"Children like us are just left. People think that there is no hope for us and that we are useless because there is no help we can give to the community."
The nearest school is 10km away. There's no proper roads, and no bus to take you there. And you're blind. Which way would you start walking? Okello's future looked pretty dark.
Due to the decades of conflict and poverty in northern Uganda, it's hard enough to get any child back into school. Disabled children often miss out altogether.
There's a big stigma around disability within local communities, and children like Okello are often seen as a burden to their families.
Like hundreds of thousands of others, Okello's family had been forced to flee their home and live in a Displacement Camp where they could be protected from the Lord's Resistance Army.
His parents managed to keep all seven of their children in some kind of education in the camp but Okello became blind in 2007 – just as people started to move back home.
Okello's brothers and sisters returned to school, but his parents could not afford to send him to the nearest specialized one. So he stayed at home.
“With all of my brothers and sisters at school I felt hopeless at home and unsure of my future.”
When his father died last year, his family struggled even more to put food on the table and keep their children in school.
“My mother helped teach me how to work in the garden and we saved some little money for the family. It gave me confidence, but I still wanted an education.“
Here's where Okello's future started looking a lot brighter.
His Uncle signed him up for War Child's disabled education Programme at Paipir Primary school. They've just built two new dormitories so that more disabled children can stay at the school — and stay in education. And they're providing Braille machines, specliazed teaching support and help with fees and family income.
After five years at home, Okello is now back in the classroom and learning alongside his peers. This inclusive education style is a great way of breaking down the barriers and stigma that people have towards disability.
“My life has completely changed since I have been able to attend school again. When I first came I was fearing how the other students would react to me and if we would be able to socialize but now we have become close friends who share ideas and help each other in many ways. I was scared that my performance would be poor after missing five years of school, but the teachers have been helping me so much and now I'm even helping the other students with their homework, especially math.”
“MY FATHER NEVER GOT TO SEE ME GO BACK TO SCHOOL, BUT HE WAS ALWAYS ENCOURAGING US TO AIM FOR A HIGH CAREER, SO I THINK HE WOULD BE SO, SO PROUD OF ME NOW.“ - OKELLO
“I would like to go to Secondary school so that I can learn to use the computer and become an accountant. When I'm successful I will be able to help support my family and my mother who encouraged me back in the village.”
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