Thursday 1 October, 2020

Watch: Kenyan hero helps disabled children

Stanley Okinyi's day starts early as he sets off to take his young daughter to school.

Okinyi is keen to ensure the child has access to therapists there.

His daughter Happy Bosibori was born wihtout disabilities, but at the age of three she had meningitis.

Since then Happy has been without movement, or speech.


He researched the schools to find one which would be able to offer his daughter the therapy she needed.

Children with disabilities are less likely to get even a basic education, accessing anything for them is difficult especially here in Kibera, a slum in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Now Okinyi goes around the slum collecting other disabled children to take them to school, but it's not always an easy task.

"There are a lot of challenges in these children. There are some you find they are hitting each other some are hitting the window panes, another one might hit themself until you wonder what is wrong with the child so I am forced to stop by the roadside so as to control the kids and continue with the journey," says Okinyi.

Here at the Mary Rice Centre the children are able to socialize with each other and get the care and attention they need.

The school specialises in helping children with disabilities and the basic education is free. It relies on foreign aid to run it's operations.

Okinyi's kindness to the children is appreciated by the school.

Director Gerald Mgalula says: "Through Stanley we have been able to reach more children with special needs especially those with physical challenges coming from Kibera slum because previous we were using wheelchair and the wheelchair has been difficult because of the terrain which is available in Kibera slum. Parents find it difficult to manoeuvre using the wheelchair and some of them did not have wheelchair they were carrying those children and the children were very heavy most of them to bring them to the centre. Because they do not come from near the centre they come from as far as Silanga and Highrise (referring to some villages inside the slum). So to come all the way was very difficult for most parents to bring those children."

Okinyi makes two trips - one in the morning and another in the afternoon to make sure that the children get home safely after school.

Forty youngsters rely on the transport he provides.

Okinyi says he started taking all the children after seeing the pain and struggle their parents were going through.

One of those parents is Lorna Naliaka.

She struggles to carry her disabled daughter Trizah Nanjala on her back and push her in a wheelchair.

"The challenges I go through with Trizah (referring to her daughter) is that nowadays Trizah is grown up. She is too heavy for me, I can't carry her. I used to carry her on my back to school and then it reached a time when she was too heavy for me, I even decided to leave her at home but suddenly we got Stanley. Stanley helped us with a car, to carry the children to school," says Naliaka.

Without Okinyi most parents would be forced to carry their children on their backs because is almost impossible to push a wheelchair through the unpaved, labyrinthine alleyways.

Most schools in the slum lack a transport.

Okinyi's van is not wheelchair accessible and lacks basic security features such as seat-belts.

The van has seen better days and is also prone to breaking down, sometimes it has to be repaired with the children still inside.

Okinyi rarely charges the parents, he uses his own money to maintain and fuel the van as most children come from families that can't afford transport.

Research on children like these has been done by the National Coordinating Agency for population and Development and The Kenya National Bureau of statistics.

In 2008 they found that only 67 percent of disabled children get a primary education, less than a fifth, 19 percent actually complete their secondary education.

Access to schools is the main reason students fails to complete their education.

Prisca Akumu works as a coordinator for The Action Foundation. She's also disabled and was born and raised in Kibera.

She says: "I have worked with children with disabilities for seven years. The challenges that children living with disabilities go through for example myself I went to school in Kibera and the challenges that I had by then were when it it came time for going to school, most schools were not allowing children with disabilities because I went to special school from nursery to class one, and when I got to class two, I went to a normal school. So the challenges were when it came time for going to school many times I used to fall going through the bad roads in the slum. So those are the challenges that made me not attain a better education because most of the time I was returning home."

In Kibera Stanley Okinyi is single handedly making a big difference in the lives of both students and parents.

With a proper education these children can hope to get work and become independent in the future.

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