She had an uninviting future yet her present was also bleak. This is what Brandine Uwimana felt during her early years. She felt so desolate and lonely.
‘Why on earth had she been born if God knew she was to encounter multiple problems at a very tender age?’ she always asked herself.
As she reads my lips and writes back a reply as she responds to my questions. Uwimana uses a lot of sign language to emphasize that she communicates her childhood story. A story of a mute and deaf girl child who has found her way through thick and thin and made it in life.
Uwimana has pursued and gained her education the hard way. She explained that this was through lip reading and reading lots of books some of which she did not understand.
Before fate tightened its grip on her, Uwimana had all she needed as a child. Her loving parents colored her world with love. They always adored her since she was an only child.
“I was extravagantly loved, and this would always drive my cousins crazy,” replied Uwimana.
In a blink of an eye, it was all lost. At only six years of age Uwimana had not only become an orphan but she was one who was mute and deaf. She was no longer the satisfied happy little girl but a helpless deaf and mute orphan.
Now, 22 years old, Uwimana still feels the pain of her loss. She narrates with actions, and says she is still cross with what happened and how it happened in such a short time.
“My parents died when I was bedridden.
I was suffering from meningitis when it happened,” she replied.
Later when she was discharged from the hospital, she was picked up by her cousin. Sensing from the tears on her eyes she knew that something had terribly gone wrong. She tried to inquire what had happened but it was too late for her to understand, let alone hear and say anything.
Uwimana said that it was very confusing for her when no one would hear what she was communicating. When she realized that she could not hear her own voice, the reality that she would spend the rest of her life in this condition, hit her hard.
However, with an adorable smile that everybody loved, Uwimana was able to overcome. Her intelligence, calm nature and understanding, she said are her strengths and are what made her deal with her condition even as a child.
Circumstances forced her to grow up and mature intellectually and emotionally before the right time.
Since her grandmother was the only surviving responsible relative, Uwimana was taken to stay with her. Living with her grandmother, she felt so segregated and this saddened her life.
Her heart would always sink with sorrow when her peers would use signs to show her that she was intellectually poor and mute.
This kind of bullying almost made her quit school but instead she become more inspired to make it in life. She wouldn’t dare anymore to let people tread on her worth, freedom and ability just because she was in a more disadvantaged position.
“I ignored all the insults and avoided looking directly at people,” she wrote back, “all I needed to do was study, graduate, have a family and then be able to help other magnalised people in my community.”
Today, Uwimana is proud to say that she can sit before her computer and revise for her end of semester exams. She is a second year student at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) studying Languages, majoring in English and Swahili. Her dream is to become a teacher for the deaf and dumb.
Experiencing the excitement of being at the university, is a dream come true for the young determined Uwimana.
“It’s a dream come true and even though life was hard, I somehow knew I would achieve it,” she responded.
According to Uwimana, the best appreciation and compensation for her long gone parents is to be responsible, educated and useful to the society.
“I guess I make them proud when they look down at me from heaven,” she communicates to her lecturer in sign language.
Uwimana’s fellow students have nicknamed her ‘brave’ because she has nothing like impossible in her mind.
“She is so adventurous and active; I was personally amazed when she went for swimming recently. She had never been to a swimming pool before yet she did it,” says Jean Twagirimana.
Uwimana is a good swimmer, she loves chatting on the internet and she has met many friends through this.
Uwimana looks forward to her graduation day after which she will think of raising a family.
For all she is, Uwimana owes it to being pushed by her disability to reach towards achieving her goals.
“Disabilities are also opportunities. It all depends on the way we accept them,” she jots down on a paper.