IT was around 11:00 am on July 16, 2015 when Genarius Ernest suffered a terrible road crash, leading to amputation of his right leg.
Still a first year student, pursuing Bachelor of Arts in Economics at the University of Dar es Salaam, Genarius saw his life take an unfortunate path. Riding on his motorcycle from Mbweni area, heading to the country’s leading university, he crashed against a speeding lorry.
The lorry driver was attempting to overtake him but ended up hitting Ernest as he avoided colliding with an oncoming vehicle that was cruising on the right lane. “Given the fact that the lorry was already very adjacent to me, its driver failed to apply the brakes, hence, ended up hitting me,” recalls Ernest.
“It was like after ten minutes from when I got on Mbweni main-road when the vehicle hit and put me and my motorcycle underneath. Nobody believed that I could be alive as I remember the eye-witnesses covered me with a tent, believing that I passed away on the spot,” further narrated Mr Ernest to this paper.
The then student managed to tell them he was alive, begging to be rushed to the near-by Mbweni Mission Hospital where the doctors had no option but to go for amputation. It was because the leg was badly damaged to the extent that the foot-part was hanging, partially connected with a small skin (to the leg).
“Before I underwent the surgery, I urged the doctors to check up my nervous system and requested them to finish me away in any way they could, if my brain could be affected. Yes….I told them so because it is true that I could have nothing to do on this Earth once my brain isn’t functioning well, while I have already lost my very productive organ. I’m thankful the doctors told me my brain was okay,” he said.
The surgery was successful and the then student got discharged after four days. He reported to the college after two weeks, with both the General Dean of students and Dean of the Faculty urging him to postpone the studies.
He rejected the advice as he thought how difficult he could stay idle for the whole year, while he used to be busy with studies and various temporally income generating activities, mostly serving at tuition centres for secondary students.
“Again, having turned into a disabled person, I believed and I still believe that there is no way I could leave happily (as a disabled) without education. Only education remained my life-pole, thus, postponing studies appeared to be the hardest test to me,” he said.
Despite the advice rejection, Mr Ernest dropped in class performance especially in the second year as it wasn’t easy for him to cope with the situation (disability). It took him some time to get used to walking with an artificial leg, especially when the wound went bleeding afresh on a regular basis.
However, he gradually coped with the situation and managed to score the Lower- Second in his final university examination. Mr Ernest admits that disability is not inability but the accident had negatively impacted him in various ways, socially and economically.
His plan was to pursue entrepreneurship after he graduated, starting with foodstuff sales. Unfortunately, the road crash appeared to limit his movements as it became so difficult for him to fight for a ride in public transport vehicles, commonly known as ‘daladala’ to (foodstuff) wholesale points and back.
Genarius Ernest suffered a terrible road crash, leading to amputation of his right leg. It also becomes difficult for him to find a job following the experience he faced during the internship period (when he was in second year) in one of the Dar es Salaam-based Banks.
He was usually forced to leave the office early to avoid the scramble for daladala, the situation that showed to have disappointed the office operators and take him as a non-potential person due to his disability.
Ernest tries his best level to hide his disability because when somebody discovers that he walks with the support of an artificial leg and says sorry to him, it takes him back to the road crash incident. It hurts him terribly, he says.
During the conversation with the reporter, it takes time to convince Ernest to show-up his artificial leg, in fear of getting back into sadness.
Stigmatization and humiliation
Ernest is currently working with the Light for the World-Tanzania as a volunteer. When he acquired such an opportunity, he decided to be independent and searched for a room to rent.
When he went to pay the renting fee, the landlord discovered his new tenant was living with disability. The hard-hearted landlord refused to accept the money as he was not certain whether Ernest would be able to pay the rent every six month.
He would, however, find another place where he would rent a single-room. He has been doing whatever in his capacity to pay the rent fee even before the pay period, to avoid the humiliation he had experienced. Ernest rues the fact that people living with disabilities are still stigmatized and humiliated based on the conditions.
The driver who hit him ran away and left the vehicle at the accident scene. Neither Ernest nor his relatives thought to make a follow up on his traffic case to seek compensation. Motorcyclists, commonly known as bodaboda, are among the groups which are regularly involved in road crashes.
While part of the blame goes to riders’ negligence, others are victims of unruly vehicle operators as it was the case with Mr Ernest. To curb the problem, Traffic Police in collaboration with other stakeholders have been conducting regular public road safety education campaigns.
The campaigns are regularly conducted to all road users, including motorcyclists at their camps. The measure has contributed to reduction of motorcycle crashes from 876 in 2018 to 567 during last year.
Motorcyclists’ fatalities slightly dropped, with 316 casualties recorded in 2019 compared to 366 deaths registered in the previous year, according to the Head of Public Education Department in Traffic Unit, ACP Abel Swai. There were 469 survivors of motorcycle crashes in 2019, down from 694 in 2018.
“However, motorcyclists, especially commercial ones are still a serious challenge but we usually keep on coming up with various new approaches to make sure the problem is controllable. We also propose amendments of some sections in the Road Safety Act to make it easy for law implementers to fight all sources of road crashes.”
Riding a motorcycle is, thus, dangerous; hence, preventing crashes before they occur should be a key component of motorcycle safety programmes. In order to prevent motorcycle crashes, the country needs to adopt rider education programmes under trained instructors.
Such programmes will help riders acquire the basic knowledge and skills needed to safely operate a motorcycle on streets and highways. Increasing the number of properly licensed motorcycle operators is also important to address the problem.
This will insure that riders who have not completed a rider education course can demonstrate basic knowledge of riding and can safely perform basic handling skills. Law enforcers must also fight alcohol and substance abuse among riders as it is among the major causes of motorcycle crashes.
Riding while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs decreases an operator’s ability to ride safely. Road safety stakeholders should also increase awareness activities to reach motorists who share the road with motorcyclists.
Operators of other vehicles must be knowledgeable of the special characteristics of motorcycles and must use this knowledge to interact safely with these vehicles.