An inspiring story comes from a KDI student from Tanzania with special needs, Suleiman Magoma (MPM, 2018), who was born with albinism. Despite his perceived shortcomings, Suleiman has achieved abundant accomplishments, and is currently working on African cooperation with the Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Moreover, he is also a founder of Tanzania’s Albinism Awareness Foundation; established in 2016, the organization’s purpose is to advocate for the rights and welfare of people with albinism. Suleiman says that people with albinism in Tanzania face a lot of challenges, such as discrimination, because of their skin color, and that albinism has been associated with witchcraft – something that has resulted in many being killed due to this superstitious belief. They also face socio-economic discrimination; many people with albinism are not accepted in schools, especially in rural areas, and cannot get a better education. This has caused many Tanzanians with albinism to live in extreme poverty.
Realizing the problems arising for people with albinism in his country, Suleiman has tried, through the foundation, to build public awareness of albinism so that people with it can be spared from negative perspectives. “The problem is people associate albinism with witchcraft, because they don’t have knowledge. In fact, albinism is not a disease, it’s a genetic condition which occurs as the result of a lack of pigment,” said Suleiman. Explaining further, he notes that a lack of melanin causes people with albinism to have fair skin, blond hair, and also vision problems. Albinism causes the skin to become more sensitive to sun rays, which can cause skin cancer if they don’t take the proper protective measures, such as using sunscreen lotion, and wearing wide-brimmed hats and long sleeved clothes. Also, as people with albinism in Tanzania are mostly living in poverty, they don’t have enough money to buy these things, which leads many Tanzanians with albinism – particularly children – to suffer and die from skin cancer.
On the other hand, being a student at KDI School has been a blessing for Suleiman. “KDI School is a very inclusive place for people to study, with no discrimination for people with special needs. And, the school is even taking real action to promote disability awareness,” said Suleiman. As a person with special needs, he has received a lot of help from classmates, professors, and school staff. Upon his arrival, KDI School provided him with a magnifying device to help him read, and the school also informed professors to ensure that class materials were provided to him in a bigger font size. In addition, during exams, Suleiman is given an additional 30 minutes to finish. He has also received equal opportunities, managing to become a class assistant for 2 terms this year. As he feels so fortunate being at KDI School, he has started a new program for people with albinism in Tanzania, through a fundraising campaign that aims to raise a total of $6,500 by the end of August 2019. The money will allow his charity organization, the Albinism Awareness Foundation, to purchase protective items – such as sunscreen lotion, wide-brimmed hats, and long sleeved clothes – for the less fortunate. He will also offer treatment to 5 children with albinism who are affected with skin cancer, conduct a health campaign to inform the community about the dangers of skin cancer, and hold a series of “Understanding Albinism” seminars.
Through his story, Suleiman hopes the KDIS community can join in the fundraising campaign efforts to save children with albinism affected with skin cancer in Tanzania, and help these children to have a better future. Donations can be made through a website, or directly to the foundation account listed on the organization’s official website.e appreciates any and all efforts and donations received from the KDIS community. In the end, one of the joys people can get is through giving and helping others, so please help spread some love, KDIS!