Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutuk, Chronicle Reporter
WHEN he first walked through the gates of Mushongahande Primary School in Guruve to do his Grade One at the age of nine, Mr Pick Nkomwa who was born with deformed hands became a laughing stock at the school.
That term he came last in his class as he could not write. He is not quite sure how, but somehow, he taught himself the skill of writing during the third term of Grade One. From there, only the sky was the limit for him as he sought out to excel academically.
Today Mr Nkomwa boasts of being the founder of Nkomwa Foundation Trust (NTF) which has 150 members. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Human Resources at Lupane State University. He has a Diploma in Human Resources Management from Joshua Mqabuko Polytechnic College, a degree in Human Resources Management from the Midlands State University, and a Diploma in Theology from the Church of Christ in South Africa.
He also has a chicken rearing project and he is set to start farming.
He said he is able to drive with deformed hands and has travelled as far as South Africa, Botswana while driving on his own.
Mr Nkomwa got his driver’s licence in 2017 but with great difficulties. He said officials at VID first demanded a letter from a doctor confirming that he would manage to drive in his condition. However, the doctors he approached at the time in Gwanda were not willing to assist and he had to travel to Beitbridge where he finally managed to obtain his driver’s licence.
All these achievements were not handed to him on a silver plate as Mr Nkomwa had to constantly deal with the hurdles of being disabled such as discrimination, infrastructure barriers, adaptation among others.
He faced the greatest rejection at childhood when his father abandoned him as he was disabled.
Mr Nkomwa who comes from a poor background grew up under the care of his maternal grandparents in Mashonaland Central. He said growing up, his grandparents treated him like any other child at the homestead. Mr Nkomwa moved to Gwanda in 2008 to pursue his studies at Joshua Mqabuko Polytechnic College.
He still lives in Gwanda.
“My grandmother treated me like any other normal child. She taught me all chores that are done in the rural areas, be it farming, herding cattle, ploughing and many others. She would not allow me to be stopped from doing what all the other children were doing. She always told me that she would not spend the rest of my life with me hence I had to learn how to be independent,” he said.
“I first went to school during the second term to do my Grade One. I couldn’t read or write so I would spend my day just seated in class. No one could teach me how to write so I trained myself how to write and by the third term I could write and that’s when I began excelling in school. Through all of this I had to deal with being the odd one out at such a tender age,”
In 1993 he was taken to Jairos Jiri Centre in Harare for a two-week assessment and testing to check whether he could become independent or he would need to be placed under special care at a home for people with disabilities.
He said he passed his assessment and was given the green light to continue with mainstream education. He did his education in Mashonaland provinces.
Mr Nkomwa said after completing his Advanced Level he stayed for two years trying to get into college because of financial challenges. During his wait he tried to secure a place as a temporary teacher and to get a part-time job at different institutions but he was turned down because of his condition. Mr Nkomwa said he watched as his peers got employment in various places while he was left out.
He said in his education journey he was assisted by well-wishers.
“My motive was to excel in my studies as I realised that manual work might be a challenge for me. My grandfather also kept encouraging me to excel in my studies so that I could become independent. My grandparents didn’t allow anyone to do things for me, be it carrying my plate or washing my clothes. They wanted me to be independent,” he said.
Mr Nkomwa moved to Gwanda in 2008 to pursue his studies at Joshua Mqabuko Polytechnic College.
After that, he held the position of human resources officer at various institutions in Gwanda.
Mr Nkomwa said he has faced a lot of challenges at the workplace. He said he faced a lot of discrimination and was often looked down upon.
In October 2020, Mr Nkomwa realised one of his dreams as he registered the Nkomwa Foundation Trust (NFT) to assist people with disabilities. He said through the Trust he is trying to address challenges and gaps being faced by people with disabilities.
NFT has 150 youths and children with disabilities. It has assisted five children in getting wheelchairs and is paying school fees for 10 children.
The Trust is also facilitating training of people with disabilities at Jairos Jiri Centre.
Mr Nkomwa said the trust, which is based in Gwanda, is currently only assisting people from Matabeleland South Province, but the plan was to expand to other provinces.
Mr Nkomwa said people marvel at his ability to do various chores and activities like any able-bodied person.
“I’m a family man with two children. I can wash my clothes using my feet, I can iron my clothes using my hands, I can write very well, I can type on a computer, I can drive. In actual fact, I can do all the things that able-bodied people can do, I can even do some of the things better than other people,” he said.
With an enabling environment, Mr Nkomwa believes that any person with a disability can do well in life. He said support from family and relatives was key in the life of a person with disability.
“A disabled person can achieve anything in life if allowed access to an enabling environment. The painful part is that the first source of discrimination is families and relatives. In my case, my father abandoned me and some of my relatives ruled me out. Families should accept and nurture children who are born with disabilities. I was looked down upon by some members of my family but I have now become their breadwinner,” he said.
He said it was important for families to support children with disabilities and train them on how to adapt to their environment. Where families feel overwhelmed and need guidance, they must seek help.
Mr Nkomwa said the lives of some people with disabilities were destroyed as they were denied a chance to go to school while some were denied an opportunity to get employment.
“The journey has been difficult but what has helped is to remain determined and to associate myself with positive people who always uplift me,” he said. — @DubeMatutu