Striving for better teaching. EENET Interview: Peter Mwanyalo, Kenya
Enabling disabled people to become teachers can help to challenge negative attitudes in schools and society. Peter Mwanyalo is blind and has changed career from musician to teacher in Kenya. In this interview, Peter talks about his determination to be a better teacher than those who taught him at school.
Why do you want to become a teacher?
People have always told me that because of the way I explain things, I should become a teacher. Even before I started my training, people said I already seemed like a teacher. I certainly felt that I could teach better than the teachers I knew!
In 2007 I attended an EENET seminar in Nairobi about information sharing and inclusive education – this was a new and enjoyable learning experience for me. From then on I decided to develop a career in teaching. I want to improve the quality of education offered to children in my home area, and in the country as a whole.
What training are you doing and where?
I am training to be a primary school teacher at Mosoriot Teachers Training College in Kenya. I will teach languages, music, social studies and religious education. It is a two-year course and I’ll finish in July 2012.
What did you do before this training?
I have come to teaching quite late in life. I previously worked as a musician and I ran a café. I have also led groups of people in different activities in my village, and I am a peer counsellor on health issues. My life experiences mean I am confident in dealing with all kinds of people – young and old – which will be useful for teaching children and building good relationships with their parents.
What do you think of the training?
As a blind trainee, I use Braille, but we lack Braille reading materials and sometimes there is a shortage of Braille paper. There is also a lack of mathematical equipment which makes it impossible for visually impaired students to be examined in this subject. There are no qualified lecturers in special education, and only one knows Braille, so there can be challenges when it comes to transcribing and marking exams. I am trying hard in computer training too, so that I can teach using Jaws software and data projectors. My main interest is to read as widely as possible and to learn teaching skills. I also participate in goal ball and athletics.
How do you get along with the other trainees?
They have been very supportive, and have gradually improved as they have given more thought to their interaction with me. Some find it normal to be studying alongside a blind trainee, because they have been taught by teachers who are visually or physically impaired in their schools back home.
What will you do when the training is complete?
I intend to teach in regular schools in my community – I’m not going to teach in a special school just because I am blind. During our teaching practice we are given sighted assistants who help prepare charts, write and draw on the chalkboard, and assist with marking. When a visually impaired teacher is employed, the government pays for assistants. I am still interested in special education issues, and would eventually like to do the special education training course, and get a university degree.
What was your own education like?
I attended a special school for blind children. It was a long way from home, so I only saw my family during the holidays. I definitely want to be a better teacher than my teachers were. In my life experiences, and at the teacher training college, I have acquired skills for teaching that I feel my teachers either didn’t know about or chose to ignore when they were teaching me. I can do better!
Peter can be contacted through EENET.