12 Jul Accessibility for Students with Special Needs
Sharon and I spent our first day in Gulu visiting a young student at home in her village.
Anena Nancy is 23 years old and confined to a wheelchair. When she was 14 years old, Nancy fell ill and doctors discovered that she had a tumor on her spinal chord. An operation at a public hospital in Kampala, Uganda left her permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Nancy was immediately brought to St. Jude Children’s Home to live. She attended St. Jude Primary School and, upon graduation, donors to Social Promise sponsored her to attend secondary school at St. Mary’s Aboke.
After one year at St. Mary’s Aboke, Nancy became too ill to continue her studies. She suffered from fevers, pressure sores, and infections at her medication injection sites. For her second year of studies, Nancy enrolled at Pope John Paul II College as it was located closer to Lacor Hospital where Nancy would be able to receive the quality healthcare that she needed.
Finding accessible facilities for students with special needs continues to be an issue in Uganda. Luckily for Nancy, three graduates with special needs from St. Jude Primary School previously attended Pope John Paul II College and the director of St. Jude ensured the campus was accessible for them.
A dormitory was constructed which included an accessible bathroom and lighting. Ramps and open spaces for wheelchairs provided easy access between classrooms, laboratories, the library and the dormitory. However, the physical space that was created was not enough to allow Nancy to be a fully integrated member of the school community. The stigma that is associated with people with special needs made secondary school a challenge for her.
On a daily basis Nancy endured bias and the feeling that other students did not view her as a human being. She was the recipient of hurtful language from students as well as some of her teachers. Determined to succeed, Nancy spoke to a trusted teacher and the demeaning language stopped. She successfully graduated and told us that geography was her favorite subject because she was eager to know about the world.
Nancy is currently deciding where she would like to attend university next year. She is interested in a school in Kampala where she would earn a degree in guidance and counseling, or Gulu University to study business administration. Most importantfor Nancy is finding a place that will accommodate her accessibility needs. With the help of the staff at St. Jude Children’s Home, she will.
No matter which university Nancy chooses, Social Promise donors will be there to provide tuition and support. And thanks to our generous donors, a wheelchair accessible home is currently being built for Nancy so she can move about her village freely.
Thank you for supporting St. Jude Children’ Home. We are eager to continue sharing all the remarkable stories we hear about the work you make possible.