Lorato Bontle* is everything that any child would ever dream to have in a mother. A resilient and inspirational mother who has the strength of a thousand women, Bontle is a sterling example of the lengths and depths that some parents would go to give their children a better future.
Fourteen years ago, Bontle gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Tlhabi*. Tlhabi is currently doing Form 1. She is confined to a wheelchair due to a condition known as Amelia (born with no legs and arms). She is unable to do any basic tasks without any assistance – such as bathing herself, getting dressed, and many others that other able-bodied people can do. Tlhabi will be one of the beneficiaries of this year’s edition of the Desert Bush Walk slated for this Saturday in Jwaneng.
She has a number of needs, and organisers are hopeful that they will be able to assist. Every morning, since she started school, her mother has literally been with her at every chance. Using an old wheelchair that does not have any straps to hold her safe, the two take the walk and wheelchair ride to and from school every morning and afternoon, and the mother does this with a smile and swears it is what she will continue doing for as long as it will be necessary. What makes her even more extraordinary is that besides Tlhabi, she has three other children, the eldest being 23 years old, and her youngest being just two months old. Ideally, she should be in confinement as tradition dictates caring for the youngest member of her family, but that is not the case.
She told this publication that life has been treating them well, despite the daily challenges that they face. Bontle’s role at school is to assist Tlhabi when she has to use the bathroom, feed her and do other things that she needs help with. A teacher-aid handles the other responsibilities to do with education. “We rely on the support of her school peers, and school administration including her teachers such as Lekwalo Thobega,” she explained. This has obviously affected her because while her focus is on her daughter, her life is literally on a standstill. Having accepted Tlhabi the way she is has gone a long way in making life easier for her in the community.
For her part, Tlhabi who sat quietly dressed in her beautiful dress and a girly jacket, said she really appreciates everything that her mother has done for her. At school, she is in love with two subjects – Religious Education and Office Procedures – and wants to have her own office one day! “I actually want to be a doctor when I grow up,” she said as she smiled shyly, adding that she really enjoys her time in school. “I love going to school and learning. One day, I am going to make my mother proud and do something remarkable for her,” she said. Thobega, a Counselling teacher at the school, described Tlhabi as a beautiful soul with a very strong character. She pointed out that other children would have long given up on going to school but that this is not the case with her. “One thing that makes her even more special is the fact that everywhere she goes, everyone has to stand and accommodate her,” she said.
She noted that Tlhabi needs essentials such as a special toilet, a wheelchair, a walkway for the wheelchair. She also needs special books as she uses her neck to hold a pen. “She is doing very well at school, and enjoys her education a lot,” she said. To ascertain her needs, local NGO, Diamonds of Hope recently took her for assessment at the Jwaneng Mine. A representative of the organisation Sethunya Moala explained that they will take her to Johannesburg for further assessment. She said that Tlhabi needs an electric wheelchair, limbs, and that they will see how they help her.
The NGO has been in existence for three years, and their focus is on charity work. Other projects that they have been involved in include working with the Matsha students who were involved in a truck accident some years back. They have also assisted a Moshupa resident who lost her property to a house fire to mention a few. She said that they hold a fundraising dinner every year and that was how they heard about Tlhabi. Bontle* and Tlhabi* are pseudonyms to protect the identities of the subjects