The temperature hovers around 40 degrees at Barnham primary school, which has 2,518 students and 30 teachers.
Halima, 9, is concentrating on her work, surrounded by some one hundred other students. She likes school and she wants to learn. She has lived in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya for 5 years.
According to her mother, Isha: “We lived in Somalia with my husband, Abdellah, and our seven children. We worked the land and had very poor incomes. The country was being torn apart by war. Our parents were kidnapped and killed. We only wanted one thing: to get away from the bloodshed as quickly as possible.”
At the beginning, Isha and Abdella didn’t notice anything. But when Halima was three, she got a bad fever. Their neighbours suggested treating her with medicinal plants, without success. When she was four years old, they took her to hospital. They diagnosed her with cerebral palsy, which gives rise to coordination problems. Halima was sent home with some medicines for her fever. But nothing else.
The same year, 2010, Halima and her family left Somalia, heading first for the Dadaab refugee camp, to the east of Kenya, then Kakuma. “For four years, Halima stayed sitting on the ground, without care and without complaining,” Isha tells us.
In July 2014, Handicap International’s rehabilitation team met Halima, examined her legs and talked with her parents. The organisation immediately gave her a new wheelchair, a special seat for school, and, since September, has organised rehabilitation sessions for her.
“Halima is making progress. We stretch her muscles, massage her legs. She’s developing better balance and self-reliance. She is less shy, and dares to give us a few genuine smiles,” explains Jared Obuya, one of Handicap International’s rehabilitation trainers in Kenya. "The organisation has also installed rehabilitation parallel bars outside her house, so that she can exercise at home. “Because of the heat, the distances and her family situation, it’s essential,” he adds.
It’s playtime. Porridge is being distributed to the students. Two girls run towards Halima and wheel her out of the classroom. According to her mother.
“We’re safe here, but our living conditions are still very difficult. I have seven children and a young Somalian girl, who we are hosting. My husband is ill. We don’t have enough water. Too many mouths to feed and not enough food. Without Handicap International, Halima wouldn’t be able to go to school and she wouldn’t progress. I’m relieved we’re being supported, and I’m happy that my daughter can finally move forward.”