A little disabled girl was considered worthless—until she was noticed by someone outside her family.
Imanya was only 6 months old when her mother left the home to do some errands in Abalwa village, east of Torit, South Sudan. Imanya woke up and started to cry and search for her mother. Inside the little tukol, built with clay walls and a thatched roof, there was a fireplace for cooking. Somehow the little girl crawled into the fire and was stunned with agony while her feet started burning. Before anyone paid heed to the screams of the little girl her feet were so severely damaged that the hospital in Torit couldn’t salvage them. Her feet had burnt away and only the stumps were left.
Traditionally, a girl is worth a lot, because when she marries the husband will pay a very large number of cows in dowry. Culturally, however, a disabled person is regarded with disrespect and shame. A disabled girl is worth nothing. Imanya became a burden to the mother. She was kept inside, scolded and beaten and told daily that she was useless.
In 2015 a man called Joseph Gamara walked past the house and heard a child being punished and scolded for being in the way and of no use. Crying, the child replied: “You are the cause of my trouble! If you had watched over me I wouldn’t have been burnt!”
Joseph intervened and a dialogue of understanding began. Over the next couple of years Joseph talked to the mother about accepting her daughter as a child of God, created in His image, no matter which state she was in. He convinced the mother that Imanya should start going to school, and that she could do that at his school, the Airport View Primary School in Torit. Imanya could stay at Joseph’s home and start playing with other children for the first time in her life.
Joseph then got in contact with a clinic in Juba under the Ministry of Social Development and Child Welfare, where they make prosthetic limbs, funded by Red Cross. In May 2018 Joseph booked a flight with MAF for him and Imanya. At the age of six, Imanya got two new feet and she was all smiles when she two weeks later sat in the pilot’s seat of a MAF plane before going back to the school in Torit.
Imanya started to walk about the school yard with her new feet and crutches. A little more than a month later Joseph wrote: “Hi good news! I bought a tricycle in Juba, so that Imanya could be pushed to school from my house. Today she decided to refuse her tricycle and is now walking a distance of 500 metres to school, praise be to God.”
Supporting disabled people
1,563 children (749 girls and 814 boys) are enrolled in the school, which is run by members of African Inland Church and the school development committee (church, community and teachers). The school’s vision is to transform the surrounding communities through education and the Word of God, thus helping orphans, disabled people and girls to get an education. Orphans are often left with no means to attend school, disabled children are kept at home, and girls often drop out when they reach puberty, because their need for education isn’t acknowledged by their families.
The performance of the school is excellent—the best in South Sudan. Of those who reach Primary 8, 100 % of the students have passed since 2012. The school wants to branch out and has sponsored the education of five of their students at a teacher’s training college to meet the need of qualified teachers in the area.
Joseph explains the vision in this manner “Just as Jesus was a teacher we want to follow his example to teach people about God and life.”