Grace Wachira @yaa_grace
James Kamau made good the dream of owning an institution that could train teachers how to integrate persons with disabilities in educational institutions.
“When I came down with polio, my mother was advised to take me to a school for special children. While there, my teacher pushed me into being the best version of myself. Eventually, he told my mother I needed to go to a ‘normal’ school. I was a healthy and normal child after all,” he says.
The fact that his teacher expressed such confidence in him made him a better person. “Sometimes all we need is a little appreciation and I got it. I knew I was normal and went on to lead a normal life as a young boy,” he adds.
Kamau went on to sell a few books on the streets to make ends meet once he was done with high school education.
“My brain always drove me into doing something along the lines of education and eventually, I was sponsored by the High Commission of Asia Minor through our former member of parliament, Paul Muite,” he said.
Kamau went to Asia Minor for Bachelor in Liberal Arts in 2001. While there, he also undertook a postgraduate diploma in guidance and counselling, a postgraduate diploma in Teacher Training Education and a certificate in computer training.
His aggressive nature saw him pursue Master of Arts degree at Andrews University, Grand Rapid Michigan, US. “In 2006, I came back to Kenya heavily pregnant with my vision of giving back to the society.
I joined a college as a counselling psychologist and after three years, I was poached to join a non-governmental organisation,” he said.
Armed with experience and expertise, James decided it was time to realise his dream of starting a school that would equip teachers with skills to handle persons with disabilities.
Regardless of his physical limitations, the staunch Adventist has participated in marathons. “I do not believe in being limited because of my physical nature and I want to ensure we, persons with disabilities, are treated well by the society,” he affirms.
In December 2009, Kamau started an Early Childhood Development (ECD) college, Garrison Victors Training College with two students: his sister and a neighbour.
“At the time, we rented a room in Wangige Town and used it as our classroom. With time, more students enrolled and eventually, we bought this piece of land,” he says, indicating the plot in Kikuyu.
Whilst the director of the institution charges about Sh30,000 for the courses offered at the college, sign language course is almost mandatory.
“We do not charge it. It is free and the feedback keeps us going,” he smiles. The school, besides the core units, also teaches life skills that are in turn passed down to the students the institution’s teachers will impact.
The fact that he ensures persons with special needs will be equipped psychologically and academically keeps him going.
“I know our teachers will cause impact in their areas of training when they go out and teach persons with disabilities as well by comfortably accommodating them in their classes,” he says.
Having had over 600 students go through his institution is not a simple fete. “We have even schooled persons from Tanzania, Uganda and California and we hope to host even more.
I realised that our students seek is the knowledge and skill on how to deal with persons with disabilities because at the end of the day, we are people,” Kamau cites.
“If you have a dream to run an institution, go for it. All I had was passion and a dream and starting with two students did not deter me,” he concludes.