74. Jokeman


Oh, I would make the person very happy to forget about the word called disability. Sharing experiences about how I became what I am today. I’d tell him to think very high, not to look at himself as a disabled but just to dream high and forget about the word disability.

Well, I was eight years old. I walked alright. At the age of eight I was attacked by the disease called measles. In those days, going to the hospital was not common so my parents kept me – they were trying to go the traditional way, using local herbs, but it became very serious before I was taken to the hospital. When we went to the hospital the doctors tried to inject me and as soon as they injected me I had injection upset in my right leg. I became totally paralyzed. It took about 3 years before I started crawling. So I became disabled through measles.

Really, it affected my education! Because there was that notion that people who are disabled don’t go to school. Only when they grow up they send them to learn sewing and shoe-making. So my parents said they would not send me to school. In those days there were no televisions. But when I look at the Reverent Father – I’m a Catholic – in those days we had expatriate Fathers, missionaries. When I heard them speak English, I was just attracted to the English. So I said “I must go to school to speak English”. So speaking English was my main aim in going to school. At the age of nineteen, when one of my junior brothers was sent to school, I decided to go to school, but they refused. So I had to go on a hunger strike at home. I was not eating in the house. As soon as day breaks, as early as 5:30, I would run away from the house and go and hide myself somewhere, then came back at 7pm. I was not eating. So the third day my mother drew it to the attention of my father that “If we leave our son like this, something bad will happen, so let’s send him to school”. It was then that I was sent to primary school, at the age of nineteen years.

When I went to the headmaster he said he will not take me because I was too old to attend school. So they said if I would like to reduce my age, then they will admit me. I said “Oh, what will age do to me?” so I reduced my age from nineteen to fourteen before they were able to accept me. When I started school from that class 1 up to my secondary education, nobody took the first position from me.

My happiest experience was my first day at school. In fact, my father carried me on his back to school. Before I went to school, I knew how to read A B C D, up to Z, I could do 1×1, 2×2, up to 12×12. I knew how to read the Bible in the local language. So when I went to school and started doing those things, reading A B C, the teacher in class 1 was very surprised. “Have you attended school somewhere?” and I said “No, I didn’t attend school”. One of my uncles who was cared for by my father was going to school so anytime he returned from school he schooled me. So I became a friend to everybody in the school, especially the teachers because they were surprised about how I knew all those things. I was very very happy.

Really, initially my disability affected my relationships. I faced social discrimination. One particular discrimination that I can think of is when I decided to contest for the district assembly so I can become an assembly man. But the chief of my village said no, he would not like a disabled person to be an assembly member. So he tried to lobby against me so that people should not vote for me. That is the highest discrimination that I ever detected. But when time went on, especially when I started school, the things I was doing, it has brought back that close relationship between myself and family as well as with friends.

Locally, people become surprised or marveled when they see disabled people excelling. They think they might be using some sort of powers or might be a witch. Why should a disabled person want to be at the forefront of this group? So they have these sorts of negative thoughts about the disabled, especially locally, those who have not traveled outside the community, they think when one is disabled he has nothing to do. Those are the notions.

When they travel they see people who are disabled in one way or the other, not only physically disabled. They see all kinds of disabilities and how those people are excelling in education or holding high positions. When they see those things it brings their mind back to the notion that “My friend who is disabled in the village has the potential to do something”. But if they stay in the house they do not see it.

What do you think are the biggest difficulties experienced by persons with disabilities in Ghana?

The difficulties we experience in Ghana is, first, accessibility to social places, like schools, hotels, other public places. They are not accessible to the disabled. Our vehicles are not accessible to the disabled. When I’m traveling long journeys, I have to select vehicles to board. I don’t board any other vehicle that is going that way. I have to select vehicles that I can easily board or that I can board with a little help. Those are some of the difficulties that we experience.

What can Ghanaians do to make your lives better?

People in Ghana need to help disability by listening to the calls the advocates of disability issues, especially governments. Ruling governments of the day have to listen to the advocates, the lobbyists, people who are in advocacy for disability issues, like the Disability Needs Foundation. They have to listen to such organizations and implement their recommendations before the disabled in Ghana can be free.

What can the international community do to make your lives better, and should the international community be involved?

Yes, yes, yes, they should. They also need to be supported so that they can improve upon the local advocacy programs.

What would you say to another person who has a disability, when you meet him or her?

Oh, I would make the person very happy to forget about the word called disability. Sharing experiences about how I became what I am today. I’d tell him to think very high, not to look at himself as a disabled but just to dream high and forget about the word disability.

Although this contrasts what you said about forgetting about disability, how do you define disability and what causes disability?

Disability, to me, is just a defection in the physical appearance of a person. When you have a defect in part of your body that affects you, either your movement, vision, or yeah, that is disability. Disability is not only external – it’s internal. That is when you have a defection in your mind. That is also disability. Disability is caused by accidents, sickness, along with other things. Sometimes frustration can cause mental disability.

What is your best ability?

My best ability is writing stories. I write proposals, I write stories for schools, I write poems. So I have so many scripts.

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