All students at St Jude’s have overcome barriers to receiving education, but Sebastian has had to contend with greater challenges than many.
Born with Albinism, Sebastian is in his second year of secondary school and can see at five metres what most people see from 60 metres.
“I have poor eyesight and I can’t always recognise my classmates. In class, it means I can’t see the board very well,” explains Sebastian, who plans on becoming a lawyer.
However, Sebastian’s vision impairment doesn’t mean he’s being left behind at school. He regularly ranks near the top of his class and his report cards are evidence of an intelligent, hardworking student.
“Of course, I do have some challenges, but I do my best to solve them. I work with staff at school and people from Australia who can help me learn ways to solve them,” says the determined Sebastian.
Louise and Noela, both from Brisbane, Australia, first met Sebastian back in 2015 when he was just starting primary school. Both women had experience in assisting students with different ways of learning; Louise, through more than three decades of work with Vision Australia, and Noela, as a special needs teacher.
“Seb’s motivation and desire to achieve was all the motivation Louise and I needed to make a commitment to assist him. Yes, there would be challenges - Seb in Tanzania and both of us in Brisbane, however, we were not going to let distance deter us,” Noela recalls.
During his primary years, Noela and Louise, along with Brisbane High Rise Rotary Club, donated a tablet to allow Sebastian to take photographs of the teacher’s writing on the blackboard and zoom in to suit his vision, and a slopeboard that enabled him to place the tablet at a comfortable angle.
In 2022, Sebastian moved up to secondary school, an exciting step which meant a more challenging curriculum. In 2023, in recognition of this new challenge, Brisbane High Rise Rotary Club, where both Noela and Louise are members, donated a brand-new laptop for him, software which allows him to access his textbooks electronically, plus new sunglasses, a new stand for his tablet and Bluetooth earphones, so that he can listen to information rather than reading it.
He says, “The laptop is helping a lot. It has made it easy for me so I can access textbooks online and zoom in so I can read it easily.”
Sebastian’s new equipment requires a little getting used to, and the two women are full of praise for Sebastian and the staff who work closely with him as he adjusts, saying, “Many of the applications are new to them, but somehow in between their extremely busy schedule, they take time out to attend our Zoom meetings and get Seb’s equipment working.”
When speaking about disability, a common refrain is ‘different not less’. This is true for Sebastian, who, while learning differently to his classmates, is certainly not achieving any less. A talented student, particularly in English and Kiswahili, Sebastian has a bright future ahead of him, equipped with the tools he needs to learn differently and advocate for his needs.
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