As I was going to school and sleeping with this watchman through JSS, when I got to the final level, I had to write the exam. I didn’t have money to register for the final exam. One friend told me about an orphanage in this community. I went there and told my story to this woman, who supported me with the registration for the exams. I took the exams first and the results came and I didn’t pass, so I had to find a way to re-write. I did this shoe making and I was able to raise some money to re-write. I re-wrote the exam and I passed. I needed to go to the secondary school, but who was going to support me? So I was catering for myself with my cobbler business. That’s what I was doing, and sleeping outside.
When I was born in 1987, I wasn’t born a cripple. I had nine years, and then I got sick. I was convulsive and sent to the hospital. I was injected and eventually I became crippled. Among all my siblings, I was the only one who was found with a disability, and my parents did not believe that I would ever go to school or that something good may come out of me because my condition, they saw it as nothing good would generate out of it.
As my parents thought I was going to be able to go to school, each day, I would pack chalk in my pocket. I would stand behind the wall and practice writing on the wall. I used to do that each day. The chief in the village saw it and realized that I had interest in going to school. He came and informed my parents, “This boy – I think he would be brilliant in school.” My parents said, “Elijah – this boy, how can he be in school?” The chief realized my parents were not willing to send me to school, so the chief himself sent me to school.
As I was in school, the man couldn’t even afford my school uniform or my shoe. The only thing he could do was write my name in the school and pay my school fees. But I was happy to put me in school, and since he had put me in school, I had to find a way to go to school. I didn’t have a school uniform or a shoe. I didn’t even have a table to write on. I would carry this kitchen stool to school. At school, I would sit on the floor and write on the stool that I always carried around with me to school.
When I was in school, I was very good academically, so the teachers had to write to the social welfare to bring the government in so the government could support me. They wrote a letter to them, and they called me and interviewed me. They were fascinated by me. They had to come in and help. My parents had to endorse it for the government to come in, but the father had moved to this village, so his interest was in farming, not in educating me. In the long run, my father would not even endorse it.
Finally, they had to bring the police and bring a letter to him. He was afraid then, so he went to the gender and social protection ministry, They had to take him through some interviews. The government wanted to come in and support Elijah to university, he didn’t. He claimed that he was capable of supporting Elijah, and that the government had to leave Elijah into this hands. He took me from there and brought me to this place and left me in the hands of my aunt.
I had to quit school and begin school here. Where to sleep and what to eat was very difficult. My daddy left me in the hands of this women, and she was not very good with me. I was taken to my sister, and that’s where I started shoe making. I was able to save some money and resume my education through stage four and complete primary.
I was doing this cobbling to cater for myself through school. I was doing this shoe making and using it to pay my fees and everything, but I could not afford a uniform and shoe, but I pleaded with the school authorities. I asked that they accepted me to be in school without the uniform. I wore the normal house dress. The students used to ridicule me because they know I was the only disabled person in the school, and I was the only one without a uniform or shoes.
We were vacated one day, and I decided to go and look for my daddy. I went to him in the village and told him I know how to weave baskets, and he should help me weave some baskets and help me raise money so I could get a uniform. I weaved so many baskets, so that I could buy a uniform for school. JSS form 1, that was the first time I used uniforms in school.
I’m the third born after my elder sister. I was staying with her. One day, in the night, she started screaming that I was trying to rape her. She wanted to get rid of me because of her boyfriend. She didn’t do it that way just by telling me. She started screaming in the night. She brought her underwear out to the public, and she showed it to the public. In fact, he became very ashamed of himself and embarrassed. How could my own sister treat me this way? The community members were also mocking me that I was a rapist, so I became embarrassed.
The only alternative for me was suicide, so I went and bought poison. I was going to take the poison when fortunately, one woman came on the scene and rescued me. She said, “this boy wanted to commit suicide. Due to this shameful allegation from the sister, in fact, he has to move out from the sister and find a place to live.”
By then I went to my mom, but she didn’t have a place to accommodate me, so I had to sleep aside. Everyone in this community, they know I had to sleep outside. Those who work on the tabletops, when they’re done marketing, I would lie on their tables. In the morning, I would find somewhere to wash myself, and then I would go to school. I found a job weeding. I used to go to a farm after school. I would carry my machete to the bush and then weed in some of the farmer’s farm and they would pay me. They would help me cater for myself. I was still in school.
