The Educated

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“Send me to school” a thin voice begs. A small bottle dangles from his upper lip, glued firmly in place so that both hands are free to grasp each other in prayer. His large pupils are coated with a buttery glaze. He is one of the many street children in Kitale who struggles with addictions. “Send me to school”, he echoes as though the first try didn’t have the impetus to reach me.I purse my lips, and no words are able to force their way through. I can only take his hand gloved with callous and grime. School. What positive connotations the word has in Kenya. It is a privilege to go to school. However, despite the free education policy that the government has instated, some families are still unable to afford a uniform and basic supplies. Children with disabilities are even less likely to be enrolled in school. According to Fatma Wangare, the chief executive officer of the Kenya Association of the Intellectually Handicapped, “Many children are denied admission in schools, especially children with [an] intellectual disability. The denial is based on disability - for example not being toilet-trained, lack of speech and language - which is very unconstitutional,” she explains. According to Deaf Child Worldwide Internal Report, only 4% of deaf children attend school (2009). Deaf children simply cannot fit into a conventional school system. In fact, some of the deaf children we met in Kenya didn’t know their own name. ReACT now sends 39 children to Saint Anthony’s School for the Deaf. They learn to communicate. They learn a trade. They find purpose. They discover hope. Still, I press the small hand tucked into my own and feel at a loss. Children from the slums are equally disadvantaged. He reevaluates his priorities: “Seesta, give me bread”. For today, that is something I can do.

Manon