A few of our wonderful students recently wrote some stories about their experience with Braille, and the meaning and impact that it has on their lives. Thank you to all of our donors and staff for making these stories possible!
I was born in a village Known as Gatanga. After that I was given a name Francis Kareri Mwaura. When I reached at a point of understanding myself, I realized that I was already in a nursery school, near our home. I was in a world full of light. I continued learning with other students in our regular school, until it was noted that I could not cope with them because my sight continued deteriorating. This led me to a special school in Thika where I was taken to class three.
My poor sight could not allow me to read print materials and therefore, I was introduced to Braille; that took me three months to learn. It was a new world to me because I was using a stylus as my pen and a slate as my book. As you can understand, writing with a slate, you write from right to left which was a real problem for me, because I was used to write with a pen whereby writing starts from left to right.
It was a total struggle to use a slate throughout my primary level, for it needed a lot of energy to make holes in those papers, because some of them were very hard.
When I joined high school, I felt newly born again, to be introduced to a Perkin Brailler that within one week, I was really conversant with it.
This machine totally changed my perspective on Braille, because it proved to me that writing using a Perkins Brailler could make writing faster than that of my sighted counterparts.
In fact, it really made me enjoy writing notes and stories and hence boosted my creativity and made me become a good story writer. It is the use of this Brailler that boosted my performance in high school.
Being in a third, getting a good Brailler was a major issue. In fact our Braillers were breaking every now and then.
I won’t forget the fateful day when I was sitting for my final examination, in form 4. I was sitting for my mathematics paper 2 which was very hard. In the process of writing down the formula, that I had immediately remembered, my Perkins Brailler broke down. This brought in a lot of confusion because it had to be taken to a technician, where it took about twenty minutes before been brought back. This breaking down of my machine did not only contribute to a poor performance in that subject, but also demoralized me throughout exam period.
However, this did not stop me from becoming the person that I wanted to be, a man of substance, of immense courage and an independent man. I knew it was not easy to realize my dreams without working hard.
This positive motivation drove me to one of our Kenyan Universities. This environment became worse than High School. In the University, there were not enough Perkins and as few as they were, they were always with mechanical problem.
Also during the close of the semester, we were expected to return the Perkins Braillers for they were not ours. This was irritating, because I was feeling bad when my sighted friends were writing home-work and I was having no option for I had nothing to write with.
This has been the case up to date. A life without a Brailler is a life where creative thoughts are still kept in the minds. I have not lost hope still because Perkins continues to make more qualitative and advanced Braille machines.
I still hope to acquire one so that my sighted friends in my rural area where there is no electric power will know I can write and read to them what I have written.
For any school going child, reading and writing are some of the basic things that they would need to learn. For my case, this was not optional at all. But how was I going to do this while I was blind? Born in one of the villages back in Samburu district where schools are few, how could I get a special school? During that time, no one had information of any way a blind child could be assisted in school and so I went to school just to learn merely by listening and not practically writing like any other child.
After completing pre-school education without knowing how to write, some light came when I was introduced to a special school far away from home. For lack of knowing how to use Braille, I had to start from nursery school again so that I could be taught Braille. I learned Braille with the use of a slate and a stylus. This was a big challenge all together; my fingers were so small and could not press on the stylus for long. The papers we were writing on were also very hard. I loved reading but not the writing bit.
Things were not that easy for me especially at that level where writing notes was one of the things that I had to do in class. This was so hard since I was needed to be swift in writing so as to be in the safe side with the teacher. I tried to, and soon I got tired. To avoid being punished, I had to work my way out. Now, I did not use my fingers only but I started using my chin to press on to the stylus so that my fingers would not get tired fast. I gained speed but I could not avoid pricking my fingers quite often.
Life changed soon after I got introduced to a Brailler.
Though the machine itself was so heavy to carry around, it eased my work in class. The first time I placed my hand onto a Brailler I was relieved. I did not get any one to teach me how to write, but I found myself learning it on my own. Soon I gained speed and became the fastest writer in the whole school. I completed primary school and joined high school and I was still using a Brailler. Here, the worst problem was the challenge of having to miss classes as many times as thrice in a week. The Braillers broke down every so often; and getting a better one, if not a new one, was not easy. All the Braillers there were generally faulty. At some point I had to use a slate to be able to catch up with the rest of the class.
The situation was not any better even after I joined university. For the first two years I spent much of my time trying to fix a broken Brailler. At times we could not get some one to repair the Braillers from the university. Someone had to be brought from outside. During my last exam in second year, I refused to return a new Brailler that had been lent to me from another department after the one that I had been using broke down in the middle of the exam. I spent the remaining two years of my university life dodging the university Resource Centre staff who were looking for me in order to take back the new Brailler to the department where it had been borrowed.
The challenge of having to carry the heavy Brailler with my hands was another thing that forced me to buy several bags to carry it on my back. Nevertheless, this did not seem to solve much of my problems completely, I had to be strong to carry the heavy Brailler on my back for a long time.
All my days at school and university were much better as I had something to write with. Today, I am out of school and do not have anything to write with. I had to hand back the Brailler to the university after completing my studies and left with nothing to write with. I am now looking for employment but I am not sure what to do once I am employed. I cannot write. Occasionally I use a slate and stylus to scribble down things but his is not enough for professional writing. I feel desperate.