Interview with Martha M. Karo

Kuhenza works with many wonderful people from the different schools we support and we would like you to meet them too. Here is the first of a series of interviews with some of the talented and dedicated people who are doing a fantastic job for the children with Special Needs. Meet the Head Teacher  for Gede Special School: Martha M Karo, or Madam Karo as she is better known.

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When did you become interested in working with children with Special Needs?
My interest in children with disabilities actually started when I was growing up. In my community there was a deaf boy and I noticed how he was neglected and how lonely he was. Somehow I just wanted to be near him so I could protect him and help him. I think my interest comes from that time and from seeing how this boy was treated.

Have you always worked in Special Schools?
No, I started as a teacher in a regular school in 1979 and worked there until 1988 when I transferred to Kibarani School for the Deaf in Kilifi. When I started there I didn’t even know sign language and had no training at all in working with deaf children. I used to close the door to the class room so nobody could see me flapping my arms about, trying to communicate with the children. In the end it was the children who taught me sign language.

That must have been very difficult. Didn’t you get any training at all?
Yes I did, I started with some part time training, but I wanted to learn more so I had two years full time training as Special Needs Teacher which I finished in 1997. Later I became Deputy Head teacher at Kibarani School for the Deaf.

When did you come to Gede Special School ?
I came to Gede Primary School in 2004. They had a small unit for children with special needs and I became their teacher. But very quickly it became clear that we could not accommodate all the children that needed our help. So in 2006 Gede Special School started and I became the Head Teacher. Now we have 132 children with many different special needs and we have 14 teachers employed.

But Gede Special School is a boarding school. Why is that ?
The children at Gede Special School come from at very large area. For most of them it would not be possible to travel to school every day, both because of distance but also because of their disabilities. If we didn’t have boarding schools for these children, most of them would not go to school. It also gives us the opportunity to give the children the special care many of them need around the clock.

If you could have one wish for the children with special needs at Gede Special School, what would it be ?
I really wish that our children could have the same care at their home as we are giving them here. That is why one of our main objectives, apart from caring for and teaching the children, is to show the parents that these children are wonderful and deserve love and attention just like any other child.

What are your wishes for Gede Special School ?
It would be nice to be more independent financially. It would be wonderful if we had some income generating activities. There are so many things we need and so many things we would like to do – if only we had better finances.