Inclusive education helps dreams to become a reality
Sixteen-year-old Linda had given up on her dream of becoming an entrepreneur after facing stigma from her community. But our inclusive education programme, which runs catch up centres for girls denied an education, has changed the future for Linda and her family.
Sixteen-year-old Linda was born with an intellectual disability in Nyakach, Kisumu. She was a lively and friendly child, but the family struggled to make ends meet - especially when Linda’s brother, who is also disabled, was born.
Not equipped to support disability
Linda’s mother, Pamela, enrolled her in school, but the nearby schools were not equipped to support disabled students. While her other siblings learnt and developed, Linda was not able to progress. Her brother also struggled. The family could not afford to pay for additional support.
Without external support, Linda’s mother had to spend time taking care of her daughter instead of working on their farm:
“She [Linda] requires support in simple things such as cleaning and eating.” Says Pamela. “I am also the only one she freely interacts with so I must make effort to be available for her almost all the time.”
Misconceptions of disability
Pamela, the mother of six, recalled that neighbours believed that Linda’s disability was caused by witchcraft. The stigma of this misconception led to her husband’s alcoholism, which wasted valuable resources.
“They were low moments of our lives,” Pamela said... “Some people predicted doom for the family, but I clung on to hope and kept encouraging the children, especially Linda. I told them that every adversity presents chances for success as well.”
She was right. Soon her oldest child got a place in college, and Linda was given an opportunity to revive her dream. Leonard Cheshire, working within the consortium project Education for Life funded by the UK government, came to Linda’s village in 2019. Vulnerable and marginalised girls were given a chance to enrol in a life-changing programme.
What Leonard Cheshire provides?
The project provides nine months of basic literacy and numeracy lessons. They also provided lessons in communication skills, self-awareness, and problem-solving. When asked about the programme, Linda beams and demonstrates how to solve sums and construct simple sentences.
Millicent Atieno, Linda’s teacher, said: “It is a great improvement from a girl who could not read and write when she joined the class.”
Linda is now looking to get funding to start a business, which she and her mother will run together.
Impact on the wider community
Another positive change has been seen in the wider community. Linda has found support from the people who once judged her. Through education and observation, people in the village understand that having a disability does not reduce a person’s value. They have learnt to appreciate the talents of those like Linda.
Through the support of Leonard Cheshire and other organisations in Kisumu County, over 1,000 girls like Linda have joined learning centres, where they can gain skills and greater confidence. These vulnerable girls will now have the chance to support themselves and their families. And thanks to their new skills, their dreams – such as Linda’s aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur - can become a reality.