BY ALFRED PAGEPITU
Jabez Manaikai is someone who will leave an impression in your life if you happen to meet him.
He was described by many of his friends and family members as an inspiration to people living with disability and to the community, he lives in.
Hailing from Rennell and Bellona province, the 30-year-old currently resides at Tandai, in West Honiara.
Many born with disability have not had access to disability schools, with only a few moving on to access the mainstream education services in the Solomon Islands.
For Manaikai, education means looking for support to allow him to live the life of his choice.
Born with low vision and gradually becoming visually impaired – Manaikai has become a beacon for others who are chasing their goals and seeking the confidence to become more independent and educated.
He attended primary school at his home village on Rennell Island. Manaikai had four other siblings, three boys and a girl.
Manaikai recalled that when he was in grade six, the teacher asked him to stay at home because of his situation.
“Studying with able people doesn’t feel the same. The only challenge I have is walking freely like the able ones do, use other equipment able ones can do and etc,” he said
“We came over to Honiara to see some overseas doctors for an eye check, and they told us that it was too late, so they suggested my parents send me to school instead.
Growing up with disability wasn’t easy for Manaikai yet despite his impairment, he could still play soccer, rugby and swimming.
His father and mother stayed strong for him and always supported him in seeking education.
“My parents and even myself thought that was the end of my story, that there would be no future for me and no further education.
“It took me five to six years of wondering why this has happened to me,” he recalled.
“It came to a point that I believe God is still there and he can help me even when I am in this situation. And it came to a surprise that all opportunities were open for me to study.
In 2011, Manaikai went to the Seventh Day Adventist Church to complete his braille and computing studies.
He also did his computing training at the SPC before going to Australia for further literacy studies in 2012.
“After that I went to Japan on a programme called Daskin leadership training n Study office management, social welfare and assistive devices for the blind from 2016 to 2017.”
“After I completed all my studies and training, I joined SPC-Youth at work as an Administrator. Later I also worked for King Solomon Hotel as a reservation officer and worked for the Solomon Islands BroadCasting Corporation (SIBC).
He said there is a huge difference in addressing outcomes from issues such as well-being, access to healthcare and impact on employment when comparing those with disabilities and those not.
“There is fear that I am different from other employees. People with disabilities don’t really join any workforce here in Solomons.
Manaika wants the government to listen to those persons living with disability, give them the same rights and provide accurate support needed to live life that everyone has enjoyed.
His encouragement to his peers is to dream big and work towards it, prove people that they can do what they can and are good at.
“Embrace who you are and try your best to learn your rights. You cannot change who you are but you can change other people’s mind set.
“I have been forced to go on unpaid leave for four months last year, so now my request for holiday will be turned down this year due to the long holiday from Covid-19.
“I have to get vaccinated, which is something I really don’t like, so I’m still thinking about it too,” Manaika said.