Special schools beat all odds to steal the show at music gala

Salvation Army Likoni High School for the Visually Impaired perform during the Kenya Music Festivals winners State concert in Nakuru on August 14. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
Forget about their fumbled entry onto the stage. When they opened their mouths to sing, their synchronised, powerful voices took the audience by a storm. The students expertly invited the audience to see beyond their disabilities and enjoy the performance.

And when the Thika School for the Blind left the stage at the national music festivals in Kabarak University, all adjudicators agreed that they were the best in the special schools category. This crown gave them the ticket to perform at the presidential gala at the State House, Nakuru, on Tuesday.

Also at the presidential gala from this category was Salvation Army School for the Visually Impaired Likoni, which a gave a thrilling performance that moved President Uhuru Kenyatta to promise them a school bus.

Thika School for the Blind presented 17 items at the national festivals. “Our students are the greatest performers because it comes from their heart. They love extra-curricular activities and particularly music and special compositions because they express themselves better,” said school Principal Catherine Karanga.

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For Karanga, the Competency-Based Curriculum could not have come at a better time to enable visually impaired students to also explore more co-curricular activities and nature their talent.

“Most of these students are very good in extra-curricular activities, they are gifted differently and their presentation of 17 items this year at the nationals is a proof that they can do even better,” she said. Thika School for the Blind were crowned winners in singing the national anthem, one of the theme songs of the 93rd Kenya music festivals. The learners also clinched ‘Tuishangilie Kenya’ crown, having brought out the rendition that met adjudicators’ expectations. 

The school was also crowned winners of dances for the visually impaired, topping the charts under folk songs category and producing the best pianist.

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“It has been a fair competition. In some, we were trounced and in others we emerged the winners. The festivals have boosted our confidence and every year, we long for the competition,” said Maryanne Wambua, a student at Thika School for the Blind.

Wambua said exposure in the music festivals has made them discover their talent while also exploring other cultures and pursuing other activities they never used to. “Currently, I am studying Physics, a subject I never thought I could do. I can also sing just like my colleagues with whom we teamed up and sang Tushangilie Kenya which came out a great rendition. We are more creative and confident than ever before,” she said.

School bus promise

In an emotional gospel song that Salvation Army School performed, President Kenyatta rose to his feet to congratulate the students before having a chat with them on stage and promising them a school bus.

“It was a powerful performance, the president told us. He thanked us teachers for doing a good job and also thanked the students for their marvellous performance. He told us he would buy us a bus which will be delivered to the school on October 20 this year,” said Christine Chemutai, the school principal.

The winners of last year’s Kenya schools music festivals had an opportunity to visit India as part of an exchange programme and nurturing talent.

This year, the school had two presentations in the national festivals, Zilizopendwa gospel versions which they ranked second overall and an own composition. “We were ranked second but we were reconsidered for the gala and that is why we graced the stage,” Chemutai said.

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