Peter Matika, Sunday Life Reporter
JUST one glance at 13-year-old Anna Mbulawa, one really can’t immediately read into her life story.
A heart wrenching tale filled with unfathomable anguish and struggle that should never be experienced by a child of her age.
Forced to beg on the streets of Bulawayo from the time she was just but a wee toddler, Anna only yearns to live a simple life, where she is able to attain an education, with her parents being able to adequately provide for her needs.
But as reality and fate would have it she lives a life completely opposite to that of her privileged age mates, owing much to her parents’ disability (blindness).
Compelled to hide the tears in her eyes behind a sweet alluring smile, Anna finds it hard to concentrate on school. With her obligation to constantly tend to her parent’s needs, where she is forced to assist her parents by helping them beg for money her education is at risk.
At age 13, Anna should be in secondary school at Form 1 level but because of the hardships she and her parents face she has been forced to remain in primary school where she is in Grade 4 at Robert Sinyoka School in Pumula.
Anna sometimes dreads to go to school because of inadequacies, in the form of uniforms and stationery, she says her peers at school always poke fun at her.
“It’s the only life I know, my parents are disabled and they extensively depend on me to assist them,” she said.
With a ray of light and perhaps hope, in November last year while walking the streets of the CBD begging for assistance with her parents — Tafara Murimbi and Simaida Mbulawa happened to walk into a shop where they touched hearts.
“It was sometime in November when we first noticed them (Anna and her parents). After they had come here a couple of times we grew concerned about the child. That is when we asked them what assistance they greatly desired. When she (Anna) told me her story, my heart bled,” said Teresa Sibanda-Sithole, a co-director at Max Hardware.
After Anna and her parents left, Sibanda-Sithole consulted her husband Bhekimpilo Maranda Sithole about how they could provide assistance.
“We not only as a company but also as human beings took it as social responsibility to assist them. So the next time they came by the shop, we took her to a uniform shop to buy stationery, a tunic, socks, a hat and shoes.
“What was really touching was the fact that she can’t concentrate in school and every child in the world deserves an education.
With her parents not being able to provide an essential and fundamental element such as education we decided to assist in that form,” said Sibanda Sithole.
With a step closer to securing a better education, Anna said it was her wish that her parents could find jobs so that she could concentrate on school.
“If my parents could find employment and have a steady income, I would be then able to concentrate on my school work. But alas it is not that easy, I just yearn for a life similar to some of my peers.
“I sometimes can’t concentrate on school because after I knock off I have to walk around begging for help and that greatly affects my studies. Most of the time I am tired to concentrate in class from the walking around,” she said.
But are her parents to blame for this? To some extent they are . . . to have a child failing to focus on her education because they need to use her to beg for money is no excuse.
There are many facilities and centres that provide assistance in the form of special needs vocational training, where they can be taught how to be dependant on themselves, after all disability doesn’t spell inability.
Both parents couldn’t bring themselves into saying why they have never thought of that.
“Despite all that I am excited and over the moon about the donation and maybe I can focus better on my education,” said a teary Anna.
Of late the numbers of children begging on the streets has grown to alarming rates, with the waning economy obviously being the main causer. But then what is social welfare doing to avert this crisis?