Welcome to Little Rock Inclusive ECD Center in the heart of Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum. It is an oasis for disabled and underprivileged youth and a learning center that welcomes children of all abilities; a place where talents are unearthed and youth are instilled with the confidence and knowledge they need in order to succeed.
Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Center is a school that provides early childhood education for orphans and vulnerable children in the Kibera slums. The school provides education, nutrition, health intervention for poor children, orphans, children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, and children with special needs such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, deaf, mentally and physically handicapped, and those with autism.
LILY OYARE [Founder/Director, Little Rock ECD Center]
My name is Lily Oyare, I'm a teacher by profession and I'm the founder of Little Rock ECD Center. At the moment we are doing inclusive, so we call ourselves Little Rock Inclusive ECD Center, in the sense that we have included disabled children amongst us. I started Little Rock in 2003 after a visit in 2000. When I came, I found so many kids in the villages and not able to go to school, and the person who had invited me came in because he was sick and tired of seeing documentaries of African children, and also Kenya children, not accessing education.
The school, that was started in the year 2003 with only five children, is situated in Kibera Olympic, Nairobi, and presently has 110 disabled and 256 normal children. The school has 21 staff members and runs three programs: the daycare, kindergarten, and special unit. The school has children from about six months to 13 years coming to learn.
JOY KIRI NJUGUNA [Head Teacher, Little Rock ECD Center]
Here at Little Rock Inclusive Center we believe in good quality education for all the children. We have a daycare unit; we have children that are six months to children that are 12 years in the center. We cater to a range of abilities. I call them abilities. We have autism, we have children who are hearing impaired, we have children who are mentally handicapped, we have children who have cerebral palsy, and we have regular children. So all of them have different abilities.
We thought we'd start with five kids, but when we opened the center in 2003 October, the first day we had 12 children, the second day they became 22, the third day there were 35. Why? Because I had told myself that I would give these kids what my children get in their private school. So we had books, we had toys; we had set up the kindergarten like any other high cost school. I think the kids are going back home and telling their parents that this is the best school, and selling the school to the neighbors. So everyday we were getting new people coming for admission.
Little Rock runs from Monday to Friday with the children reporting to school at 7:30 am and lessons starting at 8:00 am. It aims at giving every child that passes through its structures a holistic development, a ray of hope that they can be who they want to be.
JUNE MUTHUKU [Deaf Teacher, Little Rock ECD Center]
We have five kids, some of whom are deaf and dumb, others are dumb, others are deaf. They are all different. Some can speak out but they are not able to hear, others cannot speak or even hear, but you find others can hear but they cannot speak.
LUCY MORAGE [Student/Volunteer, Little Rock ECD Center]
I'm volunteering for my practicum, and I'm in the patients' class, which is basically where every child first passes through before they go to other classes. Regular children, it's easier to tell, but the ones with special needs, they have to go through an assessment. Depending on their level, then they are moved. If we see the basics are still required, like interacting with others, because some have really stayed at home so they don't know how to interact with other children. Patients' class serves that purpose.
It's a bit hard for them to learn as fast as these other children, so you have to take them quite slowly.
We are forced to have more teachers because of the kids we're handling. We're not handling only the regular kids; we have disabled children among us now. So we're having a challenge with the salaries. We need a lot of learning materials, because most of these kids learn through visual aid. It's easier for them, because their level of understanding is a little bit slow. You need to take them at their pace, and the only way they can learn is when they have those projects and toys and the educational materials.
The center admits children from all tribes and religions in the area, hence bringing out the theme of love, unity, and peace. They insist on enhancing the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual development of every child.
JOY KIRI NJUGUNA
Knowing that we have children who have different abilities in the school, we have to have different forums where we sit and talk about how our day has gone. So on Mondays we have meetings, staff meetings every Monday. January to March, which is first term, we have children coming in and we look at their talents, because now is when you're having children from different classes and we have a talent show, which is like a class competition every Friday where they get to show what they are like or what they know.
They highlight the need for every child to be able to have self-confidence and freedom of expression.
When we started it was simply doing the library or after school program. But now the kids started saying they're hungry, and when they reach home they find their younger brothers have eaten at school. So when there's no food at home they basically sleep hungry. So now we also feed them. Apart from coming for the after school program, you're also given food, a meal, before you go home.
JOY KIRI NJUGUNA
We make sure that every child has moved. Doesn't have to be 100 percent to the next level, but if they're at zero, they are at .1, or .4, but they have moved, we have tried to fill their areas.
The school lays a firm foundation for the children to be able to acquire the skills and ability to read, write, paint, count, and for them to be able to fit into class one.
JOY KIRI NJUGUNA
We have a resource center where we allow the children to learn with learning materials and play materials. So what happens is that you will find if it is mathematics, there is a mathematics subject, the children will go and have their mathematics at the resource center and they will have that for 15 minutes. The next 15 minutes they'll be given their dolls and their cars to push around. And that gives them that motivation, to learn and play at the same time.
The best thing that one can do to a child is to take them to school. Because our education curriculum does not say this child is from the poor background, this child is from the upper market, the exam is the same whether the child is on the other side of Gong Road or this side of Kibera the exam is the same. So I told myself, the only breakaway from they vicious cycle of poverty is to give them education.
They say disability is not inability. Well, here at Little Rock they turn scars into smiling stars. They have hopes and dreams to be who they want to be. Reporting for KiberaTV, I'm Yvonne Ogwang.