A day in the life of ... Samuel Odawo

Every day is a challenge for this blind teacher of students with visual impairments in the world's largest refugee camp in Kenya. Helping to change attitudes towards these children is his mission

Ed Dorrell

My alarm rings at 6am, announcing the beginning of another amazing day teaching students with visual impairments at Juba Primary School. This is a sacred calling. In my mind, it is hard to believe that I am in the largest - and some say most dangerous - refugee complex in the world, Dadaab, because in my heart I am at perfect peace.

I say my prayers and get up. I turn on the radio, my only talking companion in the room, so I can listen to some music and news as I prepare for the day. I hurry because my guide Noordin, a refugee staying in the Dagahaley refugee camp, arrives at around 6.30am to escort me to breakfast in the compound where I live.

I open the windows to let in the fresh air, make my bed and get into the shower. Being a teacher, I am a role model and so am very keen on looking smart. I have learned the right clothes to wear by asking my sighted friends and family which colours match.

Soon my guide knocks on the door: "Samuel, how are you?" His voice rings out cheerfully as I open the door to usher him in. Noordin has been instrumental in helping me to learn the compound and Dagahaley in general. He is a very kind and jovial person. Dagahaley is one of the five camps that form the vast Dadaab refugee complex, which houses thousands of people who have escaped the civil war in Somalia.

After breakfast, I arrive at school at around 7.15am and organise the classroom as I wait for the students to arrive. They are often a bit late as they have to be escorted to school to avoid being harassed by other children. Part of my mission is to help change this dehumanising attitude and practice. I am for ever thankful to the charity CARE International for giving me this wonderful opportunity to do such a noble job.

Lessons begin at 8am. My work is concentrated mostly in the special needs education unit, where I teach Braille to students, most of whom are in the lower primary. I also teach them other subjects, such as English and social studies.

Different classes are sometimes forced to be in one room because of a lack of classrooms, and I move from one section of the room to another, attending to students of different levels. This is a tricky balance indeed as the teacher must ensure total class control, although I now know the different voices of my students and that makes it easier. Sometimes I have to rely on interpreters, which makes things harder.

When I get some time between lessons, I use the opportunity to work with other teachers to help integrate the disabled into their lessons. At 12.45pm, I go for lunch. From 2pm, I conduct remedial lessons for the rest of the teaching day, after which I do some paperwork. I leave for the CARE compound at just after 4pm.

When I get back to my room, I freshen up and go with one of my friends to the tukul (hut) where staff sit sipping tea and chatting to unwind after a busy day.

At 7pm, I join my friends in the TV room to watch the news and then we go to dinner. Later, I head to the office where I can study, email and use Facebook using screen-reader software. I always try to contact my beloved fiancee Margaret, whom I plan to marry this December.

I leave the office at 9.45pm, exhausted, in need of a good rest, satisfied with the day's achievements and looking forward to the challenges of tomorrow.

Your day

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Ed Dorrell

Ed Dorrell

Ed Dorrell is deputy editor and head of content at the TES, former features and comment editor and former news editor. 

Find me on Twitter @Ed_Dorrell

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