Sunday, January 25, 2009

Starting School

Laiford Muleya (left) is the uncle to young Current, seen here in the wheelchair. Way back in 2006, Laiford and Current met up with Sheryl Ramsey on the medical mission. Sheryl wanted to help Current get started in school and enlisted my help after she returned to the US. Thus began a long, complicated journey through the fledgling special education program in Zambia. Laiford, the official guardian for Current, lives hours away from Namwianga in a remote village. He has no cell phone, and even if he did, there is no cell signal in his area. Every time he needed to communicate with me, he had to come to Namwianga on one of the public transport trucks that go to his village only three times a week. He would have to find a place to stay in town and walk the four miles to my house. He did this several times carrying Current before we were able to get the boy a wheelchair.

After investigating several possible schools, we located one in Monze that agreed to take Current in 2007. Laiford and Current arrived, only to find that the headmaster had over-enrolled the class and there was no place for Current. The headmaster guaranteed a spot in January of 2008.

January of 2008 came and went, and there was no word from Laiford. I had no way of contacting him and had no idea what had happened. In September, he came again. He had been sick in January, he said. He brought with him some phone numbers for officials in Lusaka who had agreed to help Current. To help ease the communication difficulties, I gave him money to buy phone time and sent word to a mutual friend in Nyawa, a town closer to Laiford's village. I asked the friend to let Laiford use his phone as needed to keep in touch with me.

I made calls to Lusaka and got no response. I called every special education contact I had and found no program for Current. Laiford came again, and I sent him to check at another special education school in Choma. That school referred him to Maamba, a mining town about four hours away. Laiford and Current made the trip to Maamba and Current was accepted to start school in January.

Last weekend Laiford and Current came by to see us on their way to school. Current is now 12 years old and beginning first grade. He will be in a boarding facility and will have a personal caregiver to help him bathe, dress, and eat.

In some ways, the saga of Current has ended now that he is in school. In another way, it is just beginning. Laiford worries because Current has never been away from him before. He will have no way to communicate with him until the term ends in April. The story will go on, and we pray for a happy ending.

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