Helen's journey to education

Helen sitting on a benchHelen knows how important school is. Through her education, she’s realised just how far she can go in life.

Her great aim is to earn a living for herself and support her family and she’d love to do this by becoming a doctor. Inclusive education has shown her she has the same potential as any other child and no one has the right to deflate her ambition.

‘I don’t know what I would have become if I’d not been in school.’

She knows she’s had a narrow escape from a life of early marriage, housekeeping or washing dishes in the local eateries — the fate of most disabled girls in her area who have no education — and a world would have isolated her further from her peers.

Limiting her potential

Before Leonard Cheshire Disability became involved, Helen and her family couldn’t find a school which would let her enroll because of her physical disability. Her only way to get around was to crawl on the ground.

The teachers did not understand how to support Helen because they had no training on disability and the school buildings were difficult to access with her limited mobility. The schools were not interested in making any concessions for Helen because they believed a girl with a disability had no need for an education. Her parents couldn’t afford a special needs school and so for a long time she was left alone at home whilst her siblings went off to school.

Stand on her own feet

When we met Helen, one of the first things we did was to provide her with an educational assessment to understand what support she needed in order to enroll in school. Since her mobility made it difficult to leave the house unaided, we provided her with a pair of adjustable crutches to help her walk.

We arranged for Helen to have physiotherapy, which she still attends regularly. The physiotherapy is strengthening her lower limbs and even though she still has difficulty in moving, Helen is able to stand on her feet for the first time and move without using the crutches. 

Finally had a place

Helen at school

She was enrolled at St Vitalis Nanga Primary School in Kisumu and given a home support kit which included a bed and mattress, bedding, a mosquito net, underwear, sanitary towels and school uniform.

Helen was so excited to be starting school. Finally she had a place where she could be around people all day.   

‘Even now, Helen wakes up very early when we are still asleep to prepare herself to go to school.

‘She says to me, "Mama, I’m going to work hard so I can make your life like the other parents. Because I have seen you struggle with raising us. But with a good school, I can change our lives."’— Rose, Helen's mother

To access the school building properly, it had to be modified, so we provided her with an adapted desk so she could be comfortable sitting down and adapted the toilets so she could access them easily. 

‘I like school. I like to play football using my hands and I like to study books.’

Work hard, dream harder

Since Helen has been supported by us she has changed a lot. No longer the shy girl Helen’s teacher first met, she says Helen has grown into a girl who has confidence, lots of friends and is able to work well with others.

Helen is an example of how inclusive education can also provide emotional growth and resilience. Now she has a life outside of the home where she was often lonely, Helen says she’s learned how to relate to people at school. She loves being around girls her own age and having the opportunity to work hard and dream harder.