International Day of Education: Expanding Access for Children Like Athman

by Lucie Rutherford

Close-up photo of Athman

An estimated 90% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school. In addition to a lack of understanding about their needs, many schools do not have trained teachers, adequate classroom support, and accessible facilities. January 24th marks the International Day of Education, a UN-designated day in support of Sustainable Development Goal 4, one of 17 goals from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that prioritizes inclusive and equitable education for all. More specifically, this goal aims to:

 “…ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities.”

Hope for Athman

A photo of Athman as a child

A young Athman standing outside his home

Children with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups when it comes to education access. One such child is Athman, a deaf and visually impaired child from the Magarini Ward of Kilifi County, Kenya. When Kupenda first connected with Athman, his grandfather thought he should be killed. He believed that Athman could not learn, and that he was taking up too many of the family’s resources. Not only did Athman face stigmatization in his home, but also throughout the community. Pregnant women avoided him for fear of giving birth to a child with similar impairments.

With guidance from Kupenda-trained staff and community leaders, in addition to Kupenda’s sponsorship program, Athman is now an intermediate-level student at the Kwale School for the Deaf, where he is learning the skills needed to function in daily life. Athman is not only improving in numeracy and literacy skills, but he is also learning to communicate and become more independent in daily skills such as toothbrushing, dressing, and feeding.

Community Involvement

Additionally, Athman’s community leader, Duncan Kaviha, has attended a Kupenda-sponsored disability advocacy workshop which helps to expand disability awareness and acceptance across the community. Since then, Duncan has met with the local chief, village elders, and other members of the community to advocate for the rights of children with disabilities. Every six months, Duncan checks in with Athman and his family for counseling and to ensure that Athman is receiving proper treatment and access to medical support, nutrition, and education.

A picture of Athman in his school uniform

Athman in his school uniform

Here at Kupenda, we are working towards education equality for children like Athman in multiple ways, including:

 Helping families access funding to offer their child a specialized education

 Constructing accessible school buildings

Training teachers on inclusive education

 Mobilizing local government support

An education can lead to better jobs, social and economic security, and opportunities for full participation in society. It gives children the ability to step out of poverty and allows them to lead a confident, self-advocating life. By improving education access, we can move towards a more inclusive society where people like Athman can reach their full potential.


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