The Beacon School Leaderboard 09/05

Disability not Inability

Published on isbi School News dated Friday 7th of March 2014

Over February half term, History teacher and Coordinator of Charities from Oundle School, Ian Clark led an exchange trip to Gilgil (near Nairobi) in Kenya to visit Gilgil Special School. Ian was accompanied by Oundle School's Head of Community Action, Liz Dillarstone along with three special needs teachers from The Phoenix (Special Needs) School in Peterborough Sarah Norman, Anthony Skipworth and Janice Mountford.

The aim of the trip was to build long lasting connections between the two special schools to enable support of Gilgil's Special School and the Kivuli Trust, along with resource provision and idea-sharing. The idea for the exchange trip came from Oundle pupil, Octavia Morgan (18) following a School trip to Kenya in 2012. Octavia was visiting The Phoenix School regularly on Wednesday afternoons through Oundle School's Community Action programme and saw the huge benefits that could be gained from establishing a connection between the two special schools.

Octavia commented, 'The same year that I was lucky enough to visit Kivuli and explore all the schools surrounding Gilgil, I began working at the Phoenix School. It was a really interesting experience being able to see how similar the interaction was between the children in Kenya and the children back in England, regardless of their disabilities. The Oundle pupils responded with warmth and enthusiasm to a situation which, on the surface, could be described as both strenuous and uncomfortable. I realised that not only did both our schools have resources to share with Rhoda at Kivuli, but that the teachers at Phoenix could learn a vast amount from a visit to Kivuli.'

In advance of the trip, staff and children from The Phoenix School collected football shirts, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and flannels for the children in Gilgil and teachers left behind resources including story sacks and a beautiful wall hanging.

Rhoda Otieno, the Deputy from Gigil Special School, returned to England and spent time at The Phoenix School in Peterborough as well as visiting community initiatives (including adult disability art sessions and sport sessions with Heltwate (Special Needs) School) in Oundle, organised by the School's Community Action Department. Rhoda also visited Marshfields (Special Needs) School in Peterborough and The Mobility Aids Centre in Peterborough who have supplied wheelchairs for the school in Gilgil.

Following her visit to England, Rhoda commented, 'I really appreciated my short visit to the UK. I admired the well planned and organised work at the Phoenix and learned and acquired knowledge that will help me promote the standard of our learners.'

During their visit to Kenya, the teachers from Oundle and The Phoenix spent a day with the 34 boarders who stay at the Kivuli hostel attached to Gilgil Special School visiting the Malewa Bush Ventures. The staff and children played games and tried out the low ropes as well as enjoying a mini-safari where they saw giraffes and zebra. The group then spent a further 3 days at the Gilgil Special School working alongside teachers and children.

Oundle has established close links with a number of organisations and schools in the Rift Valley region of Kenya over the last 12 years and a group of staff and pupils will be returning to visit Gilgil Special School in October.

The Kivuli Trust

The Kivuli Trust (Kivuli meaning shelter in Swahili) has built and operates a hostel at Gilgil Special School specifically for children with physical and learning disabilities. Its aim is help these 'forgotten' children receive specialist education and support within a regular school environment encouraging interaction with school aged children - which is essential in encouraging a new generation of understanding and acceptance.

Kivuli Trust opened its first hostel in 2008 in the grounds of the Gilgil Township Primary School. With the support of the local community and the provincial government, it has been running successfully ever since. It provides overnight care during term time for 34 of the more severely disabled children (17 boys and 17 girls) who would otherwise not be able to attend the government funded Special Unit at the primary school for their education. The second hostel, providing overnight care for a further 34 children, is due to open this week.

Many of these children have physical as well as cognitive disabilities making them especially vulnerable. Before the first hostel was built, the Special Unit had only a dozen children and they struggled to make the journey there and back every day. Sadly a number of the girls were raped on the way. Most parents not only saw no point in helping them to get an education but regarded them as worthless and a mark of shame on the family. As a result, these children were all too often neglected and abused, and had no hope for the future. The building of the first hostel utterly transformed this dismal situation.

Awareness of the hostel has spread to the wider community prompting more disabled children to come forward and attend the Special School for their schooling. In 2006, a single classroom provided education for 20 children but now the Kenyan Government has built a further two classrooms enabling over 90 children to receive an education.
Kivuli Hostel has been recognised as a 'Centre of Excellence' by the Kenyan Government. It regards the hostel as a flagship project, and an example of how disabled children given the right support can be given a worthwhile education. The aim is to encourage the Kenyan Government to view this as a sustainable model for the future.
The hostel has made a profound difference to the attitude of the local community towards disability. Parents have seen that their children really are capable of learning essential life skills, such as brushing their teeth, cleaning themselves, washing their clothes and performing simple tasks, and therefore now accept them far more readily as part of their family. They also realise that many of the children are capable of much more than that. The School's motto is 'Disability not Inability' and appears on the children's school jumpers.

A representative from the Kivuli Trust commented, 'The Kivuli Trust was founded because we believe these children have a rightful place in society. By building and operating hostels within the grounds of mainstream schools, we are visibly making this statement. Our hostels act as safe havens, providing children with regular meals, proper beds and the care and support that they deserve and thrive upon. We work in partnership with local governments who provide the classrooms and specialist teachers. Our aim is to teach these children essential life skills such as brushing their teeth, cleaning themselves, washing their clothes and performing simple chores about the home. The simple result, which we are witnessing, is that they become more readily accepted into their families and into their communities.'
For more information about and to support the Kivuli Trust visit:

Background Information on Community Action at Oundle School

Approximately 350 pupils are engaged during the year in providing service in the community in Oundle and surrounding villages and as far afield as Corby, Kettering and Peterborough. Pupils work in schools and nurseries, with the elderly and infirm; provide drama for special needs schools, environmental support work at the country park; offer ICT lessons for beginners; help at a local special needs club and produce a Community Newspaper (Oundle Chronicle to name but a few of the 30 activities.

Pupils also help with Inner city holiday schemes and have regularly slept rough to raise money for St Basils' homeless shelter in Birmingham.
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