but the house where I was living at the time, there were a lot of children there who attended school. When they came home from school, they would be reciting a,b,c and 1,2,3 and those things. Unconsciously, I was learning them. One day I was home, and I started reciting those things, and it hit my father – no, I can go to school, so he took me to school. When I got there, they said I was too young so they weren’t going to take me, but my father persuaded the headmaster, and he finally agreed to take me. I was doing well when I started. My best position at the time was first and my worst was fourth in my classes.


Growing up, I was told that I once walked, but as to how it feels to walk, I do not remember now. They said I once fell sick, and they took me to the hospital, and they gave me an injection, and the next morning I couldn’t stand on my feet. My parents didn’t know anything about polio at the time, so they were thinking it might be something spiritual, so they were taking me to some fetish priests and all those people.

They would take me to the shrine where they would do some incantations to make me walk again. They would smear something on my leg. It happened like three times, and there was no improvement. My left leg became stiff.

In 1981, they took me to St. Joseph’s hospital where I had my first operation. At the time, I was operated on five times for my leg alone. In 1986, I had the last operation. That’s what I have survived on up until this day.

Honestly, my parents weren’t going to take me to school, but the house where I was living at the time, there were a lot of children there who attended school. When they came home from school, they would be reciting a,b,c and 1,2,3 and those things. Unconsciously, I was learning them. One day I was home, and I started reciting those things, and it hit my father – no, I can go to school, so he took me to school. When I got there, they said I was too young so they weren’t going to take me, but my father persuaded the headmaster, and he finally agreed to take me. I was doing well when I started. My best position at the time was first and my worst was fourth in my classes.

When I was about to enter JSS, we were supposed to go to another school to join them. I had to walk basically a half a mile every day to school.

I used crutches and calipers. Before the operation, I was crawling, and it was extremely difficult – especially if I decided to walk a distance, everything I would be wearing would be dirty. When I was going to school at the JSS level, there’s a river I used to cross before we got to school. One day, when I was coming back from school, the river overflowed the banks, and it was difficult for me to cross. It was difficult for me to see the bridge because the bridge was too small. It was covered in water.

Fortunately for me, some of the people who live in the same house with me, they informed the elderly people, and they came in their numbers and took me across the river. That was how I survived that one. I didn’t know what would have happened to me otherwise.

I remember one time at home there was an earthquake, and we were watching TV in somebody’s room. It happened, and everyone ran away, and they left me alone in the room – until later, when everyone thinks they are secured, they remembered Michael is in the room. They came to me, and nothing happened to me.

Sometimes, I had to go to classes in the storied buildings, and it was difficult. Sometimes, I’d be climbing, and I’d slip and I’d fall and some of the children who don’t understand how it feels to be in this position might think of it as fun or entertainment. Some will laugh. Some will have extreme sympathy for you and will be trying to help you and all those things. It was tough. Carrying my books to school was one of my major problems. I cannot hold the crutches and then carry the books. I had a friend who lived along the same road. He would pass by my house before he goes to his house, so he would carry my books to his house. I wouldn’t have my notes at my house. I didn’t even have the luxury of learning my notes at home. The only time he would sacrifice and bring it to my home was during examination time. Even paying school fees too was a problem. It was by God’s grace that I even completed school.

When you enter JSS, you are supposed to pay admission fee, and at the time, it was very, very large and difficult. The headmaster was so good that he didn’t ask me for the admission fee for a whole year. Sometimes, he was sacking other students. Other teachers didn’t understand what I was going through at the time, so during examination time, they would be sacking people to go for their school fees. The only chance I had was when we started the exams. By thirty minutes time, they would come for the fees and announce if you know you have not paid your school fees, go home. I always tried as much as possible that within the first thirty minutes, I had to write something that would make me pass. Once I was writing science, and the teacher came and said you have not paid your school fees, go home. But by the time he collected my paper, he looked at what I had written and saw I had almost finished the questions. He looked at me and said sit down. It’s not necessary. I had already finished it – so there’s no need to sack me.

