Story of Josef Kefas Sheehama who overcame his disability
Josef Sheehama had to overcome severe obstacles in every aspect of his life. But today, his achievements serve as motivation for thousands of young people. But let him tell his story in his own words. – Ed.
My Life Journey by Josef Kefas Sheehama.
At the age of 12, a terrible incident happened to me, Josef Kefas Sheehama. I had to undergo an operation but tragically it went wrong and affected my right leg, changing my world overnight.
My new life was shattered and opportunities for social engagement became smaller based on my inability to navigate physical surroundings. Depression and anxiety took over. It took me three years to start crawling like a baby and two more years to walk with a walking stick, as my parents couldn’t afford a wheelchair or walking crutches. I thought I would be physically able again, but I started feeling signs of depression and began neglecting my schoolwork.
My mother and grandmother were brave women who took me to school despite the challenges they themselves faced. I can still see the tears in my mother’s eyes, but my grandmother made sure to stand strong. I started taking one step at a time, and the depression faded but discrimination and teasing at school became my daily bread, but that did not stop me from pursuing growth in many aspects of my life. I cried, but I made the decision not to let my disability take away what I loved.
Less than a year and a half after returning to school at Anna Maasdorp Laerskool – Duineveld, Vooruitsig Junior Secondary School – Rehoboth, and Rehoboth High School, I completed my grade 12 in Rehoboth Block E, where all kinds of drugs are prevalent. At the age of 17, I had to repeat grade 6 because the incident happened at the beginning of the year. In 2000, I completed my grade 12 at the age of 23 years. It was not easy due to my age and disability.
For instance, in 1998, while in grade 10, I couldn’t find a place in the school hostel and therefore was forced to walk from home to school and back every day. I overdosed on Compral tablets to ease my leg pain, but I kept it secret because my parents will not allow the practice, but I had no other option to ease the pain.
I survived and moved to Windhoek for tertiary education. I was admitted as a 1st year student but my parents had no money to pay. I kept attending university without paying and just attended classes. The university eventually decided to expel me on a Monday in May 2002 at 17:00. I had no other means to attend my university again, so I decided to take the Telecom telephone directory and look through the yellow pages and write to any company. Out of 10 companies, 8 rejected me.
One of the commercial banks in Namibia called me the next Friday in May at 14:00 in 2002 to meet with them. The Human Resources Manager and Administrative Manager interviewed me, and immediately the Human Resources Manager gave me money to be able to report to work the following Monday. On Monday I reported to work around 06:00, and she found me sitting outside. She told me to sign the employment contract and go obtain my outstanding amount from the university. She used her own money to clear my debt.
Now, with over 21 years of banking experience, I have worked as a Senior Credit Officer, Credit Manager, and Branch Manager, and am currently still working for the same commercial bank at the Central Credit Department – Head Office. I am also an independent economic and business researcher, having written over 144 articles. I hold several degrees, including a CAIB (SA), AIB (SA), PB (SA) B Com Banking, B Com Law, PGD, MBA, LLB (final), and PhD (graduation reserved). Additionally, I founded a local church in 2009 at a young age and serve as Senior Pastor.
Furthermore, on 22 November 2022, I was requested to join the North West University – Think Tank expertise panel on the subject of “Unlocking the potential of Green Hydrogen for Shared Prosperity.” I gained strength, courage and confidence to share economic and business views with well-known economists. Despite fear and doubt intimidating me, I decided to stand strong and do the thing I thought I cannot do. This is not unique to just the North West University, but I think this arrangement has contributed greatly to my own growth as a person and as an article writer.
One of the biggest benefits from this experience was being humbled. It was hard to ignore the fact that everyone around me was in some way smarter or sharper than I was. It was difficult to accept it at first because of my insecurities during the first few minutes. I would tell myself that I need to be smarter or I need to be more legit if I were to have any hope of catching up with my fellow panellists.
I’ve learned so much and became the person I am now, all because of living and interacting with well-qualified economists, particularly my mentor Mr Steinmann. Can’t say enough: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin.
Disabilities can happen to anyone, and practising empathy goes a long way for both ourselves and those who are less fortunate than us. If you are a disabled person who is feeling down at the moment, that’s perfectly normal. Know however, that you are still protected by laws, particularly from discrimination, and have benefits and rights as a person with a disability. Life is a series of ups and downs, and it is possible to lead a successful life with the right attitude and mindset, disabled or not. Don’t write yourself off.
PS – It is an honour and a privilege to run this piece as an item on the Editor’s Desk. – Ed.