Friday afternoon at the University of Nairobi, Kabete campus and Steve struggles with the stairs of Biashara hall where he attends most of his classes. It will take him approximately 20 minutes just to reach his class – a flight of stairs that takes less than 5 minutes for other students. This is what Steve and other physically challenged students have to contend with every day.
The absence of a lift or ramps and metal bars for support in some lecture theatres and halls of residence pose a challenge to many disadvantaged students, which the university says constitute less than 5 percent of the student population.
According to Steve, the physically challenged are faced with a lot of challenges in their quest to acquire education, stigmatization being the biggest of them all.
“It feels so bad when you’re attracting all the attention in campus,” he says.
Being a module 2 student (privately sponsored) also poses another challenge since he has to commute from Embakasi to Kabete on a daily basis. He feels that the university should consider people like him and provide halls of residence even if they have to pay.
Most module one students however don’t encounter this difficulty because their transport is catered for. However, the administration has designated one hall of residence for physically challenged students and there is a policy that allows them not stay beyond first floor in other halls of residence.
No special sports have been introduced for the physically challenged and Steve feels cheated when he pays for the activity fee.
According to Charles Sikulu, the Public Relations Manager at UoN however says the activity fee doesn’t necessary cater for sports but also other activities.
“Choir is also a co curricular activity.”
His office works hand in hand with the office of the dean of students in catering for the needs of the disabled. One of the projects they want to embark on is to fix the lift at Education building.
There are also plans to admit more physically challenged students into the university as the current ratio stands at 1 physically challenged student for every 500 able-bodied students.
Steve however says that the only way to address their issues is to have a representative in the student body SONU.
“It is until you’re physically challenged that you can get to understand,” he says.