Ninety-eight percent of Africa’s disabled children don’t attend school.
In 2005, I visited Oriang School, near Kisumu in Kenya, on behalf of UK-based disability charity Leonard Cheshire Disability. It was one of five local primary schools participating in the charity’s project to boost the enrolment of disabled pupils within regular schools.
Most of my work involved photographing the children as they went about their day, participating in classes and engaging with other school children. However, one afternoon I decided to take a quick series of portraits of some of the children I’d been focusing on, standing in a shaded area behind their classroom.
Coming back to the project many years later, I was struck by the images that I had taken so hastily. They seemed to have a tenderness and poignancy that I had not recognised at the time.
Finlay Mugare, age 9.
Finlay was born with severely deformed limbs. His father was banished from the village for having three disabled children. Finlay is now class prefect.
Shem Odemba, age 13.
Shem suffers from post-polio paralysis. She is a bright child and keen footballer. She has lost both of her parents.
Alfred Mugare, age 12.
Alfred and his two siblings were born with deformed limbs. Their father was banished from the village, as having three disabled children was considered a curse.
Guston Opar, age 15.
Guston was born with severe deformities of the spine and feet, and was kept hidden by his family for much of his childhood. He is a star pupil at Oriang school and a formidable spokesperson for disabled children’s rights.