Anastasia's tortuous journey to academic excellence; physically challenged but intellectually endowed

Ghana Thinks

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Can you imagine struggling to climb a staircase every day -- fall off, sometimes, due to physical disability -- to attend lectures?

That’s the story of 23-year-old Anastasia Agyenim Boateng who defied the odds, learning to earn a First Class Honours with an average of 72.5 in Sociology.

She is among graduating students at the 51st congregation of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi.

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Often, at graduation ceremonies, graduands walk majestically up the podium to receive their scrolls.

Dignitaries sit and nod at some, and shake hands with others, depending on their academic achievement.

For First Class Honours students officials stand and shake hands with them in acknowledgment.

Anastasia-wheel-chair

Anastasia Agyenim Boateng, however, received a special treat at the mention of her name.

The high-table had to come down the podium because Anastasia couldn’t climb up the dais which itself is not disability friendly.

The gesture, amid a standing ovation from the rest of guests in the auditorium, got her into tears.

“There were mixed emotions, I was happy and a little bit sad too”. She explains her parents are her motivation, and that she wanted to make them proud.

“They have done so much for me so I wanted to pay them back. When I was depressed, they motivated me, they didn’t give up on me, they didn’t put me in the room, they brought me out”, she emotionally said.

Anastasia is the eldest of four children to her parents. She suffered some complication which rendered her paralysed at age ten.

From Opoku Ware Basic School in Santasi, she continued at Yaa Asantewaa Girls Senior High School -- all in the Ashanti Region.

Coping with academic work in such condition has been very challenging.

“There were times that I felt that I should just give up but my parent pushed me through and God saw me through”, she said.

Anastasia's father, a 53-year-old auto mechanic, Richard Agyenim Boateng, recounts his struggles, seeing her through school.

According to him, he acknowledged that education is the best thing he can give her, especially, in such condition.

“I spent so much, taking her to school and back for the first two years in university was difficult.”

His business was bad, and at a point, he couldn’t afford to transport her to and from school.

“It was difficult so I had to see the dean of student and explain things to him. And he agreed to give us a room for free because of her condition. I am now thinking of her Masters level course but the money to do that is my worry”.

Her mother, 44-year-old Ernestina Agyei, gave up trading and relocated to campus to assist her daughter with daily chores.

Mrs. Agyei wheeled Anastasia to and from school every day.

In tears, her mother explained, “ I prayed and thanked God for bringing this honor unto my family.  Upon all the challenges, I never gave up.”

One of her lecturers, Dr. Frances Dufie Azumah, taught Anastasia Criminology. Because her class is a large one, it is held on the third floor of one of the school’s classroom blocks.

She reckons Anastasia fell from one of the stairs coming to class one of the days.

“I felt very sorry so we decided to change the class to a ground floor which means a smaller classroom but Anastasia didn’t want that because she felt it was not okay to inconvenience everybody for her”.

Anastasia, however, expressed worry at the unfriendly nature of the physical infrastructure in the school to physically-challenged.

“Sometimes it was really difficult, getting to lectures; the lecture rooms and even the library. I think that most of the time they don’t really think about physically-challenged students because they think they can’t go this far.

So I will really encourage them to make this place disability friendly. It was difficult but I needed to do this for myself, my sisters and my parent”.

Her lecturer, Dr. Azumah believes every student must exhibit the discipline Anastasia showed in pursuing her academics.

Anastasia aspires to become a journalist. Though she has not decided which area of journalism to pursue, the late Komla Dumor and Micheal Oti Adjei motivate her.

Her story is an epitome of why one must be strong and not be discouraged by their state or condition.