I met a man moving to the farm, who said, “I’ve been seeing you climbing this road to the bush,: I explained that I do the weeding. He said, “If that is the case, I’ve opened a grocery shop and a barbering shop, do your shoe making in front of the shop, so you can stop this bush activity.” The man pleaded with a woman who was doing hairdressing. He pleaded with the woman to let me stay in her shop. Anytime I went to sleep, I found the place untidy. So I would have to get rid of all of the sand, I would have to clean it. In my attempt to clean the place, the electrical wire sparked fire. I started screaming. Fortunately, for me, I escaped. The place caught fire, and the carpet got burned. Fortunately, the shop was saved. Some small items got burned. The next morning, when this woman came, the woman said leave the shop, you burned my house. Leave here. You carry bad luck. Someone who wants to support you, and you almost burn their house. So I was back to sleeping outside.
As I was rejected by this woman, I continued sleeping outside. I didn’t have peace of mind even to study. In spite of all this predicament, I was brilliant in school. That was what God gave me. Whether I studied or not, I was able to do well. It was rainy season, so I couldn’t sleep outside. I had to find a way to survive. There was this taxi driver, who used to park his car in front of his house, and I pleaded with him to sleep in his car. I don’t know what happened, but I don’t know what happened if someone gossiped to him or something, but at dawn, he would wake me up. Even at 3 am when the sleep was deep, that was when this man would come. He would start the engine so I would wake up and I would come out and continue the sleep on the table in front of my shop. I didn’t have peace of mind. I realized it was becoming quite unbecoming.
I went to my school. There was this security man who was sleeping in the school, and I pleaded with him to allow me to be sleeping with him. I told him my story before he accepted me to sleep with him. I looked like a madman because all of my clothes were tattered. I had siblings who were married who even could let me stay with them, but because I looked like a madman, they were ashamed of me. They said they didn’t know me. I was left to my fate and sleeping with this security man.
As I was going to school and sleeping with this watchman through JSS, when I got to the final level, I had to write the exam. I didn’t have money to register for the final exam. One friend told me about an orphanage in this community. I went there and told my story to this woman, who supported me with the registration for the exams. I took the exams first and the results came and I didn’t pass, so I had to find a way to re-write. I did this shoemaking and I was able to raise some money to re-write. I re-wrote the exam and I passed. I needed to go to the secondary school, but who was going to support me? So I was catering for myself with my cobbler business. That’s what I was doing, and sleeping outside.
In fact, a that time, one friend of mine who I completed JSS with went to his parents, there is being advertised a commercial school on radio that is admitting students including the disabled person for free. I demanded for the address, and I wrote a letter including my photograph. The headmaster replied back, and they invited me to the school. I had raised some money for transport, I told the man I was operating a stall. He added a few amount, and I traveled to Koforidua, which is so many miles. When I got there, the man wept. One thing was that my school, the whites were sponsoring your education, only the tuition fee..with the upkeep – food, clothes, shelter – your parents have to provide them. I said I have no support, it’s like I’m an orphan. He accepted me and enrolled me in the school.
For the secondary school, the man accepted me and I enrolled. I was left with this upkeep and all that. So I used to listen to one FM, this one pastor Gabriel Ansah, who used to preach. I was given direction, and I went to him and told him my flight. He accepted my flight, and he said it was only the upkeep, I will support you. So this man sent some people to this village. They came and brought me money, and I paid for the boarding fee. He helped with the upkeep, who helped me with the gary and all that you have to go with. Later on, it wasn’t coming frequently, so I had to even result to raw gary, nothing, because the school’s food wasn’t good for my stomach. I had to feed for myself, and there was no money. Gary was quite affordable. It’s made of cassava, full of starch. I developed night blindness. When I’m studying, I couldn’t see clearly. When day I told the principal, I was a cobbler, I would like to establish a shoemaking store and do the shoes of the students. He gave me the permission and I started. It was announced at the assembly hall that everyone should mend their shoes with me. That was how I raised some money to take care of myself.
I completed secondary school taking care of myself on my own. I didn’t pass, but I rewrote again and passed. When I passed, I needed to find something to do. I heard an announcement on the radio that they were enrolling for a journalism course. I went there and the man fell in love with me. I told him I’m interested, and he said he’d support me. I passed the interview even with my condition, and he said he’d take responsibility for my fees. this man helped me through the journalism course for six months, and then I was employed. He took me to one FM station, and they employed me as a DJ. I was working. They even rented a room for me around because I was commuting from this place to there. I stayed there, but later as I was working, something got lost at the work site, and in fact, it was terrible, they posed everything on me and they accused me of stealing, and they had to reject me from the work. They removed me, and I lost my job as a journalist, so I came home and continued my job as a cobbler.
