Several months ago – too many to count – we spoke with the Dean of the local Technical-Vocational Training College. When we asked if he could accommodate a short-term training for adults with disabilities, he readily obliged, saying that Ethiopians with disabilities are his brothers and his sisters.
Weeks later, when we were ready to start the training, we talked to the teachers, who were clueless about everything. We told them that the dean of the college had already approved the idea, and that conducting a training for their fellow community members was the right thing to do. After all, people with disabilities in Ethiopia face so many struggles.
“Are you sure these handicapped people can learn?” asked the teachers.
“Yes, of course they can learn. Most of them use a crutch to walk, but they can stand, they can use their hands to work with wood or metal, and they can definitely learn,” we replied.
“Well, OK. We will write a lesson plan. Come back next week,” the teachers said.
We returned the next week, only to have the exact same conversation. Maybe they had forgotten everything we said? We planned to return the next week, to give them time to prepare the lesson plan.
We return the next week, only to have THE EXACT SAME CONVERSATION. Again, we planned to return the next week, to give them time to prepare the lesson plan.
We return the next week, and the next week, and the next week, and…well, you get the idea.
Three months later, the training began, although the teachers decided that it should be held at the old campus, about 2 miles outside of town. Eight brave people with various physical disabilities joined the training. Some were amputees (with and without prostheses), some had polio or cerebral palsy or uncorrected clubfoot.
All of them walked (or crutched) the 2+ miles to the training every day for over 2 months.
We were the only ones to complain about the distance.