Somandla – The Empowered

Former King George VI (KGVI) student Somandla Bhebhe (23) has shown a brighter light about the institution’s dedication of providing education and skills to children with disabilities by penetrating into the fashion industry, a month after finishing his ordinary level education.

Somandla finished his form four (4) in November 2022 and in January this year he was employed by one of the biggest brands in Bulawayo in the fashion industry, Femina Garments as a Tailor.

The tailoring skills that impressed his employers were attained during the time he was still a student at KGVI when he was doing Fashion and Fabrics (F&F) as a practical course.

His F&F teacher Mr C. Chibanda said he was impressed to learn that his best student was already showing off the skills at such a young age.

“It is impressive to see a product of mine already showing off his skills at such a young age and mingling with other highly trained tailors. It means the future is bright for him. He was always passionate about tailoring and he got so good at it that I was relying on him to guide other students when I was not available,” said Mr Chibanda.

Apart from empowering children with disabilities with independent living skills, King George VI also offers practical living skills that enable these children to earn a living such as cooking, sewing and even gardening.

Somandla says he has always been passionate about tailoring, so when he got the job soon after school, it was a dream come true for him.

“When I was at school, my fashion and fabrics teacher used to encourage me to focus on the subject because it can earn me a decent living. I listened and focused. I even sew the bow-ties for my classmates and alter some of their clothers for the Night to Shine event last year.

“Mrs Hussey saw me and liked my passion. She told me that if I was interested in having a career in tailoring, she was going to help me and that is how I ended up employed at Femina,” said Somandla.

He expressed his gratitude to Mr Chibanda, Mrs Hussey and the rest of the KGVI family for looking out for his future, not just his education.

Somandla began school at King George in 2013 for his grade 1. He was using a wheelchair back then because his disability is called Congenital Deformity. His lower limbs could not straighten; hence it restricted his ability to walk.

The Rehabilitation saw a possibility that Somandla could be able to walk on his own or use crutches if he is operated. It took 6 trial operations in order to successfully straighten his legs. After that, KGVI monitored him for years, using crutches until he was able to walk properly.

Currently he uses crutches to walk but he can walk on his own for a long distance. He says sometimes he even walks around at work without them.

After getting a Job in January, he decided to move out of the family home and stay by himself. He says he wanted to relieve his sister, who has taken care of him his whole life.

Somandla Bhebhe

“I have stayed with my sister since I was a child. She rents a three roomed house in Mzilikazi and she has a big family. I just felt that I should allow her to not worry about me anymore and give the family space as I am able to take care of my family now.
“I will also help to take care of her by assisting her with anything I can because she took care of me. I was trained in independent living at KGVI so I am able to stay alone,” said Somandla.

Somandla is a classic example of the works of KGVI in its attempts to build meaningful lives for children with disabilities. Often, society shuns them and does everything for them. They do not get employment opportunities and are only remembered when there is food aid.

As rightly stated on the Vision for KGVI, we yearn for an “Empowered Marketable Learners with Disabilities Equipped with Independent Living Skills”. Even from our mission statement, we want “To Promote Functionality, Independence, Integration and Self-Reliance for Children with Disabilities”

As an organisation, KGVI is proud of Somandla and will closely monitor and work with him for the betterment of his career and his living.