In honor of Women’s Month, Mary Kuria, Director of Operations and Head of School at the Ubuntu Life Special Needs Centre, shares how she provides healing and promotes hope through education.
The theme for Women’s Month this year is Providing Healing, Promoting Hope. These concepts are nothing new to Mary Kuria, Director of Operations and Head of School at the Ubuntu Life Special Needs Centre in Maai Mahiu, Kenya.
Healing and hope are part of every aspect of Mary’s work. As a lifelong educator, Mary has dedicated her entire career to helping children in need. We sat down with Mary to learn more about her journey as an educator, how healing plays a part in her work each day, and what her hopes are for the future.
Mary earned her degree in education and was a teacher in Kenya before leaving for the U.S. for eight years. She taught seventh and eighth grade in the U.S., a system which is very different from the one back home. When she returned to Kenya, Mary took a job at a school that offered a hybrid American and Kenyan approach to education.
Still, Mary felt it was important for her students in Kenya to stay in a system that fostered their roles in the local community.
“I wanted these children to serve Kenya, and go to a Kenyan high school,” Mary says.
After accomplishing this goal, Mary joined the Ubuntu Life Foundation as Director of Operations and Head of School.
The children who Mary and the school serve have challenges that range from Cerebral Palsy to Autism to learning disabilities like A.D.H.D. It is a wide spectrum of challenges, one that Mary says traditional schools in Kenya lack the training to address or even identify.
And it’s not just the teachers—many parents are stretched too thin in their daily lives to provide the kind of educational support their children need at home.
“Most of the parents are very busy concentrating on getting food on the table,” Mary says, adding that when parents are told that their child is not doing well in school, the stress and overwhelming nature of their situation compounds.
Because many of the parents Mary interacts with are totally preoccupied with basic survival, they don’t always recognize early on that their children need extra help in school.
“If [children with learning disabilities like A.D.H.D.] had early intervention, they would be fine,” Mary says. “But [the parents] come to us when the teachers are like, ‘We are sick and tired of these kids because they cannot write their names, they cannot say their sounds, they cannot do simple things, so we are done.’”
That’s when Mary and her Ubuntu Life Foundation team step in to help, providing hope for families that feel they otherwise have nowhere to go.
There is a lot to be hopeful about for Mary and her team this year. With the opening of the new Children’s Wellness Centre just a few short months away, Mary is hoping to be able to serve even more children, providing healing and hope for a bigger part of the community.
“My hope would be that we are going to have more kids at the Centre so that they can get the help that they need,” Mary says. “Right now we have so many who are on our waiting list, and I hope that those who are on our waiting list will be able to come.”
In addition, Mary is hopeful that as she and her team work to educate the wider community, more early intervention will be possible.
“My hope more than anything else is that most of these disabilities would be identified earlier by the whole community,” Mary says. “Training is my thing. I’m looking at it like, in 10 years, every person can be able to say, ‘this kid needs some special intervention.’”
This type of healing journey takes time. It takes training. It takes commitment. But Mary has hope.