A rising star of broadcasting

A rising star of broadcasting

MASERU – Having defied a debilitating motor neuron disease that left him unable to walk or talk without aid to emerge as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists in history, Stephen Hawking would later write: “Disability is not an obstacle to success.”
The wheelchair-bound British physicist, who died in 2018, was an outstanding achiever. But when he penned those words in the World Disability Report of 2011, he was not referring to himself alone but to all those that have refused to let mental or physical disability define who or what they are.
Or to bring it closer home, Hawking was talking about the likes of ’Matemo Kolo, the Harvest FM presenter who defied a congenital disability – in which she was born with only two fingers on each hand and shorter arms than normal – and is now regarded as a rising star of local broadcasting.
Growing up, her condition meant Kolo or Stymo, as she is popularly known, was the butt of cruel jokes at the school playground where other kids would often tease and mock her, likening her two fingers to the cloven hoof of a pig.

Her thumb-less hands mean Kolo cannot enjoy some of the simpler and yet immensely satisfying things of life such as clicking or snapping the fingers while dancing along to a good tune. Neither can she show affection to a loved one by holding them tight in a good old hug because her arms are not long enough to give the full embrace.
But you would be totally mistaken to think that you will ever find Kolo wallowing in self-pity because of her condition.
In words that should inspire anyone living with disability, Kolo told thepost in an interview this week that the secret to her success was the realisation that her happiness and progress in life did not require two able hands. It only required that she used the hands that God gave her well.
“The only thing that I cannot do is that which my arms cannot reach,” she says, confidently smiling.
To see what Kolo means come visit her at her house where you will find her cooking, washing and doing the other household chores just as any other able-bodied person would.
Or to get a clearer demonstration of the truth in the old adage, disability does not mean inability, come pay her a visit at the radio studios and see how confident and adept she is with the gadgetry, the computers and keyboards as she does her thing on air.

You might notice the notes she jotted down by hand and you could never tell the writer uses only two fingers with no thumb.
There is no need to belabour the point that Kolo has excelled on radio. She has gained popularity with her youth-focused show ‘Bacha ba matla’ (the power of youth) that is on streaming from 4pm to 6pm every Monday to Thursday.
She also presents the popular Retataise Moqhobi (Direct us Oh Driver) programme during weekdays from 10am to 11:55am. She also does ‘Lenaneo la Maqheku’ show for the elderly every Monday from 2pm to 2:55pm.
As the overused cliché goes; only the sky is the limit for the talented presenter.
But it was not always like this. Back in the village of Ha-Rakolo in Kolonyama, Leribe, where she was born and where other children used to liken her hands to pigs’ feet, Kolo says things were hard.
At the receiving end of all kinds of jokes because of her disability, this is how Kolo remembers her time in the village.
“In the community it was really hard because other children would laugh at me and tease me about my hands … I would get hurt and cry,” she says.
One particularly hurtful experience she still remembers to this day was when she and other children from her school were visiting another school in the area, St Monica’s Primary School.

Upon seeing her hands one of the older boys from St Monica’s called out to his friends to come and witness what he was seeing, a girl with a pair of strange and scary hands.
“He said come see how scary this girl’s hands are, they look like pig’s feet,” she says, recounting the old insult.
“That got to me really hard and I am never going to be able to forget it, even now,” she says, in tones that seem to suggest this is still very much a fresh wound.
Such bullying and abuse as Kolo experienced can do irreparable damage to a child’s sense of self-worthiness that they might never be able to recover from even in adulthood.
But Kolo was always a fighter and a survivor. The added advantage of a loving and supportive mother standing by her side all the time meant that all the abuse and other negative factors that could have done her serious psychological harm never had that much impact.
She was, after taking everything into account, a normal girl who like any other had dreams about the future. Hers was to become a traffic cop.
However, she would soon drop the idea, she says after, “I figured they use their hands a lot on the road, so I asked myself: how am I going to cope without hands?”
Asked how she ended up on radio, Kolo traces the beginnings of her love for the airwaves and television back in the years growing up watching Lesotho Television’s Motšeo programme that at the time was presented by Lucy Borotho.

She would imagine herself on screen imitating Borotho doing interviews with her schoolmates posing as the interviewees.
But the first real steps to becoming Stymo begin much later when she was already a Form C student at Abia Star English Medium school.
It all started with the youth show Bacha ba Matla, the one that she now presents. The show’s then presenter, Marake Lechesa aka ‘Cheeseman’, would invite some of his listeners to come to the studio where they would be a given a chance to go on air and imitate any presenter they liked.
After listening to someone accurately imitating some radio presenters, Kolo placed a call through to Lechesa asking to be also given an opportunity on air. Lechesa obliged.
“I got in the studio and I was given five minutes to do my thing, as I was presenting, I saw in Cheeseman’s eyes that I had what it took,” Kolo says.
“The listeners responded positively, and the radio dream started burning non-stop.”
But she was still in school and after enjoying her five minutes of fame it was soon time to go back to class to carry on with her Form D studies.
But the fires lit during that brief time on air would continue to burn. Kolo started to basically teach herself how to present radio shows, using one phone to record her “broadcasts” and the other to play music.

Her friends would once again step in as mock interviewees and listeners from whom she would pretend to take calls. She kept the recordings of her fake broadcasts.
On completing Form D, she headed for Harvest FM looking for an opportunity to work on radio. She took along her “treasure trove” of amateur recordings.
It’s not hard to see why the radio’s Managing Director, ’Malichaba Lekhoaba, asked her to come work with them during the December holidays. Such commitment as Kolo showed ought to be rewarded.
After the brief stint at the station she went back to school to do Form E after which she returned to the radio station again. But the Kolo who was returning this time was a woman on a mission.
This is how she puts it: “I told God that, I’m going to Harvest FM to take up my job. I went and I was told that the station is not doing well so they won’t be able to pay me, but I was given an opportunity”.
The station took her on but not on a fulltime basis. Kolo says she was getting paid M1 500 per month for her labours, which she says was enough to keep the proverbial wolf off the door.
However, after six months she got a pleasant surprise when she was offered a fulltime contract and as the old saying goes – the rest is history.
Kolo, who describes her boss, ’Mè ’Malichaba, as an inspiration and role model, attributes all she has achieved as a presenter so far to the support of her colleagues.
And her final word to young people, including the disabled like herself: “invite God in all you do, work hard with everything that you have in order to reach your destiny.”

’Mamakhooa Leroba

 

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