We had to accept the news and just face life for the reality that it was. It’s not what we had expected. And it certainly wasn’t easy for his mum -a single mum, with a special needs child.
In the meantime, we began the search for early intervention. Safari’s journey to school has not been a rosy one.
I remember the time we took Safari to his first school at the age of two years, we wanted him to gain speech/language skills as well as learn social skills from his peers. The first kindergarten was a stone’s throw away from our house. However, I remember the teacher, a professed Christian, pointing to our lack of faith in believing for Safari’s healing. I however explained to her that maybe God had a different path for Safari. Suffice it to say that he didn’t last at the school long. This is because when we took his lunch to school, a few times we found him seated alone in the playground with no child or teacher around him. It was heartbreaking to see this. We took him out of the school.
A friend then introduced us to another school, also not far away from home. It wasn’t a special school. The progress he made there was remarkable. His speech developed well –assisted by the speech therapy sessions they gave him. He started crawling while in that school, eventually walking – though wobbly. He was top of his class; he could read out three letter words and connect words to form sentences. We were happy!
But this progress was hampered when a new teacher came in and all of a sudden, Safari was an issue. The teacher would focus on Safari’s disability more than his abilities. She would be harsh towards him because of his slow learning, and was never patient with him. One day when he came home with a bruised face, apparently after getting into a fight, we decided to withdraw him from the school.
We started school hunting again and decided it was safer to take him to a special needs school, or a regular school with a special needs section. We landed at Dr. Ribeiro Parklands Primary School, which has a cerebral palsy unit. This is where Safari, and many other kids like him have found a refuge – a place where inclusive education is actually in practice. However, our main challenge was getting him to the school and back home, due to the logistical challenges. Our experience was similar to that of many other parents who were forced to carry their special needs children on their backs because they couldn’t walk, and there was no school transport plying the routes. It’s the struggle of many parents, because they can’t afford private transport, and yet public transport isn’t accommodative to people with wheelchairs, and neither are the paths along most Kenyan roads.
While we had a good experience at Dr. Ribero Parklands Primary School, we had to get a new school for him when the family moved to Thika. It took a really long time to find a suitable school for his needs, so he stayed home for a while. The schools we would find were too costly, too far, or did not have space. Eventually we managed to find a school that has a section for special needs children, and I’m happy that he is comfortable there today.
So why are we so insistent on keeping Safari in school?
It is because we have great expectations for his education, career and future. We want him to realize his full potential, and we don’t want to be the stumbling blocks to his dreams. Being in school for Safari has made us see the good it does for him; his speech, writing, coordination and social skills have improved.
Aside from that, his mother and I went to school, and we are fully aware of the value of an education. We cannot deny him that opportunity just because he is a special needs child, and that’s why we will keep taking him to school. We hope that eventually he will be able to become independent, and we believe that going to school will play a significant role towards this.”
And that concludes Wairimu’s story.
It is stories such as hers and Stella’s and Regina’s that have made me partner with the Action Network for the Disabled (ANDY), which is a disabled persons organization whose mission is to enhance the life prospects of children and youth with disabilities through among others, education. ANDY is currently running a campaign called #NikoEducatable that hopes to see as many special needs children as possible go to school.
The campaign’s objective is to support children with disabilities such as Safari, Dennis and Roger to enroll in special needs schools where their needs are best accommodated, as you can see from their stories. The #NikoEducatable campaign aims to raise 9 million for 90 kids in 90 days. Funds raised will also support the purchasing wheelchairs and crutches for physically challenged children, as well as helping those who are partially deaf receive hearing aids to improve their ability to hear sounds and understand conversations. The funds will also go towards providing children with visual impairment access white canes, as well as help regular schools enhance their disability-friendly spaces.
I encourage you to support the #NikoEducatable campaign, by contributing towards the kitty, where you can give any amount of money, even as little as Sh10.
To give through MPESA, go to Lipa na MPESA > Enter Paybill Number 891300 > Account: Educate
or give through DTB (Prestige Branch) Account number: 0330393001 Account Name: Action Network for the Disabled
Mummy Tales is a blog dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of maternal and newborn health, as well as various issues surrounding motherhood and women. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here. Follow Mummy Tales on: FACEBOOK l INSTAGRAM l TWITTER
*Wairimu’s narration is a summary of her and Safari’s experiences previously shared on the blog.
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