PALAPYE, BOTSWANA/ March 5, 2019/ – 23-year-old Palapye born, Rowena Koloi is an epitome perseverance against all odds. This follows her childhood misfortunes of suffering from an eye disease dubbed keratoconus whilst in secondary school – an affliction she has been living with for almost 10 years.
Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape. This cone shape deflects light as it enters the eye on its way to the light-sensitive retina, causing distorted vision. However, be that as it may, her woes could not stop her from achieving her dreams, thus penning her own self-titled book dubbed ‘A walk to remember, disability is not inability.’
Daring to soar with the eagles despite her situation, Koloi had to skip her Form 5 final examinations to go under the knife but this never deterred her from leading a normal life. “I went through many eye surgeries in South Africa ranging from corneal transplants, corneal rejections, grafts, repositioning of the iris, conjunctiva flap surgery and in the process I lost my other eye and currently I’m one eyed and that is too much for a teenager to experience,” she recalls.
Currently studying towards attaining her BCom in Real Estate at Ba Isago University (final year) Koloi says she started writing her book with her best friends Kushatha Tabulawa and Barati Kelefatshe while the manuscript was edited by Thuto Modibedi and the cover designed by Maleshane Lebentlele.
“My book aims to change the perception our society already has about disability. I’m trying to show the world that disability is not inability. I want to motivate people to live beyond their limitations and delimitations because I personally believe that people should not be defined by their circumstances. I am trying to give hope to people living with disabilities. I intend to use this book as a tool on a motivational movement in search for students with special needs in different schools to help them and motivate them based on my personal experiences.
I have shared all the challenges that I have faced in this book but most of my challenges were centered on my academics but nonetheless I kept fighting and never failed.” As a relatively grounded individual when growing up, Koloi had always been a leader scooping various leadership accolades along the way.
“I did my primary school and secondary school in Palapye and went for boarding school at Moeding College. At secondary school I was a student representative council member serving as the vice president while at senior school I was a senior prefect. In both disciplines I was awarded certificates of valuable leadership and good conduct. However during Form 5 I dropped out of school a few weeks before our final examinations as I was referred to RSA for a corneal graft surgery because I had an open wound behind my cornea so I missed the exam! I went back to repeat Form 5 the following year.”
As she will be finishing her studies, Koloi says just like any other graduate, she will be looking at establishing a career in real estate and starting motivational seminars with a goal to build a centre of arts for people living with disability.