Mirirai Nsingo recently in Mbire
Hardlife had indeed a hard life at a very tender age. He had to wrestle a crocodile that devoured his leg while he was attempting to cross a river on his way to school.
Perhaps his parents should have renamed him “Miracle” after he miraculously survived that vicious crocodile attack at the age of nine?
Hardlife Kawara (19) from Mupedzapasi village under chief Sunga, Mbire, in Mashonaland Central Province still vividly remembers how he survived the crocodile attack when he was in Grade Two back in 2008.
Yes, that dreaded year in which everyone has their own story of strife!
His village is more than 10 kilometres from the nearest school and he had to walk to and from school whilst crossing the crocodile infested Angwa River. It was a daily case of playing Russian Roulette with his life, punctuated by two weekend days of rest before restarting the dicing with death routine come Monday!
Although the river has a bridge, the bridge is far away and would mean walking for another five or more kilometres to school while using the bridge. So they used a crossing path while risking life and limb as they had no option.
The 19-year-old recounted how he escaped death to The Herald Saturday Lifestyle recently during a visit in Mbire at Mushumbi Primary. He believes had his brother who was then in Grade Four not helped wrestle the crocodile, he could be history.
Known to be crocodile infested, the river is not only a death trap but has resulted in most pupils from the other side missing school during and after the rainy season as they cannot risk crossing it.
“We were crossing Angwa River to school when it attacked me. It grabbed my leg and was already pulling me into the river and when my brother heard me scream, he turned back and rushed to wrestle it.
‘‘I only managed to hold firmly onto the grass on the riverbed as my brother held the jaws of the crocodile until it finally let go of me.”
The harm had already been done as the reptile had already devoured the leg of the then grade-two pupil but thanks to his brave brother, he survived.
“I still remember how my brother wrestled the crocodile as I held firmly to the grass. When it finally let me go, it had already destroyed my leg. He pulled me to safety and meanwhile the other pupils we were with had run to the nearby village to call for help. So when the villagers came I was lying helplessly while bleeding profusely.
“I was rushed to Mushumbi Clinic and I was referred to a hospital in Harare. As there was no ambulance at the clinic, I remember some organisation volunteered their vehicle to take me to Harare,” recalls Hardlife.
He then spent six months at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals where he was amputated. He was to spend more years out of school after he was discharged from hospital due to disability as he could no longer walk the long distance to school.
Thanks to a Government partnership with Save The Children and Leonard Cheshire Disability Trust of Zimbabwe (LCDZ) through the inclusive education programme that is fighting to keep children with all forms of disability in school, Hardlife went back to school after spending more than three years out of school.
Since he had missed out on school for years, when he finally went back he was taken back to Grade One at Mushumbi Primary School and he sat for his Grade Seven examinations this year at the age of 19.
The Resource Person at Mushumbi Primary School, Caroline Madimbu who is in charge of all pupils with disabilities at the school said Hardlife was one of the pioneers of the inclusive education programme at the school which started in 2011.
“Hardlife was attacked by a crocodile while crossing the river to school and this resulted in him being amputated. Due to the disability he could no longer walk the long distances to school hence spent years out of school.
“When this programme was started, pupils like him were identified and we have 15 children who are being housed at the school where we have improvised to come up with a make shift boarding school to accommodate the pupils who come from different areas in the province and some come as far as Harare because the service is for free.
“Through the Government Inclusive Education programme, Mushumbi was identified as one of the schools that could pioneer the programme. While we work with various partners to implement this programme, Save The Children has been instrumental as they have helped us make the school environment safe and accessible for children with disabilities. So they have helped with construction of ramps, toilets that are accessible by children with disabilities.”
“When the programme was started at this school, we realised that the distances most of these pupils have to travel daily from their homes to school will be an obstacle hence we came up with a make shift boarding school. At the moment we have 15 pupils and we use school funds to cater for their needs such as food and other needs and sometimes we get support but it is not consistent.
“We remain determined to keep pupils like Hardlife in school and we call for more support from partners and the Government so that we can keep these children in school. They have a right to education too,” added Madimbu.
Save The Children communications and advocacy advisor, Sophia Hamandishe said it is pupils like Hardlife who make them support the Inclusive Education programme.
“I still vividly remember visiting Hardlife in hospital back in 2008 when he was attacked by the crocodile. We even supported in paying part of his medical bills at the hospital and provided his first prosthetic leg after he was amputated. We have been supporting him since then and we intend to get him another prosthetic leg as he has outgrown the one he has.
“I remember two days after he got into hospital, another child who had been attacked by a crocodile in the same Angwa River came at Parirenyatwa. The place is a death trap for all especially the pupils who have to cross it daily to reach the nearest school. There have been several calls by the community to have a foot bridge or a school built so that the pupils do not risk lives but that is yet to be done.
“I still remember us buying groceries for him and I’m glad he survived and he is back in school and I pray his dreams come true,” she said.
Save The Children is working in resource limited 8 districts (Mbire, Rushinga, Gokwe North, Gokwe South, Matobo and Beitbridge) where through the inclusive education work, they are implementing work on improving quality environment for children with disabilities so as to keep them in school.
Inspired by the doctors who save his life at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Hardlife who believes he owes his life to his brother who risked his life to save him, says he wants to be a doctor.
“I’m grateful that I got another chance to go back school and I want to be a doctor when I grow up.
“If my brother had not wrestled the crocodile, I could have died. I’m forever grateful that he braved to save me when the other boys ran for cover in the nearby village.”
So if you think 2008 was unkind if not downright evil to you, think for a moment of Hardlife!