|27 Sep 2023
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize
Graduating from Narok Teachers Training Collage with her Primary Teacher Certificate, Millicent Cassianes felt compelled to help children with special needs in her village who were neglected with no access to education and making their way through life impoverished, abandoned, uneducated, malnourished, discriminated against, neglected and vulnerable, life a daily struggle to survive. Such conditions exposed them to the risk of missing out on their childhood, as well as being excluded from essential services such as hospitals and schools, lacking the protection of family and community and often at risk of exploitation and abuse. Already inspired to become a teacher just like her parents were, Millicent chose special needs education specifically to be able to serve this vulnerable group, going to Kenya Institute of Special Education and studying for a diploma in special needs education, specialized in learning difficulties, and to Kenya Methodist University for a degree in inclusive education, guidance and counselling.
Employed by the Teachers Service Commission as a P1 teacher at Amoyo Primary School and later at Senye Special Unit, her work with children with special needs eventually brought her to BL Tezza Complex Primary school. Here she met 60 children living in an orphanage at Dala Kiye who were HIV postive with around a third suffering from severe hearing loss and infections. Millicent visited a range of hospitals to learn how to treat them, clean their ears and administer medications. Most of these young learners were unable to read and solve basic mathematical problems so she created an individualized education program to address their specific learning difficulties. Noting her efforts, further deaf children were brought forward to her from the community who had been hidden, which inspired her to start a school for the deaf.
Rising to the challenge she registered for Kenyan sign language tuition and came back to search for more hidden children, starting BL Tezza Special School for the Deaf with a handful of children and growing it through community sensitization sessions in churches, chief's meetings, addressing public forums and home visits. Outgrowing their original orphanage base, the school moved locations and Millicent took out a bank loan to buy land to build it on, then networked and lobbied to secure generous donations and support from Italian human development and health NGO PRO.Sa, the National Fund for the Disabled of Kenya and Cornelia Foundation to help build a dormitory, twin classroom and greenhouses. Here, with currently over 120 hearing impaired children on her books, Millicent is able to educate them about the environment and engage in tree planting while running school projects for them such as vegetable and poultry farming that they can practically derive food from, and transfer those same skills to their home environment.
Incorporating ICT into lessons has broadened her students’ outlook via a range of resources such as YouTube videos, they have also excelled with sports and dance activities, and through partnership with WeWorld NGO Millicent has been trained on the implementation of the competency based curriculum which helps hone all-round learning skills which ultimately help students employability prospects, with many of them exceling in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and various national awards.