By Brenda Nyamwaya
- Kibos Special Secondary School has no pavements, which is a huge risk for the students when moving around with no one to guide them.
- According to the school principal, Joshua Ombayo, the school has inadequate classrooms despite many students being admitted yearly.
- Despite these challenges, teachers at Kibos Special Secondary School have not given up.
As the sun sets over the city of Kisumu, the streets turn lively, with learners from various schools rushing home.
However, a similar scenario is yet to be the portion for Kibos Special Secondary School students, as the learners here face a unique set of challenges that most of us take for granted.
From walking on rocky pathways to finding their way around unfamiliar places, the visually impaired learners must rely on their senses to navigate the world around them.
Kibos Special Secondary School has no pavements, which is a huge risk for the students when moving around with no one to guide them.
Sometimes, they rely on using white canes, which might not always be helpful.
Therefore, the learners are left with no option other than walking around while holding each other’s hands.
Visually impaired students require specialized assistive learning devices such as braille machines and orbit readers, basic requirements for their education.
The lack of such resources has made it difficult for the students at Kibos to learn effectively and has instead affected their results.
The students, however, are not giving up and are determined to succeed despite the challenges.
According to the school principal, Joshua Ombayo, the school has inadequate classrooms despite many students being admitted yearly.
This forces learners to be crammed in small-sized rooms where movement is restricted.
He further says that more than the capitation he gets from the government is needed to complete the construction of classrooms and dorms, which is already underway.
The school also needs more dormitories and sanitation.
The girls have no dorms and are forced to sleep in the primary section.
The boys have no other option other than bathing in the open air due to the lack of bathrooms.
Despite Kisumu County being a mosquito-prone zone, students in this school have no mosquito nets to keep them safe from contracting Malaria.
Sharon Atieno, a student at Kibos Special Secondary School, narrates the challenges they face due to poor sanitation.
“Sleeping on the floor and other girls sharing beds is not good at all. Some start contracting very funny diseases. It’s risky and very uncomfortable, too. We hope to be built our own dormitory with enough beds so that we can sleep peacefully like other students elsewhere do,” she expressed her discomfort.
These learners often have medical problems, with headaches being the major problem that results from eye strain.
The school has no clinic within the premises and no school bus that can transport them to the hospital whenever a need arises.
Ombayo explains the hardships they go through in order to get them to a nearby hospital in case of emergencies.
“Some of the learners here have epilepsy and require intensive medical care; they have to be rushed to the hospital every now and again. The president has been generous elsewhere and given buses to many special schools, but he has forgotten Kibos Special Secondary,” says Ombayo.
The school principal is now calling upon the president, together with the minister of education, to provide the necessary help to ensure the health of these students is not threatened.
Poor nutrition is a significant problem in many special schools.
Linet Okoth, the deputy principal, is vocal about the challenges they face in providing adequate nutrition for their learners.
Some students need a special diet, which, in some cases, the school is not in a position to provide.
“Due to the prompt release of funds, we are not able to give our children quality food. Sometimes we have to rely on what well-wishers donate, ” she says.
“Braille machines are very expensive. One piece goes at about KSh110,000. We are yet to receive enough orbit readers for the learners. We purchase one piece at KSh80,000.
All these devices are very expensive and as a school administration, meeting these costs is difficult. It only becomes a bit easier when we talk to well-wishers, organizations and donors to come in handy and help the school.
The government provides print textbooks for learners with low vision; however, they are not largely printed.
It also provides braille books, but they are distributed in smaller ratios, and it takes a while before distributing more. We wish to get adequate braille textbooks to cater to totally blind learners,” Ombayo narrates.
On her part, Sharon says that it is paramount for society to understand that the visually impaired are also humans and can be successful.
“I dream of being a journalist one day so that I can be a voice for the voiceless. We, as visually impaired learners, encounter barriers that hinder us from engaging in various activities.
We also crave inclusivity and a sense of understanding. Some of the challenges we face can impact our self-esteem and well-being.
We also possess unique strengths and abilities that require nurturing,” says Sharon.
Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa is an organization helping visually impaired learners and young people in different African countries by supporting them with the assistive devices they need for their education and also raising awareness to the public about the need to support them in achieving their goals.
“We hope that by the end of 2023, we will be able to provide an orbit reader for every learner in any visually impaired school in Kenya. That’s like two million dollars we are talking about.
Non-governmental organizations cannot be responsible for what is the responsibility of the government. Our job is to supplement what the government has already done,” says Surpana Biswas, CEO of Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa.
Despite these challenges, teachers at Kibos Special Secondary School have not given up.
They are internally motivated and they believe they will make a positive change in this school and that it will be a better place than the young learners found it.
They want to see their students compete adequately with other normal students and make it into the job market.
The school is now calling upon the government and well-wishers, both nationally and internationally, to come in and enable them to achieve their goals, one of them being to see that the school infrastructure is well-catered for.
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It is crucial to address the challenges visually impaired students face and provide them with equal opportunities.