Glimmer of hope for father determined to educate special needs child

Otieno and his daughter

Joseph Otieno with his daughter Juliet Auma, who is living with an intellectual disability, during an interview at the Nation Center in Nairobi. He is seeking help to get educate his daughter.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

When Joseph Otieno first came to Nation’s offices in February, although downtrodden, he was a man on a mission to get his daughter admitted into a special needs school.

Juliet Auma’s mannerisms were akin to those of a toddler even though she was 12 years old. She threw fits and rolled on the ground when she was not allowed to touch files in which her medical history was documented.

Her father's attempts to feed her a bun and water, to distracct her and calm her down, were in vain.

Mr Otieno returned to Nation's offices on Friday, this time round with a smile.

“Where is Juliet?,” I inquired.

He said she was in Siaya County in her grandfather's care. 

The short-term arrangement was made after Juliet got admitted into the Lutheran Church Special School for the Mentally Challenged, in Kisumu County.

Following a story by the Nation, about Mr Otieno's determination to get her into a special needs school, he was able to obtain a disability assessment report from the Kiambu Level 5 Hospital.

The doctors affirmed that Juliet has an intellectual disability. She is non-verbal, experiences prolonged convulsion and lacks control of her bowel movements.

After receiving the report, Mr Otieno applied for a disability card and is currently awaiting its release. He is hopeful that once he gets the card, the support Juliet receives will ease his struggle.

Juliet is yet to start going to school but Rosemary Omondi, the head teacher at the Lutheran institution, confirmed her father took her there and that their disability assessment showed she was fit to be admitted.

“It is our policy not to deny any pupil admission. The father arrived empty-handed and that is why we issued him with a list of boarding requirements. These are the basic necessities needed for her personal use, like toiletries, uniforms and bedding,” she said in a phone interview.

Ms Omondi said she wished to admit Juliet without the fees but could not as the school has not received government funds since October. She said this presents a further challenge in catering to special needs students such as Juliet.

Mr Otieno, who still lives at Baba Dogo in Nairobi’s Eastlands area, hawks groundnuts and simsim within the city.

He acknowledged that he had indeed received support from well-wishers. He says the Sh 21,000 he collected went into travels from Nairobi to Kisumu and other counties, where he toured potential schools for Juliet. So far, he has only bought a metal storage box and a mackintosh bedsheet. 

Mr Otieno complained about the high inflation rate, which he said has made his life unbearable. 

“I used to buy a kilogramme of groundnuts at Sh140 but that has now jumped to Sh340. A kilo of simsim cost Sh120 but that has also doubled. My profits have dwindled so it's harder to support my other seven children, four of whom are in high school.”

Mr Otieno became his daughter’s sole caregiver in 2013, following his wife's death after a long battle with cervical cancer.

He can be contacted on 0725812518.