David Macharia @PeopleDailyKe
From afar, Hellen Wanjiru is just a normal young woman, doing household chores such as washing dishes and sweeping the compound. Well, until she makes to walk and stretches her arm to reach for a walking stick.
Born in Tuiyobei village in Marigat sub-county of Baringo county, Wanjiru lost her eyesight at six months. “I also wash clothes and help in farm activities such as harvesting. Not weeding because I can slash the crops,” the 22-year-old says and chuckles.
But despite being blind, Wanjiru is a woman on a mission, and will not rest until she becomes a TV presenter one day. We arrive at the home through a near-withering maize plantation that is crying for rain. Never mind reading from a teleprompter is pegged on visual ability, Wanjiru is determined to overcome all odds on her way to a TV anchor or radio presenter.
“I want to pursue a course in mass communication to enable me be a radio or TV presenter. I am yet to find a college that is willing to admit visually impaired students for the programme,” she says.
Wanjiru has knocked doors at Kenyatta University seeking admission to pursue a communication course but, unfortunately, the institution does not offer a certificate course for the same and her secondary school grades cannot allow her admission as a diploma student.
“Kenyatta University has a friendly environment to the visually impaired. I think I will have to re-sit my KCSE exam to improve my grades,” she says. The former Thika School for the Blind student attained a mean grade C- in her KCSE exam in 2015. But her parents—Mary Chebet and Amos Chesaro—do not want her to retake the exam, for fear she may score a lower mean grade. “That will not have helped her at all,” says Chesaro.
The parents also say they cannot afford a year’s fees if Wanjiru goes back to school. They depended on well-wishers to educate her. The school waived her balance to enable her access her certificates.
But Wanjiru is not one to lose hope. “I want to be like Kanze Dena,” she says, referring to Citizen Swahili TV news anchor. Her voice matches her ambition, and would land her a TV or radio job anywhere.
Convinced that one day she will make it to the newsroom, Wanjiru turned down a teacher training vacancy at a Machakos college. A neighbour, Josephat Kipruto, is helping Wanjiru apply for a certificate course in journalism at Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC). He says the 22-year-old inspires many in the village, thanks to her determination.