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Disability is not inability – UNZA physically challenged student

“Since 1991, no disabled person has been elected or nominated to parliament. Society needs to know that it’s the brain and not the disabled part that thinks. We too can contribute to the effective running of government. … Disability is not in any way inability,” says Pascal Mulenga. To him, the sky is the starting point, and not the limit. Blindness has often been associated with illiteracy but visually impaired Pascal Mulenga has distanced himself from this theory and has embarked on increasing his horizon of thinking through education.

Pascal did a diploma in English and Religious Education at Nkrumah University where he also served as the students’ union male board representative.

He proudly says ‘he was the first physically challenged person’ to serve in the union since the institution was established.

“I served in the union for two years. That is from 2005 to 2007. I was re-elected at the end of my first tenure. Students loved my leadership style, I have left a legacy,” Pascal adds.

Pascal’s former teacher Hillary Mupemo describes him as a self-motivated person who does not allow his condition to limit his vision.

Sr. Mupemo reveals that Pascal was the most active pupil they had in his intake, little wonder he was appointed as the head boy at St. Mary’s School for the blind from 2001 to 2002.

She adds, “He is very intelligent and jovial.”

Born to Therese Chama Mulenga and Lubemba Mulenga in 1984, Pascal is the second born in a family of four; two males and two females.

Pascal did his primary and junior secondary education at St. Marys’ School for the blind in Kawambwa from 1992 to 2000.

He then proceeded to Munali Boys’ School in Lusaka where he did his senior secondary from the year 2001 to 2003.

Pascal observes that the blind are linked to poverty but truth is, as he puts it, “there are blind people who are financially stable, even better than those who are sighted.”

He is undoubtedly one of the few blind people who are so skilled that one would think his sight is fully functional.

Pascal says he is inspired by disabled persons who are not limited by their condition and instead do amazing things.

He believes he was created in the image of God and everything he does is to the glory of God.

“If God wanted, he could have let me be a beggar on the street. But because he loves me, because he is a merciful God and has a plan for me, he allowed me to get educated,” says Pascal.

He says he grew up in Mansa and the environment helped him cope with his condition as everyone around him was accommodating.

He says the mother accepted him since his childhood and loved him the way he is. The support, love and care he got from his family boosted his self-esteem.

“My family treated me like any other child. I actually did not know that I was blind until I went to a school for the blind. That was when I was six years old,” Pascal jokingly adds.
Pascal says sometimes his friends made fun of his blindness but he never allowed it to get to him.

He recalls an incident when he was made to touch a live chameleon by his friends when they were trying to stone it but kept missing.

“My friends told me to get the stone that was near me. When I touched it, it was soft and made a weird sound. My friends then burst into laughter. It was then that I realized I was holding a chameleon. I threw it as fast as I could,” he laughs as he narrates.

In as much as Pascal lives a normal life, being visually impaired has made him miss out on some things he could only do if he were able to see.

He recalls incidents when he went for video shows with his friends when he was young.

His friends could cheer ‘Yeah, Bruce Lee!’ ‘Bruce Lee!’ But he was in the dark as he never saw anything despite being in the video room.

The ambitious Rusangu Secondary School teacher has a burning passion for the legal field.

Unfortunately, he could not do it from UNZA because UNZA Law School ‘does not accommodate the blind’.

“I was very frustrated. I had always wanted to study law. However, I have not given up on my dream of becoming a lawyer and representing people in court. I know that one day, my God will open doors for me,” he states.

He observes society thinks the only jobs the visually impaired can do are teaching and telephone operating.

The UNZA first year Special Education and Religious Studies student notices that the physically have even been disregarded in governance issues in the past.

“Since 1991, no physically challenged person has been elected or nominated to parliament. Society needs to know that it’s the brain and not the disabled part that thinks. We too can contribute to the effective running of government,” he says.

Pascal says when he went to teach at Rusangu Secondary School in 2011, he was put in the Special Education Department despite having studied English and Religious Education.

“The fact that I am blind does not mean I have to teach Special Education. I studied English and Religious Education and I am going to teach those subjects, I told them,” he states.

Pascal was put in the department of his preference and teaches the subjects he is trained to teach.

Pascal’s wish is to one day be a leader and fight for the rights of the visually impaired people worldwide.

He dreams of a future where the blind are not restricted to choose careers and are treated like any other being by society. Pascal intends to join politics too.

Pascal reveals there are no text books in brail for the programme he is doing at UNZA and hence he depends on his sighted friends to explain the material to him.

“If I miss lectures, then I miss out. But my friends are really helpful when it comes to information sharing especially when we have assignments,” he says.

The visibly energetic Pascal says he loves listening to gospel and Kalindula music in his spare time.

“I love to dance too. Although I am not sure I do it the right way since I have never seen how a human body dances. But I do try to shake my body,” he says smiling.

He says he loves a woman ‘who can cook sumptuous meals and is; focused, a good mother, God fearing, cultured and is not ashamed of him,’

“My wife, Victoria Sakala-Mulenga, is one such woman in my life,” he states with a cheerful smile on his face.

Pascal says he has a one year old baby girl with his wife. Both his wife and the child are sighted. The wife is a banker by profession.

He says he loves his wife as she has accepted his condition and is proud to show him to the rest of the world as her husband, ‘her hubby!’

Pascal says he will not rest until he fulfils the purpose God created him for.

For Pascal, the sky is the starting point, and not the limit.

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