Ability in Disability : Dr. Serah Kimaru (Coordinator persons with disabilities)
Every time I watch Stevland Hardaway Morris play drum sets, keyboard and organ, my heart beats in hilarity at what fighting self-limits means. Stevie Wonder – as he is fondly known by his legion of fans was born blind. He rose above his inability to see, to be one of the most visible entertainment icon of his time to date. Stevie has graced world events such as the UN General assembly with grace and in one of his masterpiece; Stevie says fear cannot put dreams asleep.
On behalf of the Mount Kenya University Special Needs Association, it is a joyous appreciation of the pragmatic role the University continues to effect in nurturing students in their respective fields of leadership. I also wish to recognize the courage and boldness that the persons with disability in the MKU community are taking these opportunities with zeal.
The abled differently persons have repeatedly proven that they can execute any opportunity because of their mental capability just like abled bodied. The University has ensured that the learning environment is conducive for every student; from commodes to classes to offices with easy access lifts, ramps and rails and equal opportunities at every level.
The special needs students have participated in competitive leadership positions in the student council. Betty Milgo, who had melanin free skin, rewrote the history of MKUSA leadership history when she beat other candidates for the MKUSA Vice-president position in 2016. Her pragmatic approach to ability in disability has encouraged other students to defeat stigma and physical limitations, thanks to the Disability Policy at MKU and the university’s academic character that promote inclusion.
Recently, the University has witnessed an increased number of persons with disability going for the elective positions. MKUSA elections as we all know; are characterized by stringent scrutiny among other things on individual personal discipline and academic commitment and performance of all aspirants. MKUSA 2020/2021 elections were no different. The student representation council attracted many students with the aspiration of leading in respective positions.
The Association members successfully applied for various positions. Like any other applicant, they faced a panel of interviewers to pitch their candidature. The Association produced three delegates, an election clerk, an election commissioner and a chairperson aspirant who emerged victorious after trouncing three others in that category. Bill Kaunda, a Pharmacy student and the former mister special needs 2018/2019 will serve the student council for a one-year term.
“It has been tough for students with disability to vie and win the delegates and even aspirants slots due to the unequal hurdles they face compared to their competitors. We had three special delegate slots for students with disability and this helped to reaffirm the spirit of inclusion of students with disability in the election process.” Said Joseph Owino, chairperson, MKU Special Needs Association.
Antony Kipleting chairperson, MKU Special Needs Association observes, “The Abled Differently Students have shown great leadership skills and abilities to lead and perform various tasks within their capabilities which the university continues to nurture through the friendly and barrier-free environment.”
This stab of leadership positions by people experiencing various forms of disability in the university proves the motivation of doing what you love as put by the American naturist and nature essayist John Burroughs that if you think you can do it, you can. It also cements the university position on access to equal opportunities by all.
Celebrated English cosmetologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawkins defied his disability to become a celebrated scientist through his many earth discoveries. As once reported by BBC, his life was a juxtaposition of sparkling intellect and failing body. He was a true inspiration of not letting anything stop you from doing what you love to both people living with disability and able-bodied.
Finally, from songwriter Stevie Wonder to US President Roosevelt to Professor Stephen Hawkins, their common denominator was lack of physical abilities. Nevertheless, their will to living a positive mark beyond their physical abilities calls for everyone to go out and take action.
An action of promoting self-belief, as the most critical part to achieving one’s goals as a way of fighting extrinsic discrimination as well intrinsic ones such as limiting beliefs which everyone has, which are completely irrational, yet at times they seem to be true and real, without recognizing how badly they are holding us back.
Dr. Serah W. Kimaru, Dean, School of Social Sciences, email@example.com