Read caption With the help of a software program that allows her to use the computer with ease, visually impaired Istarlin, 17, is studying computer literacy at our youth centre in Kakuma. Photo: Fatuma Abdullahi/NRC

Learning a new skill against all odds

Fatuma Abdullahi|Published 26. Jan 2018
Istarlin is a 17-year-old who has lived in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp since 2009. She is funny, easy to talk to and a class favourite. She is also visually impaired.

With the help of JAWS Screen reader,a software program that allows her to use the computer with ease, Istarlin is studying computer literacy at our youth centre in Kakuma.  “Having a disability doesn’t stop us from living. We learn and can depend on ourselves,” she says.

The Support for the Protection and Assistance of Refugees in Kenya (SPARK) programme offers young people training in basic computer skills. The course teaches young refugees how to use Microsoft packages and the internet, and covers both typing and email. Once they finish the course, the students sit for a Kenyan national examination held by the Computer Society of Kenya. When they pass the exam, the students receive a recognised certificate that they can use in the future. 

Having a disability doesn’t stop us from living. We learn and can depend on ourselves.
Istarlin, 17, lives in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya

A bright future awaits 

Before the war broke out in her home country of Somalia, Istarlin studied in braille, a writing system used by people who are visually impaired. When her family arrived in Kakuma refugee camp, her former teacher found her and offered to pay for her studies at Thika School for the Blind, where she finished her primary studies and the first year of secondary school.

When Istarlin fell ill with epilepsy, however, she couldn’t finish her studies. Her dream of becoming a psychologist was dashed. After her return to the refugee camp, she asked to work as an interpreter with the organisation Handicap International, but she was underage, and the organisation couldn’t hire her. They instead informed her about the courses offered at our youth centre. 

       

Read caption Together with the Support for the Protection and Assistance of Refugees in Kenya (SPARK) programme, we offer young people training in basic computer skills. With the help of a software program that allows her to use the computer with ease, Istarlin is studying computer literacy at our youth centre in Kakuma. Here Istarlin speaks at the launch of SPARK online platforms. Photo: Fatuma Abdullahi/NRC

      

“I started studying ICT here, it’s not braille so everyone can actually understand what I write,” she says.

Currently, 270 students are undertaking the ICT course at the youth centre. The course takes two hours a day and lasts for 6 months. Free transportation is offered to students who live far away and to those with disabilities.

“Once I finish this course, I would like to work in an office with a computer, write emails and type documents in addition to being an interpreter,” an excited Istarlin adds.

 

About the project

The SPARK programme is funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and focuses on long-term solutions to protracted displacement crises, which includes interventions promoting livelihoods and economic development to enable future self-reliance for displaced and affected communities.