Deaf Kenyan Teenager Pursues Fashion Design Dreams

8 April 2020
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African Development Bank (Abidjan)

Where she comes from, people like her rarely find opportunities to pursue their ambitions. For a while, Nasike Robai thought she would suffer the same fate.

But now, she is far more optimistic about her future after she found an opening to nurture her dreams.

"I am taking a course in fashion design... I want to own a fashion shop and sell clothes to trainees and trainers of this institute, and celebrities," she said, smiling and staring pensively through the window of the Karen Technical Training Institute for the Deaf in Kenya.

Nasike was born in a rural part of western Kenya, more than 400 km from Nairobi. Like the situation in most rural areas in Kenya, people live in poverty, and it was a struggle for Nasike's parents to get her into primary education.

After she completed primary school, Nasike wanted to study further but had limited options due to her condition and poverty at home, leaving without schooling for years.

"I was young, handicapped and did not know where to go," she said.

"Some people told me that there is an institute in Karen, Nairobi, where I can learn skills," she added through a sign language interpreter.

Now Nasike cannot wait to tackle her future - like hundreds of students at the Karen Institute.

Nasike joined in 2018 and is one of the many learners sponsored by the African Development Bank, and the government of Kenya to acquire skills. She completes her studies next year.

The school recently received a boost from the African Development Bank via a $2.9 million loan through the Kenyan Ministry of Education. Enrolment has increased significantly while the learning conditions and general image have also improved.

With the Bank's support, the Karen Institute is building a new Electrical and Electronics Department Complex and two hostels, and is procuring training equipment and learning assistive devices for the deaf.

It also enabled the school to admit an additional 150 trainees for various courses, including hairdressing and body therapy, communication and sign language, and food production and service management, said the principal of the institute, Tecla Chemobo.

The construction of the Electrical and Electronics Department Complex together with the hostels started in July 2018 and is now almost complete.

The government of Kenya started the school in 1990 with the capacity to accommodate 160 trainees. However, enrolment has grown to 840, putting a strain on training facilities, lecture rooms, workshops, and trainers.

New training equipment and tools improve learning

Through financial support, the institute procured the much-needed equipment, notably, the specialized learning tools. The workshops and laboratories are designed to use the new equipment as well as provide adequate space for teaching.

The institute's alumni have excelled at their workplaces and are in high demand.

The Bank's $2.9 million assistance to the Karen institute is part of a $65 million package to support 33 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions in Kenya, including four special needs TVET institutions.

"Going forward we want to ensure that all special needs TVET institutions under the project fully benefit from Bank support to promote inclusivity," said Susan Achieng, the Bank project task manager. "Youth with special needs have great potential and dreams that must be nurtured, so that no one is left behind in development. Our aim is to harness the untapped potential of these young geniuses for their own emancipation, and the development of the country."

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