Conjoined twins settling into Tanzanian university

Sisters Maria and Consolata Mwakikuti, joined at the abdomen, have become minor celebrities in Tanzania, where the media has followed their path through high school and arrival at university.
Sisters Maria and Consolata Mwakikuti, joined at the abdomen, have become minor celebrities in Tanzania, where the media has followed their path through high school and arrival at university.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

IRINGA (TANZANIA) • A pair of conjoined sisters are settling into campus life at a Tanzanian university, a first in a country where disabled people are often marginalised or abandoned at birth.

Sisters Maria and Consolata Mwakikuti, 20, joined at the abdomen, have become minor celebrities in the east African nation, where the media has followed their path through high school and arrival at university earlier this month.

Ms Mwazarau Mathola, a spokesman for the Ruaha Catholic University in Iringa, in the centre of the country, said the twins arrived a few weeks before classes are due to start in October to get used to their new life and take computer lessons.

"A separate house has been provided for them because they can't be housed in normal student accommodation," said Ms Mathola.

A couch has also been installed in their classroom to allow them to sit comfortably, and they have a carer.

The twins were abandoned by their mother after the death of their father, and later taken in by a Catholic mission.

They will study education and hope to become teachers of history, English and Swahili.

In July, Maria made an emotional call on state television for parents not to "hide or lock up their handicapped children".

"They must know that human beings, handicapped or not, are equal and have the same rights," she said.

The sisters, who enjoy knitting and cooking together, thanked their high school teachers who helped them, and the government for providing a vehicle to take them to school every day.

"We didn't expect this day to come, it is by the grace of God that we are here today," said Consolata, the chattier of the two.

The sisters admitted that they do not always get along, as Consolata told a local newspaper in 2015: "For example, when I want to do laundry and Maria prefers to read.

"However, we always find a way around it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Conjoined twins settling into Tanzanian university'. Print Edition | Subscribe