Ordinary people, extraordinary lives; An encounter with Boikhutso Majang

Tshepie Babusi

We spoke about a lot that day while seated in a couch inside a secluded area in her office. I remember us discussing my sister and how the conversation naturally had us exchanging life experiences – I, about how exhausting it is to pursue studies and work at the same time, her about…wait, now that I think about it, she mostly smiled and listened with an occasional “I know, I remember how tough it got during my time”.

She radiated a feel safe aura, the type you feel around an aunt you haven’t seen in ages and you have got to fill her in. I am convinced that the years she has spent counselling gave her the super power to make even the most guarded individual speak up around her. We stood up to leave and I noticed she took a little longer, seemingly reaching for something.  She was reaching for her stick because, she is blind. My astonishment got the better of me.

She burst into laughter, proof that she gets this often. That’s when it hit me, it be had been there all along and I was ironically blind to it. It was in the way she knew who I was based on the tone of my voice; it was in the way she looked into the distance when we spoke, it was in how brilliantly she was in tune with all of her senses. This sums up my very first encounter with Boikhutso Majang. A guidance and counselling educator at Naledi Senior Secondary School that refused to allow blindness interfere with what she was set out to accomplish.

Majang holds a degree in Physical Education and a Masters in Counselling. She has been teaching for the past 17 years, 8 of which included counselling students and adults. She showed no signs of ever slowing down when she spoke of her unwavering passion for student welfare and general well-being of people. She explained that she lost her sight in 2005, “First it was a headache that just wouldn’t go away and now, here we are”.

The woman is nothing short of incredible. She had my jaw on the floor when she casually mentioned that she is planning to pursue her PhD in Counselling and Psychology in the US. I recalled how I woke up that morning feeling extra defeated and overwhelmed, I now felt silly. Here I was standing in the presence of someone who has had to overcome losing an essential sense, yet carried a no complaint attitude. When she spoke about her challenges, it wasn’t in a way that begs for pity. It was more of a; listen things don’t normally go according to plan, but you possess the power to rise nonetheless. Her inspiration is drawn from other people who have encountered the same challenge but kept going.

“They showed me that nothing is impossible when you are determined,” She added. As a receiver of the Barclays Scholarship, she explained how that wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. It was a vigorous selection process that had her on the tip of her toes the entire time, but not once was she discouraged. Even as a student of Masters in Counselling at the University of Botswana, she was forever in the lecturer’s offices questioning, listening and learning. “It was the best way I could learn”, said Majang. It mattered not what the other students thought of her or whispered behind her back but only what her reality demanded of her. It was dawning on me that her brain power is one for the books.

She does not have the luxury of quickly browsing through material prior to class, therefore the majority of her learning has to be through listening and ensuring that she retains immense information. It also means her memory is impeccable; she must be able to recognize people based on voice, possibly even scent. In the absence of a guide, Majang must recall how to get around using the sound of objects and I can surely attest to how effortlessly she did this.

Her phone kept ringing off the hook, I observed how she knew exactly where to reach for it, and was captivated by her swift movements. When it came to her family, she sounded like a proud parent talking about her two boys. She emphasized how wonderful the support that has come from her husband and entire family has been. She has had to learn to live a completely different life that affected the way she carried out even the simplest of activities, not at all easy but she does it.

She was mostly amused at how moved I was by her, so much that I wanted everyone to know. “I have to write about you…give your story a voice!” I exclaimed. Majang spoke fondly about her love for travelling, reading and church all the while beaming with life, it was infectious. I couldn’t help but be in awe of her, secretly wishing I could have a piece of her strength, package it and take it home with me.

If fearlessness had a face, it would be this woman. Meeting Mma Majang taught me that human beings have the capability to rise above any experience that threatens to shatter their purpose here on earth. It is my hope that her story gives someone somewhere the strength to not allow any circumstance, no matter the magnitude, dictate their journey. On an ordinary day, I met an ordinary person, living an extraordinary life!