Bringing football to visually impaired children in Kenya

16th December 2013

Joseph is 11 years old and has been in the school for 5 years. He is in Class 5, has albinism and was one of the first pupils to rush to the field to participate in the training.

There are 17,000 blind children in Kenya, but only six specialist schools in the whole country. Blind and visually impaired children often grow up without the support that they need and find themselves without the education and skills to prosper.

Partnering with the Angus Lawson Memorial Trust has enabled Alive & Kicking to undertake an ambitious project to allow blind and visually impaired young people to take part in competitive sport.

Allowing visually impaired young people to participate in sport brings a wide range of benefits, from increased confidence and self-esteem to improved health and a sense of community.

300 sound balls are being donated to specialist schools across Kenya

Using especially designed ‘sound balls,’ 400 children and their teachers are being given an introduction to blind football and the ability to play the sport themselves going forward.

Alive & Kicking Kenya has been making sound balls since 2010. They contain ball bearing ‘ringers’ which players to participate using their sense of hearing rather than sight.

300 sound balls have been hand-stitched at our Nairobi workshop, contributing to our aim of creating sustainable employment for disadvantaged adults in Nairobi.

Working with UNICEF’s Jonathan Coles and six players from local professional club FC Talanta, Alive & Kicking set out to visit the six special schools, teaching the students how to play blind football and organising specialised coaching sessions.

With 600 primary and secondary students, Thika School for the Blind is the largest special school in East Africa and hosted the first sessions of this initiative. Alive & Kicking visited Thika over three days in November, providing coaching and games for 150 children.

Before a game or coaching session, the players gauge the size of the pitch by walking around the perimeter.

As is usual in blind football, the goalkeepers were sighted and the games had roles for the different categories of visual impairment – B1, B2 and B3. This allowed students with varying visual ability to participate together. The B1 (totally blind) students were particularly enthusiastic to be able to participate in the training drills and game.

Despite the difficulties of playing on an uneven surface, the coaches were able to train the students how to dribble, pass and shoot using simply the sound of the ball. Teachers at the school were taught the basics of the game and now have the ability to organise blind football matches themselves.

Grace Munyao Mungai is the school’s physical education teacher. She has been working with visually impaired children for 24 years and believes that participating in sport boosts the students’ self-esteem, encourages teamwork and improves their motor skills. The students rarely take part in any kind of competition, however, due in part to the low number of other specialist schools for the blind.

Following the success of the coaching sessions and games at Thika School for the Blind, Alive & Kicking plans to hold similar sessions at Kenya’s other specialist schools. Students at these schools will be given an introduction to blind football and their teachers will learn how to lead coaching sessions themselves.

Staff and students at Thika School for the Blind

Once each school has been equipped with the skills and balls to organise their own games, they will be invited to participate at an event involving the other schools. This event will give the teams an opportunity to put their newly-learnt skills to the test by competing against other schools.

Following the sessions at Thika School, the specialist schools closed for Christmas at short notice, two weeks earlier than expected. The project will therefore continue at the beginning of the spring term in January.

Alive & Kicking will visit the remaining schools from the second week in January, with Jonathan Coles and the FC Talanta players giving their students and teachers an introduction to blind football. The tournament between the schools will be scheduled for the last week of January and is likely to be held at Thika School for the Blind.