Tanzania: How Woman Uses Tongue to Write

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Zanzibar — Wakonta Kapunda has been confined to a wheel chair for the past four years after an accident that left her quadriplegic. She can hardly do anything without the support of her immediate family and the only functioning parts of her body is from the neck upwards

But Wakonta has not let her adversity turn into despair.

At the corner of a film class that is being run by the Maisha Lab in Zanzibar, the 24-year-old radiates with confidence as she listens to her teachers and mentor.

She isn’t about to give up on her dreams whatsoever and she believes she is just as capable as anyone else!

On her wheelchair with a raised platform to her neck she types her notes using her tongue on her smartphone at a speed that baffles almost everyone.

With her tongue she can pick up calls, write text messages and respond to posts on the social media and many other related activities.

She is at a screenwriting training that involves 15 other writers who were chosen by the Maisha Lab at the 19th edition of Zanzibar International Film Festival.

Should she win the contest, she will take home a grant of $5,000 from the Ugandan film house to further her dreams in filmmaking.

“I have learnt a lot at this workshop and I am happy with what I have learnt so far in the past one week. I now know the whole chain of operation and how the film industry operates,” she says.

But how did Wakonta learn how to type using her tongue?

“One day my sister had gone out to pick something and I was all by myself when the phone rang. I struggled and in the process I touched the answer button with my tongue. This is when I discovered that I could pick up calls using other parts of the body,” says the first born in a family of four children.

Her new discovery left the whole family in awe as they wondered just how she had managed to do it!

“When my sister returned I asked her to put some pillows around my chest to elevate the phone to the level where I could easily reach it with my tongue.”

Even with the difficulties that she faced in the beginning she didn’t give up and this marked the beginning of her journey into what she had thought was some impossibility.

“My tongue pained in the beginning and my neck and head ached but with some persistence with time I got used to the whole thing,” says the young woman.

The days of practice were to pay off as she could as she soon mastered the skill of writing, she can now uses the phone to reach her friends out there. With the tip of her tongue she touches the keypad which leads to where she wants such as to play music and watch videos. Her Instagram account is quite a busy place with over 25,000 followers now.

It was through her passion and desire to continue being useful and productive that she has developed the art for writing scripts. “I didn’t know anything about screen writing but after some research on Nollywood and Hollywood I got the idea and style of how to do it and that is how I came up with the script that I entered for this contest,” she says.

But as Wakonta revels in her new found passion it is rather a puzzle on why she decided to navigate that route especially with her condition.

“While I was bedridden I used to watch a lot of films and that is when I realised that films have a way of changing lives as they touch on people’s lives sometimes directly.”

She adds: “I wanted to be one of those people who influence others towards doing something in their lives even when things don’t seem to be going your way.”

This success has not come without challenges as she needs to be helped in doing almost everything.

“It is sometimes frustrating that each time I want to do something, someone has to be there to support me,” adds the girl from Kipiri village in Nkasi District.

Her ability to write in a way that only Wakonta can and ability to be creative has excited both her classmates and her mentors at the Maisha Lab.

During the four years Wankota has also learnt how to speak Korean and she can communicate relatively well.

Ekwa Msangi is a Tanzanian film maker living in the US, currently she is in Zanzibar where she is helping the budding screen writers to hone their skills.

“She has got the talent with promising writing skills and even if she is yet to finish what she is working on I definitely look forward to reading it,” says Ekwa Msangi.

She believes that the young writer has enormous potential to reach greater heights.

And it seems it is not only her mentor who is enthusiastic and hopeful that she can make a brilliant screen writer, the film federation has a high opinion of her as well.

When the idea was first conceived, she paid a courtesy call to the Tanzania Film Federation (TAFF) who encouraged her to further her skills.

“Apart from the promise of getting assigned some duties after my training the federation has been very generous by giving some Sh5 million,” she says.

With a situation that requires constant attention Wakonta does not want her relatives to consider her as someone who is disabled. She carries the optimism that one day she will walk again. For now, she would do all that it takes in her circumtance to become useful to her community and country.

Whatever the outcome of the competition, she is confident that she is on the right path and a lot more lies ahead of her journey. The results of the script writing competition that has attracted big and experienced players were due to be announced last night.

What really happened?

On February 3, 2012 a week before the Form Six national exams could begin, a graduation ceremony was to be held at Korogwe Girls Secondary School where she was a student.

What had started as a morning of anticipation and fun, quickly turned into a tragedy that claimed one life, leaving three others critically injured. She was one of those seriously injured.

“One of the girls whose parent had come with a car got in the vehicle and reversed it without knowledge that we were behind the car,” says Wankota taking a deep breath. They were run over and with it evaporated her dream to excel in her exams and join University. Wakonta was a bright student, according to her parents. She had focused on passing the exams before figuring out what exactly she wanted to pursue as a career. The memories of that black day are rather painful to her and those around her. The weeks that followed were full of agony and tears.

According to her father Mr Bazilio Kapunda Mbwilo and her mother Ms Rahel Lyimo, it took 20 days from the day of the accident for their daughter to be attended to. The accident apparently happened around the same time when health workers were on strike, a move that paralysed the country’s medical services.

“We tried to get other alternatives as the CT scan at Muhimbili National Hospital was not working so we had to go to Regency Medical Centre,” says Bazilio Kapunda.

He believes that his daughter would have healed if it was not for the delayed operation at the country’s largest medical facility.

The ramification of this tragedy has bitten hard into the family’s income as most of their projects have come to a grinding halt.

“The last four years have been very painful most of our projects have stopped. I had a fish business given the fact that I cannot travel for several days the business has almost collapsed,” says Bazilio, a former vet. The parents are nevertheless proud about their daughter’s determination and spirit which has kept them going despite the enormous challenge.There were there in Zanzibar to giver her moral support and encouragement.

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