Albinism is not a curse

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

Teenagers throughout South Africa are helping to change misconceptions about albinism, a defect of melanin production.

The condition results in little or no pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.

Pupils in Grades 10, 11 and 12 participate in the yearly National Schools Essay Competition on Albinism.

The topics are: Albinism - Being different in my community; Albinism - Experience of a teenager with albinism; Albinism - How do I relate to people with albinism; and Albinism - A disorder or not?

The reigning champions for 2006 and 2007 were Tshilisanani Nedombeloni from Limpopo and Lehlabile Dibeila from Gauteng.

The 2008 champion will be crowned in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, next Monday.

This project's nation-building partners are the Albinism Society of South Africa (Assa), the national Education and Health departments, Sowetan and the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation.

Assa's industrious pioneers and leaders, Tony Ngwenya and Nomasonto Mazibuko, have persevered against all imaginable odds, including meagre financial support, to keep up the battle for the social acceptance and understanding of albinism.

Mazibuko is also a part of a growing advocacy movement in Africa that is highlighting the folly and tragedy of misconstruing albinism as a curse, disease or disability.

Mazibuko educates communities that people with albinism should not be ridiculed, isolated or maimed because of superstitions, ignorance or downright prejudice.

The health and education authorities are using the competition to reach out to youth in public schools with a positive, interactive message about inherited disorders.

They empower pupils by making them do research and present their own thoughts on albinism.

One in 4000 people have albinism in South Africa, compared to one in 20000 people worldwide.

People with albinism have a different skin colour. Besides the colour, they are exactly like you and I - normal and equally ambitious.

With dedication and determination they too can realise the potential to lead in many respects.