I was present at the Kenya ni Kwetu protest march held on Thursday 28 June 2012 organized by journalist Boniface Mwangi and bring you the following images:
Siphilisiwe is a thirteen year old girl with hearing impairment. She is a Form 1 student at Malisa Secondary School, Zimbabwe.
Even though she has difficulties in hearing, many people otherwise dismiss her as being deaf. No surprise there, because issues surrounding disability are barely well understood in many of our communities. Lots of misinformation, stigma and discrimination surround people living with disability. Young pupils with disabilities are more likely to be victims of bullying from their peers. Such children also face various forms of exclusion from some community members who fail to understand the nature of disabilities.
“People used to call me isacuthe (the deaf one) and my peers did not want to play with me. I felt unwanted. At school, my performance was bad as I did not get everything that the teacher taught,” Siphilisiwe says.
Life however changed for this young girl when she began using assistive hearing aids, courtesy of Plan International. Her performance in class has since improved notably.
Asked about her hopes and aspirations, she said: “I want to be a nurse. I want to help the less privileged.”
Although many African governments today provide free primary education to children with disabilities, more focus is still needed on the issues affecting such children. The 2010 progress report for the UN Millennium Development Goals notes that despite some countries’ progress towards achieving the goal of universal primary education, children with disabilities represent the majority of those excluded from such free education schemes.
Since 2003, the Kenyan government prioritized Education for All, including free primary education. This led to a significant increase of enrollment rates in public primary schools, including schools with special education facilities.
However, according to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), only 26 000, or 1.7% of the estimated 1.5 million children with disabilities in Kenya, have actual access to some form of education. Meaning that most of the Kenyan children with special needs are not receiving any educational support. There could be various reasons for this, including poverty, lack of appropriate information by parents about the need for their children with disability to attend schools, few special education schools, limited training of teachers and lack of assistive devices like hearing aids and Braille books. Out of 149 districts in Kenya, 72 of them have Education Assessment Resource Centers (EARC’s), which have been established to facilitate the identification, assessment, referrals and placement of children with disabilities.
The 22nd Day of the African Child takes place across Africa on June 16 2012, taking the theme: “The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill”.
Images: Plan International, http://www.conquistaweb.it
What Kenya witnessed in the last general elections held in December 2007 was akin to a nightmare they thought would never happen. For many, it was an unexpected occurrence, a shocking one which left many in tears. Sadly, others found themselves six feet under. Today, many Kenyans still reel from the effects of the violence that erupted from the disputed presidential results. We still bear the pains of this –physically, economically, socially mentally and emotionally. Every Kenyan was affected no doubt, and we all continue to live the consequences of our actions.
But what happened, and who ‘happened’ it?
Well many players were involved. And I’ll talk about the media because that’s what I know better. What role did the media play in this? A huge role. Both the traditional media and new media played a huge role in the spread of information. Information that led to violence. Information that was inaccurate. Information that was false. Information that was accurate. Information that was true. Information through the television, the radio, the newspaper, text messages, blogs, Facebook, twitter –all had a role to play. Information that led to the flare up of violence.
But the media too contributed to the halt of the violence. Both the traditional media and new media. Both were involved in spreading peace messages and promoting reconciliation.
I choose not to dwell on the traditional media, but on the media that you, me and almost every Kenyan has access to. We called radio stations and reported what was going on in our neighborhoods. Community radio stations were on over-drive with eyewitness accounts and reports ‘from the ground’ flowing in fast and furious. We were on our phones nonstop, sharing messages, alerting each other and warning each other to be on the lookout. Some messages went viral. Bloggers, Facebookers and the Twitter community did not let their fingers rest as they typed away furiously, providing updates by the second. We did not mince our thoughts or our word. Everything went. Lots of rumors and inaccurate information was flying left, right and center. Who was controlling us? Nobody.
And when the dust finally settled, when the fires calmed and all we had were ashes, what did we learn? That we are an emotional lot. That many of us are committed to our tribes and will do anything to protect ‘our people’. That information spreads FAST. That we spread this information FAST. And we believe this information without verifying its authenticity.
So what can be done differently next time? Almost five years later, what have we learnt as a nation?
That we should use our cell phones to promote peace. That we should use our blogs, our Facebook pages and our Twitter accounts to pass peaceful messages. Individual responsibility here is important. We should self-censor ourselves. We cannot look to the religious sector for help. They failed us. They took sides. Sad.
The government too should come up with a way to regulate the airwaves and the vast and fast-growing online spaces. They should not mute these platforms when the fire is already aflame, but they should prevent such a flare up in the first place. They should develop rules and create awareness on the consequences of breaking these stipulations. Difficult, but possible. It has to be done.
Those are my thoughts.
In October 18 1997, a vibrant 31 year old Bright Oywaya was enroute to’Coast-o’ with her friends. Then the unexpected happened.
A car that was driving on the opposite lane hit their car head on while trying to overtake a trailer.
The accident left Bright paralyzed from the waist down. Suddenly, she was thrown into the world of being a paraplegic, something she never imagined would happen to her.
Before her accident, Bright had a successful career in the banking industry. But the accident changed her outlook on life, and she found herself gravitating towards disability issues. Not long after, she quit her lucrative banking career and enrolled in a professional counseling course.
Today, Bright is the director in charge of counseling at Kenyan Paraplegic organization. She is also the Executive Director at The Association for Safe International Road Travel- Kenya ( ASIRT-Kenya). Bright also plays an active role in her church –the Nairobi Pentecostal Church where she is in the leadership of the challengers ministry – a ministry for persons with various challenges. Bright is an
accomplished public speaker and road safety and disability advocate. She has dedicated her life to raising awareness about road safety issues. She speaks in may forums where she shares her personal story, and in the process educating all road users ~pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. Bright also sits in various road safety committees including the National Road Safety Council.