As soon as I entered the living room, I was greeted with a warm broad smile from my host. He was wearing a black suit, blue shirt and black shoes to match. His name is Daudi Magacha, 41, a Legal Officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
With a panache unlike any I’ve ever seen, Daudi comfortably warms up to me and starts sharing his life story. A story of resilience amidst great obstacles and indifference.
Daudi is a blind man. He was born with sight, but unfortunately he developed eye problems and gradually started losing his ability to see. In the year 2000 he became completely blind.
He comes from a family of eight children, with him being the sixth born.
Visual impairment or complete loss of sight is a problem that Magacha’s family knows too well.
Among the eight children in the family, three are blind.
Opening up, he says until now he is oblivious of the root cause of his blindness. Since developing eyesight problems while in primary school, he has visited many hospitals but has never been informed on what exactly has caused the vision impairment. The last blow came when in 2000, a doctor working at Mvumi Hospital in Dodoma told him he will never be able to see again unless it is through God’s miracle.
“Receiving such bad news was traumatizing. Knowing that I would never be able to see again regardless of the treatment was heartbreaking. I struggled to come to terms with reality, a bitter truth that I had to accept,” says Magacha. His impaired vision forced him to quit school in 1997 while in Form Three. He faced difficulty coping with education due to his fast-diminishing sight – a situation that was deteriorating day by day.
We was stuck indoors, spending most of his time crying, pondering on the dark future ahead of him. “I felt like an outcast. Other boys my age had the ability to see. They’d explored different places, but I couldn’t tag along due to the challenges I would encounter outdoors,” he says.
The doctor who informed Magacha of his permanent blindness, advised him to go back to school. This came after he [the doctor] was able to obtain Magacha’s academic transcripts and realizing that prior to losing sight, Magacha was actually performing well in class.
The doctor went a step further by introducing Magacha to Tanzania Society for the Blind (TSB) for more consultation. Upon visiting TSB, Magacha, with a desire to go back to school, was instead advised to enroll for vocational training skills.
Through the help of a neighbor, he was introduced to Uhuru Mchanganyiko Primary School in Dar es Salaam. Getting admission wasn’t an easy task, but thanks to his mother Marina Magacha, he was able to secure enrolment.
A new beginning
In August 2001, Magacha began his new academic life. At his new school he started learning braille. This adjustment was eye-opening, however, it was challenging too because, despite being in his 20s, he had to wear primary school uniform just like the rest of the students at the school, a majority of whom were much younger.
“You can imagine how humiliating it was. We were at the age of high school boys but we had to wear primary school uniform just to follow school rules,” says Magacha.
In just four months they completed their braille course and he was taken to Mpwapwa Secondary School where he got an opportunity to go straight to Form III in 2002. He completed form four in 2002 with a good score considering the hurdles he had to overcome.
Two years later he graduated secondary school, where he passed National Examinations and was selected to join the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) in 2006. Four years later he graduated with a Law degree.
Talking about his experience while pursuing his degree, Magacha couldn’t help but express his gratitude toward UDSM for providing him and other students with visual impairments with the most important tools that supported them during the learning process.
“We were given tape recorders, radios, radio cassettes to support us with recording lectures and listen to them after classes and then type using braille machines,” he says.
Apart from that, they were also given people who could assist them with reading some of the notes that at times went up to 100 pages. This, however, proved to be a challenge because the people who used to help them with reading often reported late to do that task.
Another challenge that Magacha, along with his peers facing the same predicament went through, was being expected to perform certain tasks better than they could. This made him feel out of place. Also, being taken advantage of is one of the constant battles that he has to overcome.
“I remember an incident when my phone was forcefully taken by someone who was supposed to be helping me,” says Magacha, adding; “A person living with disability is just like any other human being. If mistreated they will find a way to deal with the situation.”
After attaining his law degree, Magacha decided to look for job.
After graduation, his struggles to look for a job started. He would walk from office to office searching for a job. One year passed and he still hadn’t landed any job. Most of the offices he visited in search of a job opportunity thought he was just a beggar from the streets. Sometimes people would ask him if he has gone to school and is qualified to seek employment.
After a long wait he decided to walk into the Attorney General’s office to ask for a job. Unfortunately his plan didn’t bear any fruits. He then visited Hon Gaudencia Kabaka, a politician and Member of Parliament, who gave him a slither of hope by telling him to call her whenever he got a chance to sit for a job interview somewhere.
“Soon after I applied for my next job, I consulted her and I was shortlisted for an interview, l managed to secure the job,” Magacha says.
Being blind, Magacha was met with a number of challenges upon reporting to work. First, it was difficult for him to get familiar with his work station. He wasn’t assigned a specific spot.
Second, interacting with other colleagues seemed difficult at the beginning. To solve this, he sought the intervention of the office Director. Unfortunately, little was done to solve the situation.
For months he felt useless at the office. He wasn’t being assigned any tasks. He would report to work and leave in the evening without doing any work-related activities.
With transportation being difficult, there are times he chose to stay at home until his boss calls him in case they had something specifically assigned to him. Here too he felt like an outcast.
He was filled with questions on why he was being sidelined. Fortunately, in 2017 he got a transfer to another government organization. He was given the same position in the legal department.
This proved to be his saving grace as he met new colleagues who were more cooperative and were willing to work with him despite his blindness.
Magacha’s relentless endeavor to fight for his right and pursue his dreams is what made him triumph over any obstacles that had threatened to derail his career.
From being viewed as an invalid, to finally being accepted by new people, his efforts paid off in the end.
In his closing remarks, Magacha calls upon the society to be more understanding of the needs of people living with all sorts of disabilities. Casting them aside will not achieve any purpose rather than create division in the community.