Jane Chesire, 54, wears a bright face as she interacts with visually impaired Grade One and Two pupils at Milimani Primary School in Nakuru.
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The pupils aged between three and four are highly dependent on Ms Chesire.
The mother of two patiently shows each pupil in a class of 17 how to clean hands, brush teeth, dress up and eat.
Once they are all dressed up in school uniform, she directs them to a classroom where they learn using braille.
“I train these children individually, the training entails helping them understand daily activities that revolve around livelihood, before introducing them to academics. Someone can only understand academics after they understand themselves,” Chesire tells Saturday Standard during a visit.
The teacher meticulously handles each pupil, a duty she says gives her solace.
The Masters degree holder has turned down offers for ‘better’ positions and dedicates her time to shape the future of the children.
During her free time, Chesire educates villagers on the importance of enrolling children with disability in school in Baringo and Nakuru counties. Her efforts have seen 50 children with visual impairment who had been stigmatised by the society enrolled in school.
“I don’t sit and wait for parents to enroll their children, I visit villages, families and tell them the importance of accepting the condition of their children and this has enabled majority to undertake education and shape their respective careers,” she explains. Born in Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, Chesire joined Kaimosi Traders Training College in Vihiga County for training as a P1 teacher between 1987 and 1989. After training, she was posted at Menengai Primary School in Nakuru East. She vividly recalls one morning in 1993, when Ministry of Education officials accompanied by two children with disability visited the school.
The officials wanted to enroll the children in the school, but they faced hostility from teachers, who took off and left Chesire to attend to them. She took the task of teaching them despite not having knowledge on how to handle pupils with special needs. This inspired Chesire to enroll for a certificate course in visual impairment in 1994 at Kenya Institute of Special Education in Kasarani.
In 1997, she enrolled for a diploma in special needs in visual impairment at Kenyatta University. Armed with this knowledge she championed for integrated programme at Menengai primary school where children with visual impairment were enrolled.
In 2008, Chesire decided to purse Masters in Human Resource at Egerton University. She notes that though there are young teachers who’ve trained on specialised training, majority do not have patience to teach the children and leave to seek greener pastures.
“Taking in children with special needs is hectic. You literally begin from zero, for example we have those who are locked in their houses, and you have to teach them how to go to toilet, clean hands, eat and later slowly introduce academics. Most of newly trained teachers do not have patience, they can rarely handle small children, a reason I am moved to come help create better foundation for children with disability,” says the teacher.
Among individuals she had positively impacted is Nahashon Njuguna who developed visual impairment at the tender age of four.
Truly molded me
The teacher met Njuguna at Nakuru East Primary School while she was doing outreach programme on introduction of integrated learning in schools, later, she contacted his grandfather and asked him to enroll him in Menengai Primary School.
Njuguna sat KCPE in 2008 and scored 293 marks which enabled him get admission to Nakuru Boys’ High School. In 2009, he sat KCSE and scored B before he joined Moi University for a degree in Specialised Needs Education secondary option.
Njuguna holds Chesire dearly in his heart. “All my being, my esteem my academic and life I attribute it to the teacher. She truly molded me into a productive individual. I am so humbled,” says the student who will graduate in December.
“It was hard to accept that I was blind and I was to write and read braille. But through encouragement and inspiration by Chesire, I accepted my condition,” he says.
Brian Otieno, who graduated from the University of Nairobi with a law degree, met the teacher during an outreach program in Kiratina estate, Nakuru.
The teacher encouraged his parents to enroll the then four-year-old boy in Menengai Primary School. Otieno sat KCPE in 2010 and scored 373 marks.
He later joined Nakuru Boys Secondary School and scored B in KCSE in 2010 before enrolling for law at the University of Nairobi. Chesire plans to construct a school for children with disability to support majority from humble backgrounds who cannot afford fees.