By Malachi Motano
Meet Harold Kipchumba, a polio survivor and a nominated Senator.
At the age four he was abandoned by his parents after developing polio, a preventable disease. The father counted him cursed while the mother knew he had been bewitched.
“I was born over 50 years ago. I used to run a lot and I had a brother who used to call me names every time I beat them when playing. I was just a young boy and I believe I did everything my age mates were doing. When I was four years old, my legs started growing weak. At some point they could not even support me. Every time I tried running I could fall and my mum had to be called to carry me back home.”
According to Kipchumba, at that time nobody had any idea of what polio is. The hospital was very many kilometres away. The only option for his parents was to try traditional ways of healing and without any hope for surviving they abandoned him.
“My father believed that I was cursed and so he abandoned me at that stage, went ahead and married the second wife. He thought there was no hope for future in the first family. My mum then took me to the best Witch Doctors imagine from Baringo to Ukambani, back to Western Kenya in vain. One day she abandoned me at a health center 30km away from our home.”
That was not the end of the journey for Kipchumba. The Catholic Church Mission took him to Nyabondo home for crippled children.
“I stayed for fifteen years before returning home. It was while at the children’s home that my life began to change. I went through catholic mission schools. I was the first child living with disability that joined the scout’s movements.”
The young Kipchumba later joined Alliance High School where he studied for his A and O levels. Being the only student with disability in the whole school, challenges did not end.
“I used to find it difficult to operate normally like the ‘normal’ students. There were stairs, other students would carry water to the ablution block and do very many things that I could not. At some point the head teacher attempted to transfer me to a special school but I refused.”
The determined Kipchumba managed it at Alliance High School, and continued to the university.
Today, with his other colleagues living with different disabilities have formed Baringo Society for People Living with Disabilities.
“I am today a strong polio advocate. Together with my colleagues living with disabilities, we are empowering parents to abandon the retrogressive beliefs and customs because we are in the 21st century, a period when the world is enlightened.”