Have you ever dreamt about being a role model parent? Meet Francis Warui Mwayonga who has gone through thick and thin to emerge as THE PARENT of the year despite having to live with a disability. To him, having a disability is not an impediment to getting the best out of oneself. He talked to Ability Africa Magazine about his journey.
Q.Tell us about your early childhood.
I was born Francis Warui Mwayonga as the first born son in a family of six boys born to the Late Christopher Mwayonga Mwakarera and Catherine Wanjiku Mwayonga. That was 47 years ago in Ngonzini village, Kinagano District of Kwale County. I was born as a regular boy with all things going on well, as they tell me. However, at the age of three I contracted measles and chicken pox while at my mothers’ place in Gatundu. I was hospitalized and through the negligence of the nurse on duty, I got an injection on my right backside. The injection, I am told, touched a nerve that led to paralysis of my right leg. I am grateful to almighty God for he made me survive the ordeal. I found myself limping with challenges in mobility.
Although most children with disabilities are neglected, lonely, stigmatized and often abused by their own families, neighbours and society, I found a loving, welcoming, caring and committed family.
Things were a bit difficult because both of my parents were visually impaired (blind) and the first born son turned to be physically handicapped. This did not receive a lot of family blessing. The society discussed our family and mostly me as the son who could not bring hope to the family. However, I kept encouraging myself through Romans 5:2-5 which says 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Q. How have you been able to circumnavigate family life?
Although many believed that marriage is a struggle only reserved for the able bodied and strong in the society, I dare challenge this notion. When we read Genesis 1:27-28 we read that So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Nothing is mentioned on disability.I am a happy husband to Rebecca Nduku with whom we have a blessing of Cecynthia Wanjiku, Stacey Wanza and Christopher Mwayonga.
Marriage did not come on silver platter, I struggled just like other men to convince Rebecca to share her life with me 15 years ago. I know that the society could have told her otherwise but her strong love for me concurred the day. Rebecca Nduku is a true ruby that God gave me. As a mother and business woman she is strong and able to balance her roles. She is loving, caring, respectful and visionary. I owe a lot of developmental success to her. Moving into my house allowed me to learn to care, provide, protect and always love her.
Barely a year later, her womb was blessed with our first born daughter. We wanted her to be unique and called her Cecynthia a combination of Cecilia and Cynthia. Being the first born girl, Cecynthia Wanjiku got all my attention and commitment. I ensured I did not fail due to my disability. At form one in Kahuhia girls she humbles me to see the far she has come.
About six years later we were blessed with our second born baby. We named her Stacey in honour of my mother-in-love. Stacey was a mind opener. She was pretty and intelligent girl. She was not shy to ask and require me to explain many things in life. This girl amuses me by her sincere write-ups. Recently I found her note on my working table that read; “I love you father. I love all the things you do for me. Now I have grown thank you very much. You are the best father in the whole world. I love you, Happy father’s day. God bless you father.” This made me a proud, fulfilled, humbled and happy father.
Christopher Mwayonga is the youngest in the family. He is only 4 years old and in Kindergarten 1(KG1) at Moi primary school. I visibly remember my son mimicking my walking style. As we descend the stairs from our house, which is on second floor, my son would keenly watch my steps and even correct my walking style (how I wish he understood better). Christopher filled my heart with joy and optimism that I have a person to support me in my old age.
In this humble family I am privileged to live with my niece Joyce Mweni. Joyce has always appreciated me in her life and has always called me “Dad”. At class six, Joyce is a blessing to my family and me. I realize I can also be a foster father.
Q. What about your work? How do you fend for your family?
Being the first born son in my family I assumed the role of a father many years ago. My first letter of appointment dated 1995 indicates I was posted to The Agah Khan secondary school in Mombasa. My late father was ailing and bedridden and could not fend for the family. My younger brothers were in a day school to render help to our father. Our mother was the breadwinner and financial pillar of the family. I simply had to step in and rescue the situation. I had to be a father figure to my five brothers who currently are fathers to their own children and are managing their own families. I give glory to God for enabling me mould them into people who are worth in the society.
At my work place (S.A. Joytown secondary school) i have a family unit assigned to me. These are boys and girls across the school from form one to form four under my care. Currently I have 12 children in my family unit. I play the fathers role in their lives. I handle their academic, social life, discipline and well-being while at school. I keep in touch with their real parents to ensure the children are comfortable and leading a holistic life. This role has helped me to know and acquire more children in my life. I recall one girl in my family who was able to call me “dad” a name not in her world as her own father walked away from them when she became disabled. My daughter you made me happy. Today I walk tall when many children call me “dad” on the streets knowing truly I have made a difference in their lives.
As a father I have undergone challenges while bringing up children like many other fathers. I have had very trying moments which have taken me down and many successful moments which I cannot finish accounting for. Most of these challenges have been related to financial, decisions, choices but not my disability condition.
I stand as a testimony that God can overcome all human false predictions. I believe in the scriptures where God in Jeremiah 29:11 say “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (KJV).
Q. That is quite inspiring. That tells us that you went to school. Tell us about your schooling.
I started schooling at Port Ritz primary school in Mombasa. My late father used to work in Thika at Kenya Canners (Del Monte) Pineapple Company. My mother was a teacher at The Salvation Army Likoni primary school for the Blind since 1976. When we relocated to Thika in 1978, my mother was posted to The Salvation Army Thika primary school for the Blind where she has taught up to date. I secured a place at The Salvation Army Joytown primary school in 1979 (class 3). I completed my studies in 1985 having sat for my KCPE. I got several invitations to join secondary schools but my parents opted I join S.A. Joytown secondary school. As an adolescent I was not touched by my parents’ decision. I managed to complete my “O” level studies in 1989 and was admitted in Kenyatta University from 1990 to 1995. During my teaching practice I requested The Salvation Army Joytown secondary school to accept me which they did open handedly. After my studies I was hired by Teachers Service Commission and posted to The Salvation Army Joytown secondary as a trained and qualified teacher in 1995. I have been working there up-to-date.
God opened opportunity for me in 2012 when I did an in-service diploma in Inclusive Education Secondary Option with Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE). In 2014 my academic pursuit grew to master’s degree level. By 2016 I was a holder of two masters’ degrees; Master of Education Special Needs (EBD) – Mount Kenya University and Master of Education Science Leadership and Administration – Nicosia University. I am still furthering my education and hope soon to acquire a doctorate degree in Special Needs Education (Physically Handicap).
Q. What other roles do you play in the society you live in?
I have served as the Corps (Church) Secretary of The Salvation Army Thika Corps since 1997. It has never bothered me greatly due to my physical challenge. I get encouraged by 2 Corinthian 12:9 the Bible says, but He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
My role as the Corps Secretary has been pegged on my salvation and performance. Being a teacher by profession I have skills that enable me to handle the much duty bestowed to me by that rank. I have learnt through experience what a Corps Secretary is expected to do. To be honest, I have never undergone any ridicule or degradation due to my physical challenge. I have kept updated on current issues within the church and stood true to my loyalty to serve God. I learnt to accept my challenge and make the best of it. The English man says “when you are given lemons, do not complain, make a lemonade”. I make my lemonade and package it well to attract fellow soldiers.
However, my greatest challenge in serving as a Corps secretary is matching with the congregation to and from open air meetings. I usually move to the selected place 30 minutes ahead and take a motorbike back to church immediately after the session.