Francesca's story

p1010039.jpgI am Francesca Maina, a second born in a family of eight. As a disabled girl, particularly during my school days, my parents enrolled me in a junior school when I was 7 years old. My dad was working in a civil service as an administrator and his job required him to serve in different parts of the region of Kenya.
The first school I joined was a boarding facility. I was in class two and my sister was in class one. At this age I was not able to wash our uniforms. Fortunately our cousin in the same school, who was in senior class, was able to take care of us. At this tender age I had no idea of the degree of my disablility and how I was supposed too cope with it.
Although other kids wetted themselves while asleep at night, for me I could not even control my bladder while in class. I was a black sheep among other children. My cousin kept on quarelling with me because she thought I was just a careless child given that my sister who was younger than me was smart and never soiled her clothes during the day. Even at home my parents blamed me as being an untidy girl. I felt discouraged and at one point in class 3 I refused going to the boarding school on re-opening after holidays.

I stayed at home for the whole term, then changed to a day school. Here the toilets were quite far from the classrooms and I never made it without wetting myself. Being in a new environment and with new people, other kids kept a distance, laughed and even mocked me about my unusual tendency.They said I smelt badly.Teachers too got fed up with me and they thought I was a burden to them. I had no friends to play with. I became so lonely and at times no child would share a desk with me. I used to sit solely at the desk from morning to lunch time, wet and smelling such that when others left the class, I would walk out and bask in the sun for my clothes to dry.

My performance in class also declined because I could not concentrate. I felt rejected, hopeless and unloved. Dad got fed up and sent me back to our rural home together with my mum. Even here things were never different. The school was 2 kms away and I had to walk all the way. I liked being punctual at school so I woke up very early. I avoided breakfast for fear of wetting myself in class. It never worked. Even here I had no friends and other pupils ridiculed me.Teachers also never allowed me to participate in any class work, games or even singing. Sometimes I was told to stay in the classroom while others attended the school assembly. To make friends, at least even for one day, I had to bring them sweets.

Though I loved learning and had the determination to do well , my disability made the environment harsh for me. Sometimes, while in class, other kids were fast in doing their assignments or other activities, but for me, I needed more time. My teachers never seemed to realise this.

Walking the long distance to and from school caused me to develop pressure sores. During rainy seasons, I could not walk or run fast as others did and I was always rained on. This made me cry a lot  and I had no happiness or peace of mind.

I was not able to be consistent with school attendance, therefore I was forced to repeat classes. All this time my siblings continued with their learning in boarding school but I could only admire them.

While in class 5, my uncle volunteered to take me into a boarding school where he was teaching. It was in this class that I became comfortable with learning with minimal difficulties, but my studies were short lived. While in class 7, I suffered a serious infection on my feet as I was using gumboots as my footwear in the hot and dry climate. I was taken to hospital and later home for full recovery. I also suffered bladder infection. This marked the end of my school life.

At home my problems persisted and I was unwell most of the time. My health became poor. It was not until my uncle brought me to Kijabe that I got to understand my disability. Dr.Bransford informed me that I had a condition known as Spina Bifida. He also explained to me about the relation to my bladder incontinence and pressure sores on my feet. I went in for an operation to amputate my right foot because I had serious infections, and I later got fitted with an artificial limb for better mobility.

Though I never earned an educational certificate, despite my desire and determination to learn, I was offered a job at AIC Bethany Crippled Children's Center Kijabe, currently AIC Cure International Children's Hospital. This has helped me to be independent and self reliant.

After one year of working at the hospital, Dr Kimberly introduced me to the CIC method of bladder control. This really transformed my life and now I can keep dry and smart for many hours just like any other person. Now there is no fear or stress and I have many friends and not the least a husband too. I wish I was taught about CIC while I was still in school.

In summary as a disabled person, I faced many obstacles, lack of accomodative education systems, inaccessibilty to information, inappropriate and unavailable health care services. With all these problems I could not exploit my ability to its full potential.

Watch a video interview with Francesca.



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