Achuka Simon lost the use of his legs from polio as an infant, but he never lost his determination and spirit. As a Primary Five student at Acherer Primary School in North Eastern Uganda, Achuka lives approximately 40 minutes from his school, a distance hard enough for an able-bodied student, but even more challenging for one with a disability. Being born to a very poor family coupled with not being able to walk poised a serious challenge to Achuka. However, he was resolute and determined to get an education. When a local charity gave his family a wheelbarrow to construct a latrine, Achuka saw this as an opportunity for his school transport. He was so eager to start school, that not even beginning Primary One at 9 years old, when most other students start at six years bothered him. For years, his brother graciously pushed him to and from school each day in the wheelbarrow, only missing a day when his family required the wheelbarrow for farm work.
IIRR began an education project in Moroto District in 2015. One of the components was to help Special Needs Children access education. Through this program, Achuka got a wheelchair to help him better get around. Since receiving his wheelchair, Achuka’s academic performance has greatly improved. He went from being one of the lowest performing students in his class to part of the first half. During promotional exams from Primary Four to Five, Achuka was graded 24th out of 42 pupils. He is now 15 years old and a strong believer of “disability is not inability”.
IIRR works to ensure children like Achuka get a chance at a better life. In some communities, children with disabilities are considered bad omens and hidden in their homes. IIRR works to break down these stereotypes by engaging parents, schools, and governments, and advocates that all children have equal access to education
despite any physical or mental challenges.
Interventions for Special Needs Children have included eye surgery and lenses for the visually impaired, wheelchairs and crutches for children with walking difficulty, and lumber corsets for those with back deformities. Remedial teaching and scholastic materials have also been provided to help students who need extra help catching up to their peers.
I was excited to get a wheelchair from IIRR, and I can now wheel myself to school, especially if it’s not muddy. Other children now support me easily because it is easier to push the wheelchair.