Voices of pupils playing can be heard in the playground at Children Support Tanzania (CST) centre. Their teacher, Musa Kidigo, 49, who is wearing grey trousers, a light greenish T- shirt underneath a black and grey waistcoat and sun glasses, moves about slowly, using his white cane.
Some of the children stop playing to greet him, before they continue doing whatever it was that they were doing. He spends some time exchanging greetings with the children, as some continue playing, others running around him.
Despite being visually impaired, Musa seems to know all the pupils. He calls them by their names as they converse. The father of two is such a talented man. Apart from teaching braille and music at CST, Musa also does music and carpentry during his spare time.
CST is a non-governmental organisation in Mbeya City Council, Mbeya Region, whose mission is to promote and raise awareness of the rights of children, young people with disabilities, underprivileged children and to facilitate access to quality inclusive education.
Life&Style wanted to know how Musa manages teaching, doing music and carpentry, all at the same time and the enthusiastic teacher simply said acceptaning his situation is the secret. He did not let his disability get in his way but decided to live his life just like everyone else despite the challenges.
Losing his sight
Musa who was born in Tutuo Ward, Sikonge District in Tabora Region lost his sight at the age of three following a bout of measles. His parents did not realise it when he started losing sight but thought it was measles that was causing all the misery.
“As my sight deteriorated, my parents thought it was measles that was causing the prolonged severe headaches that I was experiencing. None of the medications that I took eased the pain. My parents say that I would spend hours crying because of pain,” says Musa.
After several visits to various hospitals, his parents were advised to take him to the regional hospital for surgery. Unfortunately, some neighbours discouraged them, saying the operation would either make him lose his sight completely or even his life. Fearing this, his parents never took him for the surgery. Eventually, Musa lost his vision.
When he turned 11, his family received guests who wanted him enrolled at Furaha Primary School in Tabora, which is a special school for children with disabilities.
“My parents did not trust the visitors who had been accompanied by local authorities. They feared the strangers would harm me since they wanted me to stay at the school. After unsuccessful hours of trying to convince my parents, the strangers, together with the authorities took me to school by force.”
He cried for the most part of the trip and refused to eat that day. However, a few days later, Musa was enjoying every bit of life at the school.
Among the subjects he learnt at school, Musa enjoyed music, the most. In six years, he had mastered playing the guitar.
He was such an expert in playing the guitar that during the school holidays, he would work part time as a guitarist for Nkolye Jazz band at Sukuma Bar in Sikonge town.
Musa did not proceed to secondary school after he completed his primary education in 1988. Instead, his parents enrolled him for vocational training at Vocational Educational Training Authority (VETA) for a three years carpentry course.
“It was not easy learning the trade as most of the measurements needed to be scribbled on the specific furniture. I had to learn writing my measurements on the ground using the signs I learnt in school,” says Musa.
Although it was not a smooth ride for Musa, especially in the beginning, in three years, he could make different types of furniture.
After he completed training at VETA, Musa started working as a carpenter. He did not make furniture for long, however, due to eye pain that was caused by wood dust.
He learnt through friends about a music band in Sumbawanga Region and decided to go try his luck there. Kalengwe Jazz Band owner made him play different guitars and was so impressed by Musa’s skills that he gave him the job immediately. He has since been working as a guitarist with the band, now called Moonlight Band.
Musa’s first marriage in 1992 lasted for only three years. He remarried a year later in 1996, this time to a visually impaired woman, with whom they had two children. They stayed together for seven years before his wife called it quits. She left without saying goodbye. He later married Bahati Mwiwa, 41, his current wife. They don’t have children together.
His first born, now aged 18, is an entrepreneur in Tabora and his 15 year-old second born child is in Form One at Mlala Secondary School in Mbalizi, Mbeya.
“It was not easy raising the children alone. My parents helped look after them as I continued working to put food on the table. I remained with my nephew who used to lived with us,” says Musa.
He relocated to Mbeya with his band in 2012 where he currently lives. His band is under the management of Jam Vibe Records and Entertainment.
Musa got a teaching job at CST after the founder saw him perform at an event with his band in 2016. The founder approached him and gave him the job after a brief discussion.
“I teach braille to both children with special needs and those without disability. This job has helped augment my income,” says Musa.
From his three jobs, that is teaching, carpentry and music, Musa makes between Sh500,000 and Sh700,000 a month. This enables him to meet his family needs. He also supports his parents back in Tabora.
What his typical day looks like
Musa’s day starts at 4:45am. The school bus picks him an hour later for work. He works at the school up to 1:50pm after which he goes home for some rest before he goes for his music practice.
“My three jobs have really affected my social life, which is almost non-existent. My social engagement time is very limited,” says Musa, concern written all over his face.
He practices with the band from 3pm to six o’clock in the evening every day.
Despite his busy schedule, he still finds time to make furniture. He sells a chair for between Sh30,000 and Sh60,000. His wife Bahati helps him in choosing colours for the threads he uses to decorate the chairs depending on customers’ preferences. Musa also makes shoe racks and office chairs. He sells office chairs for between Sh60,000 and Sh80,000.
Musa calls upon parents with disabled children to take them to school so they can realise their full potential. He says being disabled doesn’t mean they cannot be productive.
Musa’s wife, Bahati describes Musa as a responsible and supportive husband. Before she met him, Bahati used to believe that people with disabilities depended on their families for everything. Laurent Mwaluganja, director of Jam Vibe Records and Entertainment says working with Musa has been a blessing to the band as he can play different music genres.
“We appreciate Musa’s talent and dedication to the band. We make sure he gets to work and back home safely. What inspires us is the fact that he is a hard working person who does not let his disability get in his way,” says Mwaluganja.
Musa has been an inspiration to many in his community. People don’t see why they should fail to achieve their goals if Musa can do all the things that he does.