You most likely have seen her on TV. 23-year-old Regina Mugure Mwangi is the face of the #NikoEducatable campaign, which encourages people to support the education of children with disability. I recently met Regina at her campus USIU Africa, where we spent a lovely afternoon chatting. Today, I bring you her story. Read on, and feel free to share the article.
“I was born healthy and I have fond memories of my early childhood in our rural home in Murang’a. In kindergarten, I loved playing and singing with my friends. Life was good! However, something unusual began happening just as I was about to enroll in class one.
My parents tell me that I suddenly began dragging my feet –for reasons they couldn’t understand. They took me to hospital and I was given medication, but the problem persisted. With each passing day, my walking became slower and slower as my feet became heavier and heavier.
My parents brought me to Nairobi for further treatment, but several hospital trips later, there was never a clear diagnosis of my problem. By this time, I had stopped going to school because my knees and legs had become too weak. My siblings and I were at that time staying in Kiambiu slums in Eastlands. Our mother had remained back home in Murang’a to tend to the farm.
Eventually, when I was 10 years old, dad found a school for me and I enrolled in class one. I was way older than my classmates. It was a privately-owned informal school in the slum. My dad had tried getting me into a special school, but the schools were far, and the transport logistics were too costly for him.
When I was in class 2, my dad got some reprieve when an Italian organization called Centrum Narovinu that sympathized with my plight offered to pay my school fees. However, my health challenges persisted. In class 3, my mobility became almost impossible because by that time, my knees had stiffened completely and I was unable to stretch my legs or even get up. Some neighbors told my dad about an organization called the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK), and urged him to reach out to them. It is this organization that facilitated my access to AIC Kijabe Hospital where I underwent knee surgery.
After the surgery though, the doctors told my parents that there was yet another problem with me –this time even more serious than my knees and legs.
Apparently, my back had a major problem -somewhere around the spine. They recommended more surgery, but informed my parents that it could go two ways: that I could get worse, or I could get better.
My parents, fearful that the surgery would aggravate my condition or even worse –that I would die under the operating table, decided against the risky procedure and took me home. I was given a wheelchair to assist with my mobility, and I continued attending therapy at APDK twice a week.
I continued with my education at the school, grateful to the Italian organization that sponsored my education. However, when I was in class 7, the school suddenly closed down after its owner got into financial difficulties. That left my dad, a jua kali artisan completely helpless as he didn’t know where else he’d find a school for me.
Moving through the difficult slum terrain on a wheel chair was tough, and he couldn’t afford to hire private transport for me. So I stayed at home as I watched the days and weeks turn into months. Month after month, I would look forward to my dad coming home with some good news, but it never happened. I would watch my friends go to school and listen to their stories about school when they returned. I desired the same for myself so much…
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