When I got to SS, I owed so much, it was difficult for the headmaster to even let me write the exams, so he called me to his office and asked if any of my family members had a cocoa farm to see if he could get me a cocoa scholarship. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t feel comfortable sacking me to the house.  So he asked me to go and get anybody to negotiate with them to get a scholarship to pay my school fees. I did it. I was given a half-scholarship, but still I was owing. The next term, during exam times, they sacked me. They didn’t even allow me to start. I started going home. I walked probably two hundred feet away, and I heard someone call me back. They said somebody had come to pay my school fees. I don’t know the person who came to do this. I was allowed to write the exams, but because I was not having my notes with me all the time, I failed some of my papers – because of not having my notes with me most of the time.

The only option for me at the time was to rewrite it again, and where the exam center was is about one and a half miles away. There was no way my father could afford the transportation to that place. There was no way if I don’t write the exams, I would get my grades. So everyday, I walked three miles in and out with an empty stomach. I missed all the meals. My father used to tell me, you go to school, and maybe by the time you get back, there will be food at the table. Most of the time I went to school with an empty stomach, but by god’s grace, I survived.

I did not experience any discrimination among my teachers. One incident I remember among the students, some of my seniors when I went to JSS first made fun of me anytime they saw me. They would begin to laugh at me. Because of my disability, I waited for four whole years at home. I couldn’t do anything for myself. I wish even I could pull a truck that people push in town to make ends meet. I wish I could have done it to raise funds for my education. If you are not able to make money to buy foods, you become a beggar. That’s when people get the chance to make fun of you. If you’re able to do things for yourself, it’s a bit easier for people to accept you.

I remember one incident when I was working. I was going to buy food. I went to stand by the food-vendor. The woman looked at me, and she thought I was coming to beg for food, so she served everyone and left me. She later gave me a face. I said I will buy some. She said, “How much?” I mentioned the amount, and when she had finished, I gave her twenty cedis, and she was amazed. She said sorry. Where can I get change for you? She quickly went somewhere and got change for me. The next time I was going to buy food at that place, she saw me and asked to serve me first. It was one incident which happened.

Getting a job after school was very difficult. After school, I stayed home for four years. My father was a cobbler, and I used to help him at the shop. I was doing it with him, but he had a friend that had an optical company. He went to see him and begged him to take me at his place. He begged him to give me anything to do in the company. After persuading him for some time, he agreed to take me there. They took me to a very old workshop where no one even worked. Honestly, there were no vacancies other places, but it was a consolation. He didn’t know what I could do. The workshop was where they did repairs. As I was at the place, I saw them cutting the lens and fitting it into the frame and I was amazed to see them cut glass and all those things. But I did not have the opportunity to learn.

I remember the catholic church also had an optical shop, and the catholic leaders at the church said the way I had been coming to church always, I needed to be helped. They could see that if they helped me, I would be able to do something for myself. They asked me to learn how to test the eye. That wasn’t where my interest was. I wanted to learn how to cut and fix the spectacles myself. So they took me to where they test the eye, and I’d run away and come back to the workshop. I did it about ten times, and they finally said they should leave me to learn whatever I want to learn. I became a technician. When I went there, I met about four senior technicians. By the time I was leaving, I was a senior technician. They said the company was running at a loss then, so redundancies had to take leave. I was affected, so they asked me to go home.

Before that, I had seen some companies with some advertisements, so I followed up. I wasn’t going to work on Saturdays at that place, so I followed up to see if I could get a part-time job on Saturdays. The man said he doesn’t want someone part-time. He wanted someone to be employed fully. I didn’t want to work full-time for him. So when it happened that I had to go, I called him, and he said I should come. I was traveling thirty kilometers to work everyday and back by car. I was coming from Nsawam to work in Kaneshie every day. The most difficult part was when you want to board a car, sometime it is a struggle.

I can join a Tro-Tro, but it’s not easy. Where I feel comfortable to sit is at the front. If I go and the front is full, I have to wait for another car, and where it is difficult to get a car, sometimes, I have to stand by the roadside for a very long time, until sometimes, the drivers knew me well so that if they saw me coming, they would tell the person in the front to get down so I could come to the front.

