Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Kums Kids: Bofelo
Bofelo is Bokena's brother. He is a few years older than Bokena (maybe around 10). When I first met Bofelo, I thought he was very shy. He didn't try to talk to me and didn't engage very much with the other children. I attributed this to the fact that many of the other children picked on him and his sister because they are very poor orphans. After some time, I learned that it is because Bofelo is deaf.
Acknowledgement of disabilities is new in Botswana. People are finally recognizing them and making allowances for that. As such, schools, programs, and organizations have started to spring up to assist people with disabilities. Thanks to the hard work of a diligent missionary in the village and efforts made by my NGO in years past, Bofelo is able to attend one of these schools.
Bofelo goes to the nearby village of Ramotswa (about 50km away from Kumakwane) to go to a special school that will cater to his being deaf. The school, as I understand it, is being paid for by the Botswana government, which is how Bofelo is able to attend. I have not had a chance to go to the school to find out more about his life there, the education program, or to learn about Tswana Sign Language (or maybe they use ASL?!) but I am grateful that programs exist to help kids like Bofelo.
Sadly, because the other kids are not exposed to sign language or to many other deaf children, I have noticed that when Bofelo returns to the village during school breaks, he has to deal with the same bullying and lack of communication. He is so sweet though and goes into the world with a great big smile. His positive attitude is one of the things I love most about him.
Bofelo has learned to adapt. The more time I spend around him, the more I see how he is growing. He is no longer the shy kid around me. We have developed our own way of communicating and we understand one another. I am trying to model that behavior for the other children with the hope that they will follow suit. I think it may be working. He plays games with the other kids, not just his siblings, and is so excited when they all interact together. I truly believe that the kids are starting to understand him, respect him, and appreciate him as much as I do.