Posted by Francesca Rutherford on Wednesday 28th March 2018

My name is Masho Kidanemariam. I was born in 1988 in the Northern region of Ethiopia in a village called Feresmay. My family were pastoralists and after school I would help my family shepherd our goat herd.

At the age of 10 years old, whilst caring for our goats, I stopped to cool off in a river. I will never know what happened but I was left unable to see.

It took my parents a month to save up enough money to take me to the nearest Hospital in Mekele. It was there that it was confirmed that I would be blind for life.

I faced an uncertain future. Unless I could get a place at one of the only ‘blind schools’ in the country, it was likely that I would end up begging to survive. Thankfully after a year of waiting, I was finally offered a
residential place at the Mekele Blind School.

When I joined the school I lived with other blind children who came from different parts of the region. I felt so lucky. I loved learning and I’d been given another chance, my future had been given back to me.

Sadly very few children in Ethiopia who have special educational needs are able to access appropriate learning. Just 1% of these children are able to attend a specialist school like I did. The rest are often abandoned by their families and communities. Left to fend for themselves, they face a life of begging and extreme poverty.

Please help me to reach visually impaired children who, just like me, want more than anything to be in school.

Life in the school fulfilled all our needs. We had an education, shelter, food, clothes and friendships - even if our dormitory roof leaked and our clothes were rags. I was so lucky to be enjoying a different life from the time before my blindness. With the support of my new friends I was able to adapt to the unfamiliar school environment and to living so far away from my family. So many of my peers were a long way from home. The little ones, some as young as five years old, found it particularly hard.

Our school only had enough beds in its cramped leaky dormitories for students up to grade 8. Aged just 14 years old I had to leave the safety of the school and move to a single rented room in the town. It was hard.

I had to learn to cook, clean and find my way around. I lived with a few of my friends and received a small monthly allowance of 120 birr (£3.16) from school but it was only enough to cover rent and one meal a day. I suffered a lot of hardship in those days.

Despite this, I was still top of my class and was awarded a grant to study law at Mekele University in 2009. I completed law school with distinction and was a medalist during the graduation.

I want to change how people think and advocate for those who have little or no voice of their own. Without support, these children have little chance to show their ability. I believe that every child deserves an education.

The school receives minimal Government funding and sadly the equipment and facilities are aged, poor quality or falling apart. The health and safety of the 92 students is always a concern but this is their best hope of an education.

£10  a month will ensure a blind child, far from home, will be cared for in a safe environment.

Since working for SENTigray I have been doing my best to introduce modern governance, equip the children with adaptive materials and skills, increase their care and support, fix holes in roofs and increase the monthly allowance for the children who, aged just 14, are expected to live and manage on their own.

The school desperately needs additional accommodation so that it can admit more students. So many are losing out on even a basic education. For the children already here, we need more specialised learning resources, better quality food and improved safety. These are all basic human rights.

With your help I hope to make the school a better place for the blind children who have nowhere else to turn. I am asking you to kindly help me pave the way for their future.

Thank you, 
Masho Kidanemariam
Executive Director, SENTigray

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