Struggles of a forsaken Bongo boy wasting away in left-over wheelchairs

Jeremiah Adimazoya Mba

Soon after Jeremiah Adimazoya Mba learnt how to walk as a little child, he was suddenly taken ill and never got back on his feet again.

According to his unemployed mother, Ayinpoka, doctors in his homeland, Bongo, a district in Ghana’s Upper East Region, could not diagnose his condition when she told them she found him shivering under a tree.

She disclosed to Media Without Borders that the beginning of the boy’s condition in 2009 was shrouded in mystery.

The house in which Jeremiah and his family live in Bongo.

She said she kept him on a mat under a tree in front of the family’s house at Anafobisi one quiet afternoon and went away from him for a very short time to pick an item from a room.

According to her, a wind passed around the tree as she was returning to the boy and the boy began to shiver.

“That is just all. He was here,” she told Media Without Borders, pointing at a sandy spot under the same tree. “The wind just came and he began to shake as if he was going to faint.”

After a series of unsuccessful laboratory tests at health facilities, she returned home with a boy who could no longer walk on his own.

“The doctors suspected polio. They took a sample of his blood and sent it to Accra for examination,” she recalled. “But it wasn’t polio. They said they didn’t know what was wrong with him.”

Jeremiah being pushed by his mother on the main Bongo Road on their way back home after a Sunday mass at the St.Anne’s Parish several kilometres away in the Bongo Township.

The boy, fondly called Jerry in the area, is said to be fifteen years of age today. But he does not look his actual years. He rather comes across as a 10-year-old. His family attributes his impaired physical growth to his years-long inability to walk like his peers.

He can’t see the board; he can’t write— But Jerry goes to school

As Jerry grew, he was given a wheeled walker to aid him in moving about. When he was enrolled at Anafobisi D/A KG/Primary ‘B’, a public school a little more than 1 kilometre from the house, the walker was the only means he used in going to school and in going back home.

He was often seen using the walker in playing and running around with his friends both at home and at school. His elder sister, Patience, said the walker was donated to him by a child rights organisation, AfriKids Ghana. But in the period prior to that time, he was leaning on a stick to move about.

His friends do enjoy his company.

Although his condition, compounded by a slight sight problem, made it difficult for him to see a chalkboard properly and to write, he kept attending the school. Later, the walker got damaged. But a boy called Jordan at the school, who had a physical disability, outgrew his own wheelchair and handed it over to Jerry.

Jerry used the second-hand wheelchair for some time, his mother struggling as she consistently bore the costs of repairs and replacements on the chair whenever the need arose.

Here is Jordan, the boy who gave his own wheelchair to Jerry.

“Jerry can be amusing,” said the headmistress of the school, Angelina Akurgo, who said the school, although not a special needs institution, welcomed children with special needs to help discover their skills.

“Anytime I meet him on the way, I stop and put the wheelchair inside my car. Then, he enters the car and we come to the school together.”

The first school Jerry attended at Anafobisi.

“One day, he got here and told his schoolmates, ‘Loore n-zoom loore’,” said the headmistress, interpreting what the boy said in Gurune to mean: ‘A lorry has carried a lorry today’.

“So, the friends were laughing, saying, ‘Loore n-zoom loore, loore n-zoom loore,’” she added and laughed as she recollected the incident.

A tough road to school

Jerry’s school attendance later declined. He was outgrowing the wheelchair he got from Jordan.

The road to the school was hilly, becoming more difficult to climb in the wheelchair with each day that passed.

And it was not every day that he got the chance to meet the benevolent headmistress on the way.

The hilly road to the school.

After he completed his third year at that school, he did not show up there anymore. His friends, who loved him and enjoyed his company, missed him. For a period, he was at home with his mother.

During that period, he grew too big for the wheelchair and, with no help of any wheelchair in sight, his hope of rejoining his schoolmates dimmed.

The remains of the wheelchair handed over to Jerry by Jordan.

But near a police checkpoint at Anafobisi lived a man who had been confined to a wheelchair for a long time. The man died during that period and his family, who lived several houses away from the boy but knew about him, gave him the dead man’s wheelchair.

With another second-hand wheelchair freely given, Jerry got back on the road to school in a torn school uniform. But this time, he ‘enrolled’ himself at Anafobisi D/A KG/Primary ‘A’.  

His newfound school, situated northwards to the Bongo Township, is less than 1 kilometre closer to the house. And that portion of the road is not so hilly.

He suddenly chose that school on his own. And although his name is not officially in the register of that school yet, the entire school welcomes and loves him.

Jerry’s writing desk in the classroom is the same wheelchair he brings from home daily.

But because that wheelchair was designed for an adult, it was not easy for Jerry to get along with it. Falling from the wheelchair on the road to school and on his way home became a daily ritual.

Later, he got so overwhelmed by the day-to-day struggle, and pain, that he put the wheelchair aside and involuntarily sat at home.

He finds another wheelchair

In 2022, a group visited Bongo and donated wheelchairs to a number of persons with disabilities in the district.

Ayinpoka managed to secure one of the wheelchairs—although slightly used and slightly oversized— for Jerry. But she says she does not remember the name of that group.

The wheelchair Jerry currently uses.

Subsequently, Jerry donned his old uniform again, hit the road and wheeled himself back to school.

And his friends, who enjoy taking him around with the wheelchair, were happy to receive him again.

That is the wheelchair he currently uses. There are times he feels too weak to wheel himself and has to be pushed by his relations (mostly his mother) and friends.

Of a great concern to the school and his family is the fact that the boy is wasting away in a wheelchair. At 15 years, he is still in basic four at the school. His schoolmates of the same age are five years in front of him.

He struggles to get to school through a distance about half a kilometre long.

He cannot read. He cannot write. He cannot see properly. And he cannot hear well. But he wants to learn like his peers so that he can earn like them, too.

“He is only following his friends to school. I’m of the belief that a school meant for the children of his kind will help him find a future. But a poor woman like me can only plead with anyone or any organisation to help us in whatever way they can.

“It is always difficult to repair the wheelchair when there is a fault because I have no job or business that I do. Currently, one of the wheels of the wheelchair needs a repair. But I don’t have money to repair it for him,” his mother said in an interview with Media Without Borders.

His mother, Ayinpoka, holds the wheel that needs a repair.

Because the mud house in which the boy lives is on the edge of the main road which links Ghana and Burkina Faso through Bongo, his face and his everyday struggles are very familiar to many people.

But none of the VIPs and the government officials who regularly use that main road seems to care about the poor boy who was not born a cripple but his future looks crippled because he cannot walk on his own.

He is well positioned where help can easily find him and see his struggles, but it seems help keeps looking the other way whenever it passes that road while the boy is wasting away every day in left-over wheelchairs.

Watch below an MWB video of Jerry Adimazoya Mba:

Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here