Accessing education, against all odds
Kassim Mohammed, 14, is a Somali refugee living in Dagahaley camp in Daadab, Kenya. His daily life is not always easy, but Kassim also faces a different situation from other refugees his age, as he is visually impaired and has a disability in one leg! Despite this, Kassim shows determination and goes to school every day, where he is now in grade 7.
Kassim Mohammed, 14, is a Somali refugee living in Dagahaley camp in Daadab, Kenya. | © Humanity & Inclusion
Kassim has faced many challenges throughout his school years.
"At first, I faced a lot of discrimination from my classmates and teachers who considered me an inferior human being because of my disabilities," says Kassim. "I couldn't move around the school easily and I regularly fell down because of the uneven ground and the stone-filled paths. I had difficulty reading the writing on the blackboard during lessons because I was sent to the back of the class. I missed key points in the lessons," he adds.
The difficulties continued into the lunch hour. "School protocol requires students to queue for their porridge. It was difficult for me to stand in the queue because other students were jostling each other in the line. Sometimes I didn't even get my cup of porridge," explains Kassim.
In addition, the school facilities were not adapted to accommodate children with disabilities. For example, Kassim could not use the school toilets because he could not squat, sometimes even falling, which exposed him to health risks. Poor Kassim often preferred to hold back and wait until he got home!
Even school activities did not take into account Kassim's disabilities. He could not participate in any sports activities because the school grounds were uneven and not suitable for students like him.
"My days were sometimes very boring!" exclaims Kassim.
His encounter with HI
One day, Kassim decided to accompany his mother to the market.
It was while chatting with a shopkeeper that Kassim and his mother heard about Humanity & Inclusion, an organisation that helps people in the camps living with one or more disabilities.
"The day after our visit to the market, we went to the HI rehabilitation centre in Dagahaley where I was diagnosed with kyphosis. I immediately signed up for therapy sessions at the centre," says Kassim.
These sessions would allow me to regain more mobility and move more comfortably.
HI then conducted disability awareness campaigns in the community, which helped to reduce discrimination against people living with disabilities.
"The teachers and my classmates understand my situation better and are now friendly to me. They are always ready to give me a hand if I need it and, on top of that, I don't have to queue at meal times anymore!" says Kassim.
The school's walkways have been repaved, which makes it easier for the young boy to move around and get to any place without fear of falling. "We now have a levelled volleyball court at school! I really enjoy playing this sport," adds Kassim.
Humanity & Inclusion also installed accessible toilets with hand rails and sitting chairs for the boy to use when he needs to.
The Covid-19 pandemic
The Coronavirus hit Kenya hard, with the education sector not spared. Schools were closed to stop the spread of the virus and Kassim was forced to stay at home.
"We were offered radio classes but I had difficulty following them because of the loss of signal. It was also a challenge because it was difficult to understand a concept through the radio without demonstration, especially for science and mathematics lessons," says Kassim.
Since Kassim's family only had one radio, he had to miss a few lessons to give others a chance to use it...
To overcome the additional difficulties caused by Covid-19, Humanity & Inclusion decided to implement new educational measures and provide digital tablets to the students so that they could continue with normal studies without too much hassle.
"Members of the Humanity & Inclusion team explained to me that a new project was going to be launched to help us study using online digital content. They were going to give me a tablet, I couldn't believe it! It will certainly make lessons more enjoyable," concludes Kassim, smiling.
Mastercard Foundation partners with HI to help refugees in Kenya
The Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program has two main goals. First, to deliver emergency support for health workers, first responders, and students. Second, to strengthen the diverse institutions that are the first line of defense against the social and economic aftermath of this disease. These include universities, financial service providers, businesses, technology start-ups, incubators, government agencies, youth organizations, and nongovernmental organizations.
For more on the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program, please visit their website.