Visually Impaired Girl’s Dream of being a Presenter
One girl’s dream has given a village sleepless nights.
The scorching sun drains livelihood out of their maize crop, their cattle are too weak to give their daily supply, the reason why their hopeless stare into the blue sky above is all they have left.
As they go about their daily chores and worry whether their next harvest will suffice, the community knows too well what it means to educate this girl.
Hellen Wanjiru Mwangi’s vision of becoming a radio or television presenter is clear, her grades can afford her this and much more.
As we make a turn at her family’s home in Seventeen village in Tuiyobei sub location of Marigat, Baringo County, a small body framed girl emerges from a smoky kitchen; on the verge of collapsing.
Her steps sure and steady. She manages a hello offering her hand to anyone near her to notice and shake. After exchanging pleasantries, she directs us to her parents’ house, to shelter from the harsh rays above.
She gazes at the wooden wall, perhaps her eyes sensing some light that the cracks are allowing to supplement the tinny window on the two roomed house.
“I want to pursue a Mass Communication course to enable me be a radio or TV presenter. I am yet to find a college that is willing to admit the visually impaired to undertake the course,” she starts us off.
It has been two years since Wanjiru left Thika School for the blind. The huge fee arrears was her village’s first hurdle that they have now reduced, allowing her to access her result slip and certificate.
“My score could not secure a chance at Kenyatta University for a Diploma course, the institution has a friendly environment for the visually impaired.
“I think I will have to repeat school to attain the required entry points,” she drowns into a sea of thoughts, perhaps telling her young mind that we too like her parents, do not understand her wishes.
She adds that this might be harder as she will have to go back to form three and probably back to Thika school where the administration waived her Shs.28, 000 fee arrears to allow her access her papers, “because this is where I will get brailed books for easier revision.”
Wanjiru’s mother, Mary Chebet Chesire, echoes her daughter’s determination to pursue education despite her challenges.
“Despite the challenges we have had to go through to afford her schooling, she has always given us hope. Her grades are always good and she has even outsmarted her siblings,” she adds noting that Wanjiru is her third born and the first to go through secondary school education.
Chesire tells of her journey of nurturing the jovial Wanjiru, having been born with her normal sight, she suffered an illness at the tender age of six months.
“By the time we were getting help, she had already lost her sight and the condition was considered irreversible.
“We managed to enroll her at Marigat Integrated primary School through sponsorship but it was terminated when she was in class four. We have had to bear the burden until now,” she adds, staring at her bare feet whose cracked sole tell of a rough journey, the peasant farmer alongside Wanjiru’s step father Amos Chesaro, have had to go through to fend for her family of four girls.
Her neighbours and the village at large is full of praise for the girl whose world seem to be bigger than theirs combined.
“One thing that makes me want to help Wanjiru is her willpower. I am certain that our efforts as a village will not go to waste. She is brilliant and has proved that,” notes Josephine Chebii, who has mobilised the community to pool resources towards Wanjiru’s education.
Another, Josephat Kipruto, who has taken upon himself to ensure Wanjiru’s applies for a certificate course in journalism at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC), says Wanjiru is an icon in the area and many young people look up to her for inspiration.
Adamant not to take a course in Early Childhood Development as advised by her parents, the 19 year old ‘sees’ her future in broadcasting as the only light the village and her poor family has.
“My village seem to have been forsaken as it lies on the boarder of Baringo County. Our leaders can only be reached at Marigat, after we travel through Nyahururu, Nakuru, Eldama Ravine then Marigat town.
“This takes us two days if we started the journey at dawn and came back at midnight the following day; just to make a simple registration like a social group or that of a person with disability like me or get access to government relief and stipends.” She already seems to have an agenda she would present as her people’s plight, once on air.
Her eloquence and mastery of the Kiswahili language makes you want to listen to her more and more, but her melodious voice makes every sentence echo despite her few words, perhaps a burning issue within hinders us from unravelling her potential and will power.
Does she have a role model? We ask.
“Citizen Nipashe (Royal Media Services) Presenter Kanze Dena is my favorite. I love her voice. Fish FM proprietor Reuben Kigame (also visually impaired) is my inspiration, if he is doing it, I will make it too.
“I love the youths programme on Milele FM (a Mediamax radio station), I listen to it every day as it has helped me overcome many challenges that I go through as a young person,” she pops out again, passionately announcing her love for the radio.
“I hate Kenyan politics, they divide us and we the disabled have to suffer more each time there is violence or displacement of persons. I think broadcasting is also a profession that there are no strikes, I want to work with a peace of mind,” she adds, leaving us profound on how well she is vast with her environment.
As we bid her family farewell, promising to find a solution to her stalemate, Wanjiru knows too well that her household chores remain undone and she quickly rolls her sleeves.
Sweeping the compound, doing laundry work and cleaning dishes, she says, are her reserve before she helps her class three sister with her homework every evening.
This she tells us is no bother as long as she is familiar with her environment, which she quickly masters as her family has never afforded her a white cane, to aid in her mobility.
By Anne Sabuni