Meet Dr Morokolo Silas Sathekge a general practitioner living with physical disability based in Botlokwa, Limpopo. Dr Sathekge wrote the first medical journal in Sepedi. He is a founder of KG Maluleke Memorial Disability Integration Organisation, a former chairperson of a hospital, an entrepreneur and has served various NGOs. He shares his life journey, challenges along the way, and what inspired him to write a Medical Journal in Sepedi.
Please kindly tell us who is Dr Morokolo Sathekge?
I am the fourth of 8 siblings from Botlokwa Village, Limpopo. I was born with a rare congenital condition and physical disability that is characterised by malfunctioning elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles which are your major joints. I went in and out of hospitals undergoing surgical and orthopaedic procedures as a child. I spent most of my life at boarding school. I came back to my home village after graduating from varsity.
Tell us about your educational journey.
My schooling journey was not easy as a person living with disability. Had it not been for Mr Kravort my journey would have ended at Letaba primary special school. Mr Kravort is Dutch reformed church member who adopted me after I had lost my parents and paid for my education. I went to Bokgaga high school with able bodied learners because there were no special schools. I then moved to Setutulawane High School to complete my matric. I hold a medical degree from Medunsa, commonly known as Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University.
Please kindly tell us about your transitions from school/work to business.
I served as an intern at Grootehoek Hospital In Lebowakgomo. After my internship I chose to open my own practice in Botlokwa which was another tough transition where I had to convince people that I was actually a capable medical practitioner.
What motivated you to open your own practice in a rural area?
I decided to start my practice in Botlokwa where majority of my patients were my relatives and people I know. My friends would ask me if I will cope working in a village because most of the people won’t afford to pay for the service. I believe in good service and preserved to serve my community.
What motivated you to write the first Medical Journal in Sepedi?
I noticed the gap in language and basic understanding of medical conditions by people in rural communities. There was a communication breakdown between patients and health practitioners. Many health practitioners were trained in English and came back to work in the rural areas where they struggled to explain to people what their medical conditions are in their own languages..
What impact do you want to make with your Journal?
The idea was fortified when I became a contributor on Thobela FM’s health talk show because I could speak about various medical conditions in Sepedi. I was encouraged to continue with the journal because I noticed the difference it could make in the society. My hope is for universities and colleges to train health workers in vernacular.
Please kindly tell us what KG Maluleke Memorial Disability Integration Organisation is about?
KG Maluleke Memorial Disability Integration Organisation is a society for children living with disabilities. The organisation assist to integrate children living with disabilities from special schools and places them in ordinary schools. Their skills are tested against other children as catalyst for their integration. The program has produced a social worker, chemical engineer and an IT specialist. We currently have an actuary who is studying in the Free State. We encourage our learners to pursue independence from an early stage. Persons living with disabilities are not a burden and we want the able bodied society to understand that.
What are the challenges you encountered in life?
My biggest challenge was not able to find a special high school which led me to attend school with able bodied learners. I developed a fear of holding a stethoscope or performing operations in my third year at varsity because I struggled to believe that I could perform practical work. The other challenge was the hospital staff who would mistake me for a patient or simply dismiss me, until I would politely inform them that I am actually the Doctor. I had to manoeuvre around various Sepedi dialects which were aided by using a core writer with knowledge on other dialects in the Sepedi language. I have coined and created words for “hormones” for instance to “Selaola Šomo” because language can be developed. The process of writing the journal itself took a period of 10 years.
What is your highlight of your career?
I managed to convince people to believe in my capabilities despite my disability. I am currently running my practice per appointment. This is something that specialists find difficult to achieve and I have established myself on excellence. I run my practice in Sepedi and my notes are written in Sepedi unless the patient speaks a different language.
What legacy would you like to leave in medical field?
I am passionate about language preservation and creating an inclusive society for persons living with disabilities. I would like to see a society where empowered self-reliant persons living with disabilities are respected for their capabilities.
How can our readers find you & your establishment on social media?