Njeri Muthoni is a B Com alumni who graduated virtually in May. She has been a peer counselor and a person living with disability in Kimathi and says that DeKUT is her favorite place in the world. Influencer got her to share her experience and asked her a couple of questions. In her words, below is her story:
Three years ago on 22nd January, 2017, I got into the gates of Dedan Kimathi University of Technology and immediately, I knew I was going to have a wonderful four years. But the professionalism and time consciousness of everybody in this environment coupled with unfathomable grace would have it that I finish my degree in three short years. From the people I met at the gate on that day to all the offices on whose doors I have knocked those three years, I can never wrap my head around the goodness projected towards me and all my friends, as far as I know.
Getting a bachelor of commerce in marketing feels so good I cannot even begin to explain it. But you know what feels even better? Knowing exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life.
In the first month of being in DeKUT, I got an opportunity to be trained as an in-house peer-counselor. To say the least, I got the best kick start for a life in campus. Having a disability and looking quite different, I had made my peace with being treated differently and most of all being underestimated. I was ready for the same cycle here, but the positivity in DeKUT would never have it that way. I was used to being the receiver of help everywhere I went, but in DeKUT I was able to be taught and be led to know that I can be a great source of help to as many people as I wished. It was the first time I was entrusted with the ability, knowledge and certification to influence people towards positivity. Those days of training totally shaped the rest of my life.
For the rest of my time in Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, all I could do outside my school work was grow and cause growth in other people. DeKUT presented great opportunities for me to volunteer in departments that I had and still have interest in, among them, the marketing department and the counseling department.
In counseling, I was able to discover that I wanted to do that kind of work for the rest of my life. I was able to know that creating awareness about disability and helping people going through the same struggles as me would be a great part of the rest of my life.
That’s why immediately after completing my degree coursework I enrolled for a higher diploma in Counseling Psychology. All this would not have happened without me being in DeKUT. People say that there are two very important days in ones life; the day one is born, and the day they find their purpose. I like to think the same for places. That is why, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology is my favorite place in the world yet.
1. Who is Njeri Muthoni?
Njeri is a bubbly, fun, extroverted woman who is passionate about mental wellness and creating awareness about disability.
2. You have been a person living with disability in Kimathi. What has the Gender and Disability Mainstreaming Secretary and the Student Welfare Department done to create a suitable environment for people living with disability in DeKUT?
There’s a support group for us. I continue to be part of them even after graduating. Well, mostly we focus on what we can do for ourselves. We are for the idea that the people with disability should do what they can for themselves. But the university has mostly put in place structures where we do not need much help. And Cecilia the Gender Secretary – is a part of the support group, a very vibrant one. We welcome just anyone who wants to learn how to live and thrive while being or looking different.
We are called NIKOPOA. We usually met on alternative Wednesdays for mental wellness discussions being led by a counselor. And having so much support from the disability mainstreaming committee. And we usually did disability games with support from the sports department. Mr. Ngata mostly trains and supports us.
There’s so much the students welfare does. We’re given internal accommodation for easier access of school facilities. Making sure those that can’t are helped with cleaning and everything. Yani we’re sorted.
3. What about DeKUT as a university?
Disability Mainstreaming is actually 90% done in DeKUT. Buildings are ramped such that someone with mobility difficulties can access most parts of the institution, sign language is offered for most functions. For visual difficulties, there is software that is available especially in the library to help. Transportation for students and staff that may have difficulties moving from one point in the university to another is catered for. A person with any kind of disability can comfortably study and live in DeKUT.
And the most important support; psychological support is perfectly offered by the students welfare’s counseling department.
DeKUT has made such huge strides within such a short time in matters disability. And the future looks bright.
It also employs persons with disabilities and the includes them in the tendering process as required by the government to give jobs and tenders to PWDs 5% and 10% respectively.
4. Are there events for People Living with Disability in DeKUT?
There’s a tradition of disability mainstreaming luncheons done every year. There’s always a disability week; where staff and students are sensitized about living with people with disabilities.
The disability mainstreaming week every year is a whole week dedicated to creating awareness on disability all through the week using different means. There’s a luncheon to sensitize the staff, games, walks and talks for the students.
5. Is there an improvement that you think should be made?
I have always thought lecturers should be sensitized most since they interact with students often. There should be a better database knowing where students with disabilities are and what kind of help they need. For example those with visual difficulties need larger printed exams and notes, they shouldn’t have to push.
But also students with different kinds of difficulties might do a better job at coming out and taking their places and rights.
I have always thought, for example, that in a class that has a student with mobility difficulties; the cod and all lecturers should know that student’s needs. That way, lecturers put in classes where they can be accessed by even that student without difficulty.
Basically, there should be a better system.
And the easiest way is to know students as they report on the first day during first year reception. The school should know all the special needs students they receive that day.
6. In your view, what does the perfect world for people living with disability in our society look like?
I look forward to when disability will not be a means to demand charity. And to when PWDs will be empowered and giving, not always receiving. And the easiest way there, is through education. I can’t insist enough on that.
Plus people should not feel compelled to give to beggars in town.
7. You mentioned that you are a peer counselor. Tell us about peer counseling in Kimathi.
I think universities have way too many opportunities for their students for any of them to leave with just a degree. Peer counseling was my extra, and don’t I love it. Peer counseling is basically a counseling course tailored for counselors who want to counsel people of their social group. The students welfare’s counseling department found or thought it better that students seek help from people they identify with.
That’s how it came into being long before I was there. It’s a one week full-day intensive training. If not to help other people, it teaches you a lot about yourself. You learn to help people with all sorts of life issues from grieving to addiction, of course with the close guidance of the professional counseling psychologists in the department.
8. How was the experience of being a peer counselor?
Mostly, educative, but also, a lot of fun. I got to be in the middle of psychologists, who are very very smart. But what I am happiest about is that I discovered what I enjoy doing; which is counseling psychology. It totally shaped my career choices. I think it’s the main reason I do so well supporting and counseling persons with different disabilities in different forums I am in.
9. You also volunteered in the marketing department. How was that like?
I got to travel marketing the university, meet people I’d never have met and most importantly practice what I had been learning in class. I am also happy about mentoring high school students who came to visit the university, while I was there. Still, I am glad to have met people who work in the marketing department, that are very passionate about the institution. All they do all day is pick calls, run social media sites and reply to messages telling students to pick DeKUT as their institution of higher learning. I mean, that is passion.
10. This has been a pleasure. How can comrades reach you?
On social media: Njeri Muthoni Facebook and Instagram.
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