Education in Kenya is a fundamental right for all. Both able-bodied pupils and those who are physically challenged deserve equal opportunities to pursue their dreams and succeed in life. Getting an equal opportunity is not always easy, especially in the vast Arid and semi arid areas of Laikipia.
Sebastian Njogu, is a ten year old pupil attending DINCOM Nursery school in Sipili Division. He is physically challenged and is the only pupil in that condition in the nursery school. ‘‘At birth, the Child’s neck was flexible, it was too weak to support the weight of his head, his hands were stiff’’ said Teresia, Njogu’s mother. Teresia recalls that at an age when Njogu could be mimicking words, the child was stammering and yelling out incoherent sounds. She observed stunted growth and slow development, ‘‘and we knew things were not alright with our baby!’’ said the mother.
Njogu was taken to DINCOM Nursery school at the age of eight. His hands could not hold a pen or book and his teacher’s taught him to scribble the writings on a book placed on the floor using his legs. The hard work of teachers has paid off in the long run. Holding the pen between his toe fingers, Njogu can now write the date, and numbers one to ten using his legs. ‘‘The speed is good and he has a good sense of hearing’’ said Madam Pricilla. Since he joined the nursery school, Njugo have been learning with other children but his physical status has posed a lot of challenges to teachers, who nonetheless have shown a lot of determination to assist the boy. So far he has successfully gone through nursery school; though he was retained because he had no one to take him to the nearby primary school three Kilometers from home.
‘‘His mother brings him to DINCOM nursery school every day, he is pushed on a small, wheelchair since he cannot push it on his own’’ said Pricilla. At the nearby primary school he was given some text books for class one, but due to space limitation and lack of enough teachers he learns class one lessons in the same classroom with nursery kids.
‘‘The boy can write, bath, wash some cloths and remove his books and pen from the hand back, the only thing he cannot do is to eat on his own’’ said Pricilla wangui, a senior teacher at the nursery school. He has a problem using the toilet alone and getting food to the mouth using his legs. Njogu cannot move the wheel chair forward on his own, but instead the chair moves backward.
Njogu’s parents are optimistic that given an opportunity, the boy can excel in studies and become an independent person in future. ‘‘We appeal to well-wishers to support Njogu with a bigger and stronger wheel chair to enable him to go to school’’. Said Teresiah, Njogu’s mother, adding that if a well-wisher could be identified who can sponsor Njogu in a good school they will be very grateful. There is only one special school in Sipili admitting deaf students only.
Confirming the issue of the wheel chair, the area assistant chief Mr. John Kimaiyo said that Njogu needed a bigger chair and also deserved specialized training. ‘‘In spite of his physical status Njogu has displayed a rare talent in studies’’ Chief said.
There are no suitable facilities in that school. The toilets are not designed for pupils with disabilities. Having completed the syllabus for nursery school, Njogu was forced to sit with nursery kids because he cannot go to the nearest primary school which is three kilometers away from his home. The community is working together with the Maarifa centre to highlight issues affecting them. When the chief learned about the story of Njogu, from the teachers, he came to the Maarifa centre to inform staff and community reporters of the story. The chief was thankful to parent for exposing the issue, ‘‘In some cases such children are hidden away from public as parents deny that disable children exist in the society, but am happy that you have exposed this issue’’ said John Kimaiyo adding that all children have a right to education irrespective of their physical status.
DINCOM nursery school was started thirty years ago’’ said Madam Pricilla Wangui, who have worked as a teacher since then. She said that pupils who have gone through the two roomed nursery school have continued with education and excelled in life, ‘‘some have earned their degrees and worked for big organizations and government’’ she said. However, in her entire thirty years as a nursery school teacher Njogu is her first pupil with physical disabilities to be admitted in her nursery school. There are two teachers in that school.