Later, I also heard an advertisement on radio that they were looking for accountants. It was a microfinance company. I applied and went through their course. They accepted me. I started working for them as a cashier. I was someone who was quiet and not really mobile. You would find me in the office. Some would go out. The proprietor of the company absconded with the money, and I was there when police came. They came to meet me in the office because I was immobile. I was arrested. I was put in the jail – as if I was the one who had been the one who absconded. Meanwhile, I was there working as a cashier. I was put in jail for two weeks.
I was in the cells, and nobody was coming in to bail me. I had a dream that somebody came to bail me, so I called him. I asked him to sign the bond. He released me. Anytime they show up, I deflected to this guy…39 people, he had to pay all of them so I would be free.
I was sleeping in this microfinance bungalow. They gave me a place where I was spending the night. As I was staying there, people would worry me and say they’re coming for their money. This woman came to me for 4000 GHS. I realized that if I remained in that house, there would be another situation. I had to abscond and vacate from that place. So I returned to where I was from and continued with my cobbler business.
I was the one who was able to mobilize all of the disabled people in this community. We formed a chapter of Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled. I was part of Paralympics.
Since I mobilized them, somebody got one of the leaders from Koforidua, the district assembly, he was the one who used to sit in our meetings. The money that was meant for them, the district assembly common fund none of them all these years have received it. I know the money comes but they have enriched themselves with this money. The money that was meant for us, they were using it to enrich themselves.
When I completed school, the proprietor of the school realized I needed a wheelchair and he helped me with one. All these years, that’s the only wheelchair I have. It’s even damaged, so I don’t have a wheelchair. The District Assembly is supposed to supply us with some, but they don’t even. All these meetings we have concerning persons with disabilities, we talk and nothing good comes out of it.
I was very good in Paralympic sports. The team used to come for me. We used to have competitions within Ghana. We’d travel to some of the regions in Ghana. We traveled to Tamale where one white man fell in love with me. He donated big money. He did not give the money to him. Nothing came out of it. The only thing I had was tricycle that spoiled.
I am supposed to be part of the Olympic games in Ghana, but I’m living in darkness. No one knows that I could perform at wheelchair racing. I’m very active in sports.
Eventually, I was doing my cobbler when I returned from the Olympic games. I was given a tricycle. I had to find a way to use it to work. I molded the back in such a way that it could carry loads. I was working in the market as a porter. I would go and sleep in the market, so the next day, I could work. I used to carry all these loads – bags of oranges, bags of charcoal, bags of rice. If I was in with the loads, I would be riding and working, conveying items from one place to another. That was what I was doing.
One fateful day there was a bridge. I don’t know there was something on the bridge, I wanted to dodge it, but suddenly I fell over with my wheelchair and all the loads into this big gutter filled with water. I fell into it and the wheelchair was on top of me in the water. I was screaming and screaming. I was tied in with a belt. I couldn’t even release myself from it. They were both pressing me into the water. The market women heard my voice. By the time they came to my rescue, in fact, it was terrible. They removed the wheelchair, and I had a fracture in my rib. It was terrible. I had to stop it, and be in the house for medication. I remained in the house for some time. I had to continue again because this was the only way I could survive. This is what resulted in the damage to my tricycle.
Later, I decided to find a way to survive. A friend of mine used to repair phones. I used to go to him and sit next to him and through him, I was able to know how to do the phone repair. This is now what I do for a living – phone repairs. I am currently repairing phones. I sleep in my shop. Currently, I’ve been renting this uncompleted container. I pay for it – it’s not complete, so I have to find a way to complete it. It’s not completed, but I’m staying in it and working in it.
This is my story.
Also – I was staying with this lady in the house, but the landlord didn’t like us in the house, and it turned into this whole squabble.
In my married life, the family of the lady doesn’t agree because they said she is going to marry a disabled person. They are not going to agree to it. Therefore, they’ve rejected the lady. Out of love, the lady wants to be with me, but the family has not even accepted for me to do the marriage rites. The family says, “No way!” I am currently living with the family.
Do you have hope that things can change for people with disabilities?
There is hope provided if the Common Fund is truly given to us, something meaningful will come out of us. Those who have received big money from this common fund, they are doing well and they are able to establish themselves. If disabled persons are given enough money to establish themselves, then there is hope that we can really make it in life.