Written by Rosemary Wachiye
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Many handicapped children are overlooked in their search for education, yet still there are a number that have come out despite the challenges, to achieve their goal in life.
Mary Mukhwana is among the many that have discovered their talents against all odds and shares a vision of one day creating her own weaving industry.
A 16 year old Mary walked into St.Teresa’s Special School for intellectually challenged at the age of 10 with no hope of ever realizing her goal in life.
Mary unlike most other children, can’t move on her own without the wheel chair, she can’t talk, she can’t write and basically her sight is also poor.
Despite her physical nature, Mary has discovered her talent in weaving and has created many admirable pieces of work that are of very high standards.
She is now in the final class which graduates later this year and she is left to join the world outside the special school gates and she shares her dream of putting up her own weaving firm some day and tells of her vision to create employment opportunities to people.
“I believe in myself now, I have a talent in weaving and am going to use this talent to improve the society and help others who have lost hope in life to learn that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mary.
In a school of 150 pupils, there are organized activities and lessons for each category, where they are trained in speech, activities of daily living, music through singing and dancing.
They get an opportunity to learn and play with each other as a way of teaching them societal norms and positive interaction.
Their teacher Mrs.Alice Bwami explains the challenges of teaching such pupils, the most pronounced of all being their short attention span as most of them are usually tired and with less interest in what is being taught.
In the same school, there are children suffering from down syndrome which is a disorder characterized by look-alike children with similar physical features but are not at all related by blood.
According to Mrs.Bwami those children have a tendency of getting attached with one another as they feel socially connected; they play together and socialize freely with one another.
In another school, Webuye Salvation Army school which has an enrollment of 1,800 normal pupils among them 47 are intellectually challenged but are incorporated alongside the normal children to enable them seek education.
The children with mild mental disorder are given the same platform as the normal pupils to interact with them and learn in the same classrooms.
However, according to their teacher Mrs. Margret Alisti the children are slow in learning and suffer from sever forgetfulness and often when teaching them one is required to repeat severally for them to grasp.
“They are slow in learning and forget easily so it requires a lot of patience to be able to train them well and make them at par with the other children,” said Mrs.Alisti.
Mrs.Alisti has called upon parents to be keen with their children to notice any anomaly in their behavior and physical features at an early age so as to seek help from relevant authorities and institutions.
She explains the dangers of a teacher pin pointing out an anomaly in a child, stating that most parents are always in denial and hence creates tension between the institution and the parents.
“When parents identify a problem with their children at an early age it’s much easier to seek relevant assistance for the child than to wait until the child has overgrown the class is when they rush to get help. Let us be proud of them and not hide them at home because they also have a future that only requires unearthing,” said Mrs.Alisti.
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