Darren reading the newspaper with his friends
My visit to the special education schools is always heartwarming as I get to interact with children and learn from the teachers about progress made during the term. Whenever I ask about individual children and what they have achieved, I am grateful and excited at the same time. Their progress shows that there is hope for these children to not only overcome the obstacles their disabilities present, but to thrive and succeed thus become self-reliant in future.
I met Darren for the first time on this visit, he clung to me and would not let go until the teacher whisked him away! Darren was first diagnosed with autism at the age of 4 years. His parents took him to a special day unit close to home but sadly this changed at the age of 7 when his parents separated and Darren was left under the care of his father. Darren’s father was unable to juggle work and caring for an autistic child as a single father and became overwhelmed. He decided to contact the Educational Assessment and Resource Centre (EARC) in order to find the best placement for his son. He was referred to Percy Davies Special School which provides boarding facilities for children with disabilities and in mid 2017, Darren joined the school as a boarder.
Percy Davies Special School has become a safe haven for Darren and other children as the school provides holistic care and the individualist education program from specially qualified teachers who not only teach the necessary skills but love, care and support the children in their different abilities.
According to teacher Sarah, when Darren joined Percy Davies, he had not developed basic skills; he had no speech and was very aggressive and frustrated as he couldn’t communicate his needs, hence the teachers had to constantly keep an eye on him lest he injured himself or other children. He was also malnourished and was reliant on diapers. It took close to one year of patience, persistence and motivation to teach him soft skills, speech therapy and activities of daily living. The teacher’s work eventually paid off as she proudly shared the major milestones Darren has achieved since he joined Percy Davies.
Darren has learnt signs to express himself and has found a way to get the teachers’ attention by dancing! He points out what he wants or takes the teacher’s hand to show her what he needs. He can understand and follow simple instructions and is able to use the washrooms independently now. In the last few months particularly, his health has significantly improved as he eats well with the appetite of a very active boy! More excitingly is that Darren has become social amongst his peers, he loves reading the newspapers and the teachers are encouraging him by ensuring the daily paper is available for him to peruse during his free time.
In other news, both Percy Davies and Kirunguru have also been preparing their school farms in order to plant fruit seedlings during the short rains. This week mango and orange tree seedlings were planted at Percy Davies. The fruit will be used for the meals and any excess can be sold to generate income for supplies. This is one of the new projects that Raising Futures Kenya is implementing in special schools to secure the sustainability and future growth of the special schools.
The schools have just closed for the holidays and the parents came for the end of term ceremony before taking their children home. The third term is the shortest in the school academic calendar as the learners spend 8 weeks in school before they break for the Christmas holidays. The ministry of education want to ensure that learners sitting the National Examinations, at both primary and secondary levels, are given ample time to prepare for their final exams. This year children with disabilities also joined the first cohort of the Competence Based Curriculum in mainstream schools. This was a nationwide exercise that selected learners from both Kirunguru and Percy Davies special schools participated in. Children are assessed in three areas namely; Activities of Daily Living, Communication and Integrated Learning Areas.
On behalf of the children and staff of Percy Davies and Kirunguru special schools, we would like to thank you for your generous giving towards this programme as it is through your kind, on-going support, learners like Darren get not only special care and therapy but also learn differently. It is our desire that all the children are given equal opportunity to reach their full potential through tailored education and training.
Thank you for being a special part of our community.
Girls from Kirunguru on their last day of term
Orange and mango tree seedlings ready for planting