People with albinism have same skills as rest of us

Mpho Walter Makole

Mpho Walter Makole

It is politically and socially incorrect to call a person with a congenital absence of pigment an albino. These days the acceptable description is "people with albinism".

Typically, a person with albinism has a milky-white complexion, white hair and pink eyes. The eyes are pink because the blood in the vessels of the iris shows through the transparent parts of the eye. In the eyes of a person with normal skin pigmentation, the iris hides the pinkness.

Albinism is not a disability. Like anyone else, people with albinism have the ability to do everything and achieve goals if they are fit enough, determined, inspired, dedicated enough, and possess the necessary skills, knowledge and interest.

As one philosopher once said: "Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the ball."

It has also been said that cowards die many times before their actual deaths, while the brave do not taste their deaths.

Anyone, including people with albinism, can take chances and reap the rewards if they are determined enough. Ability is not the sole preserve of so-called "able" people.

Albinism occurs about once in every 20000 births. This makes it a rarity.

Many people will swear that they have never seen people with albinism involved in activities that make them popular, such as the arts, sports or politics.

But there is also a certain percentage of so-called normal-skinned people who also shy away from challenges and opportunities that would make them well known.

Disability and albinism are not synonymous - that is if one considers the people with albinism who visited our school and helped quash the myths and superstitions surrounding the condition of albinism.

The myths and superstitions are more like accusations that people with albinism are some sort of strange monsters. A disabled person struggles to land a job. A person with albinism suffers the same fate.

Yet, both are human. Both could possess the talents, skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and determination to succeed, very much the same as a person with normal pigmentation.

All of us crave attention, love and respect whether we are abled, disabled, or of unusual skin colour.

People with albinism deserve the same regard.

Let us accept them as they are, but above all else, let us love them unconditionally because, like us, they are people too.

The author is a Grade 12 pupil at Teto High School in Motsethabong, Welkom, in the Free State.

Makole came third in this year's National Schools Essay Competition on Albinism. The overall winner is Tshilisanani Nedombeloni of Limpopo and in second place is Gugu Precious Ntinga of KwaZulu-Natal.

This contest, aimed at demystifying albinism, is a nation-building project of Sowetan, the national Health Department, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Albinism Society of South Africa. Sowetan is an organising and media partner under the auspices of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation-Building Foundation.