By David Malaak
Ring Deng Mangong is not a normal child but despite his disability, the 11-year-old boy born without arms, has faced the challenge with heads high.
Mangong, who goes to school in Abyei on the border of South Sudan and Sudan, has learned to write with his feet.
“I sit at the window, place the exercise book on the desk and write using my foot,” Deng who is in class three in Agok “B” Primary school, told Juba Echo.
“I want to be educated so that life won’t be hard for me in future,” he said.
Deng’s story looks challenging but it’s a reflection of the will of the handicapped people in ensuring life doesn’t pass them by.
He lives 3 kilometers away from school but Deng has never missed class.
When Deng was born, the joy that comes with a new baby never lasted long.
His mother, Adau Atem said the family was shocked to see the child lacked arms.
“When I saw his eyes but without arms, I said to myself, let him be there so that I keep seeing him,” Atem recalled.
Being the first born in the family, Deng holds a special but challenging obligation in the family.
His mother insists he gets an education to support himself and his three siblings in future.
“He does a lot of things. As a mother, I am even amazed by some things he does, he does things that are even difficult for people with hands,” Atem said.
“He writes with the foot, he can pick his clothes and wash them, hold an iron box with his toes and iron his clothes.”
Deng’s father is a private in the army receiving a monthly salary of about 1,200 SSP ($3) and the mother is unemployed.
“I don’t have a food ration card, I do tell him to study, maybe someone will sympathize and help support his education,” the mother said.
The first time at school was not easy for Deng. He was taunted because of his disability, according to Atem.
Over time, Deng found the emotional support and motivation from teachers and classmates.
Marko Jupur, a religious education teacher praised Deng as a disciplined, intelligent learner, noting that he even outperforms many pupils in class.
“When you see him writing he is better than many children with hands,” Jupur said.
“When I am in the class, I provide special care to him because I want him to study,” Jupur said.
Like Deng, Nhial Arop, a 14-year-old pupil at Comboni Juol-jok primary school is also physically handicapped.
Arop who is in class four is visually impaired but that has not deterred him from going to school.
“When I am behind, I can’t see, it is difficult, but I am used to it,” Nhial said.
Despite his condition, Nhial is one of the ten best pupils in the class, Yak Dau, the headmaster of the school said.
In Abyei, there are more than 700 people with disabilities, and 75 are children, the Abyei Union of People with Disabilities said.
The two boys Deng and Nhial are among the few who are learning.
Madit Ajak, chairperson of Abyei People with Disabilities Union, pointed out that many of these children are out of school due to lack of support and lack of mobility aid such as wheelchairs and white cane.
Ajak called on parents and guardians to help minors with disabilities access education for a better future.
“Life is not about having a leg, a hand or eye, it is about the mind. If you can think well, your thoughts can help people so much,” he said.
Madit noted that lack of support to people with disabilities is depriving them of their rights to education, assuring that the union will meet humanitarian NGOs to provide mobility aids such as wheelchairs and white canes.
John Ajang Kiir, the director general of education, information, youth, and sports in Abyei said parents must ensure they send children with disabilities to school, noting that schools are the best places where children with disabilities can get psychosocial and physical support.
“A student with a disability can become a doctor and can become a great scientist,” Kiir said.