Idris’ Story: Communication is a Key to Knowledge

by Sandra Bauer

Idris 5

Idris was born with no ability to hear and, as a result, was not able to speak in a way that people could understand. Shortly after his birth, Idris’ father abandoned his family because he was ashamed of his son’s disability. As a result, Idris’ mother was left to provide all of the support and the care for their family. She started a cooking business and sold snacks in her community but often struggled to earn enough to meet her children’s needs.

Overcoming Education Barriers

Idris needed to attend a special school where he could learn sign language and study with an instructor who could teach in sign language. However, the closest special school was 7 kilometers (about 4.5 miles) away from the village where Idris lived. Since transportation is expensive and there are no school buses in rural Kenya, children must walk to school. Therefore, the only way Idris could attend this school was by living in a dormitory on its campus. Although primary school is free for Kenyan children, dormitory fees are not and the expense was too much for Idris’ mother to pay. Fortunately, around this time, a mother and daughter from Massachusetts came on a Kupenda volunteer trip to Kenya and met Idris. His outgoing, creative personality won them over and they agreed to sponsor him, which enabled him to attend the Gede Special School.

Excelling Academically

When Idris entered Gede Special School, he was 10 years old and in third grade. He was taught to communicate using Kenyan Sign Language. For the first time in his life, Idris could communicate his needs and learn new things. He learned to sign quickly, which also enabled him to excel academically. As a result, when he took his end-of-year exams, he earned the third highest score in his class! He also showed talent in dance and drama as well as athletics.

When Idris reached the seventh grade, his subjects began to have many abstract concepts.  Many of these concepts are difficult to translate in sign language.  Idris struggled academically for a while but soon caught on, worked hard, and did well in his course work.

Improving Confidence

In addition to education support, the staff at Kuhenza (Kupenda’s affiliate in Kenya) also counseled Idris and his family about his disability. They educated the family about the medical causes of disabilities, which helped them to understand that Idris’ disability did not mean he was cursed.  As a result, Idris started to accept himself and the way he was created.

Developing Socially

At school, Idris had many friends, helped other students who were in wheelchairs, and won awards for participating in volleyball and net ball at the county level. He often performed traditional dances or drama when visitors came to the school. His outgoing, charming personality made him a leader at the school.

In 2019, Idris passed his end-of-elementary school exams and was accepted at Pwani Secondary School for the Deaf.  Despite his late start entering school, Idris was the youngest boy in his freshman class.  He was also the most popular.  Wherever you found Idris, you also found a group of other students being entertained by him.

Preparing for the Future

Idris is now a junior at Pwani Secondary School for the Deaf.  He understands new concepts easily and is a talented actor. His future is very bright. His creativity, intelligence, athleticism, and outgoing personality will help him do well in whatever he pursues.

Learn more about our Sponsorship Program and how you can

help children like Idris here!


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