When I joined this company, I had to walk a very long distance to get to the station. However, if I climbed the bridge over the road across the Kaneshie bridge, it would be a bit shorter. Because I couldn’t climb the bridge, I had to walk a very long distance before I could board. One day, I decided to try the bridge. As soon as I put my foot on the bridge, I could hear someone scream to hurry and I got afraid and turned back. I waited for one Saturday when the bridge was not that busy, and I made up my mind that you either overtake me or you follow me slowly. I started climbing the staircase and they were shouting, but I didn’t mind. If you think you cannot follow me, go around. Even though it was difficult, I tried and was successful. Since then, I’ve been climbing it. I’ve been climbing it for the past five years.

The reason why I am single right now is to make sure that I have a strong financial base because if you look at my condition and I am not financially sound and I involve myself in any relationship, I will not succeed. It will be very difficult. Some will agree to marry you because they know you can take care of them. If you can’t provide for the person, and she will be doing almost everything for you, a time will come when she will leaves. That is why I am still single.

I do not experience discrimination in my house. I think It’s a combination of the way I conduct myself and how I am able to take care of myself. If you are coming to somebody and the person knows you are coming to ask for money, he sees you from a distance and is angry. But for me, I work for twelve hours per day. I start working at eight and I will work until eight.

If a person with a disability comes to you for advice, what advice would you give?

For me, what I say I don’t want to be a burden on anybody. You understand? I try as much as possible to do things myself. If you see me and want to help, you can help me, but I don’t want to wait for anybody to help me. One thing also is that everything the able-people can do, I can also do it. Maybe – if we are to carry things or walk a distance, you will be there early, but eventually, I will also get there. So what I would tell the person is nobody owes you anything or any help. Try to do things yourself, and you will gain the respect of others even though it is difficult. In my house, people say that if I need something, they will go buy it for me, but I prefer to do it myself. If they do it for you one, two, three, then they start viewing it as troublesome. Occasionally, when you are tired, it’s fine. You don’t depend on them.

What are some of your difficult moments in life?

School times – when I was not having food to eat and then paying my school fees and all those things, and even my father being unable to pay his rent at home was difficult. Most of the time, the son of the landlord would come in and insult him and say a lot of things. I wished I could throw something at him most of the time. At the time, my father was old, almost sixty years, and the son of the land lord was twenty years insulting him, and standing toe-to-toe with him, I wanted to settle the score.

Can you tell us your happy moments?

For me, almost every day is my happy moment. Nobody will make you happy until you decide to make yourself happy. There is no way you can tease me in anyway I will be offended. Sometime, I even try to create jokes out of my own condition. I don’t care. Once what they are saying cannot take anything away from you, when you are able to turn those situations around and make fun of the, people who will make fun of you wills top. They will rather see it as interesting to be around you.

I have a lot of friends. For me, I don’t like the friends where you go to his house and he comes to yours. When I am alone, I don’t feel neglected or sad. I am happy. Sometimes, people think I am anti-social because if I meet you, I only greet you. I am the quiet type. Until one day, I decided I wanted to be a little friendly. So I have a lot of friends. People respect me. Most of my friends are female.

If a person loves you because of sympathy, I’m a human being, and that would make me angry. I get angry if someone tells me that they have pity for me.

When you have pity for me, it makes me weak. I want to be treated like anyone. I don’t like the way people will treat you. Sometimes, the pity they show is artificial too. It is too artificial. You can see that it is because they’ve seen you with the crutches, but if you should do something to annoy them, you will see the way they will react to.

I’m looking for a woman that does not have the artificial sympathy.

How do you see the future for people with disabilities in Ghana?

I wish we would be treated equally. The equality I am talking about is not that if I ask an able person to carry something that they ask me to carry something too. The equality I am talking about is you know I can’t carry, but because I’ve requested that we be treated equally, you should ask me to work at a job that doesn’t need extra strength.

Do you think the future is bright for persons with disabilities?

Yes. Because formally when you were disabled, there was no way they would take you to school because most disabled people were not educated. Despite all of the challenges, we are making it – when we make up our minds.


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