|The Marigat program community |
established a school for blind
children in 1998.
It was a bad omen.
That was all Hellen’s family could think when their 2-year-old daughter lost her eyesight after contracting measles, a highly contagious viral disease controlled by vaccinations in most developed countries.
In Kenya, where the family lives, blindness is a hindrance believed impossible to overcome. Hellen’s family wanted little to do with their blind child.
Because of the stigma attached to the disability, many blind children in Kenya are cast aside by their families. They do not attend school as young children, and if they do ultimately commence schooling the child is teased and often drops out.
But Hellen was lucky.
Christian Children’s Fund first began assisting Hellen in 1990, when she was seven. CCF eventually enrolled her in a school designed for those with partial or total loss of eyesight. The Marigat program community, located 160 miles northwest of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, established a program for blind children in 1998.
The Baringo Integrated Programme for Visually Impaired Children is overseen by the Ministry of Education under the auspice of the Kenya Integrated Education Programme.
It is supported by Sight Savers International through the Kenya Society for the Blind.
The program’s aim is not only to educate the children, but also change the perception of blindness through acceptance, recognition of the child’s potential and their right to education.
Hellen excelled in the program and was admitted into Asumbi Teachers College, one of the largest colleges in Kenya.
She received her teaching degree in 2005.
“Being involved with CCF’s educational programs, made a positive difference in my life,” Hellen said. “I was able to commence schooling despite the hardships that existed in my family and the fact that I am blind. Immediately when I joined school I was able to continue because I was quite bright and didn’t take much time before I joined the secondary school.”
While waiting for her government-assigned teaching post, Hellen, who is now 22, is volunteering for CCF and teaching young children in the program.
“There are many problems facing children who do not have a good educational start in life,” Hellen said. “For example, a child, who does not pass through early childhood development, lacks proper foundation. Thus, when they join primary school he is well behind those who had a chance to pass through early childhood development.
“Though I am a blind girl, with education I know disability is not inability.”