Oh no! Cried Grace Wambui when a doctor at Kikuyu Hospital broke the news that her five-month-old son was blind. So many questions went through her mind: How? Why? What next? It was unbelievable. She decided to seek a second opinion. But her fears were confirmed. Her son, Charles Nduati, was visually impaired.
“I couldn’t believe my ears when the doctor announced my son was blind,” she said. Hoping that the problem could be corrected, Wambui went back to Kikuyu Hospital. But the doctor insisted that not even a surgery could help.
Nduati is Wambui’s fourth child. He was born a healthy baby full of life. But Wambui noted something unusual when he was five months old. “I started noticing that my son’s eyeballs were not moving. Also lights and other visual distractions didn’t catch his attention,” she recalls.
Wambui who hails from Gatumbi village, Kigumo, Murang’a, feared stigmatisation for having a visually impaired child, but she left everything to God. Little did she know that the worst was yet to come.
Two years later, she delivered another boy. But immediately after delivery, she noticed her son always had eye boogers (build-up of mucus in the eyes). This disturbed her a lot.
Her son, Jamleck Muturi, was also pronounced visually impaired when he was only four months. “All through my pregnancy, I was worried of getting another visually impaired baby. And when this happened for the second time, I was distressed,” she says.
Her in-laws wanted her out of that family saying she is a bad omen. However, her husband, Joram Irungu, stood with her. “I chose to seek strength from God. I asked God not to let me see my children’s disability, but see them as a blessing. For sure, I felt relieved and I even gained confidence to face people,” says the mother of seven.
When they attained the school-going age, they couldn’t go to normal schools. But luckily in 2001, a local politician secured their admission at Thika School for the Visually Impaired with a promise that he will sponsor them for their primary education.
But he didn’t heed to his words. “He only sponsored them for two terms. After he was elected, he stopped supporting them. We were left without any support and since I am a peasant farmer and so is my husband, it was a great burden for us,” she adds.
Currently, Charles, who is now 15 years, is in Class Four while his 13-year-old brother is in Class Six. This is because even though Charles is older, he is yet to completely understand how to use Braille.
However, the family is struggling to raise fund for the children and most of the time, they rely on well-wishers. “Special education is expensive and even though as a family we are willing to educate the children, financial constraints might hinder us. The fee is Sh13,000 per child, per term,” she said.
Recently, through the help of Special Kids Africa, a Kenyan non governmental organisation, the family got a scholarship for one of the child and school uniforms for both of them.
However, Wambui is quick to note that disability notwithstanding, the boys help with house chores such as fetching water and cleaning utensils. They also follow her to the farm where she does coffee farming. They also attend church faithfully and are in the praise and worship team.