My purpose is to push for social integration of the deaf community in inclusive settings. Peter Kabethi.

One thing I know for sure is that a genuine smile always manifests victory and abundance. When I met the ever smiling Peter Kabethi who hails from Nyeri, Kenya, I felt so happy, full of life and victorious. I kid you not, this man is always smiling. Peter who lost his hearing at a young age is a special needs teacher, a deaf education advocate and a community service enthusiast.

What inspired you to become a professional teacher for the deaf?

I never at one time as a child dreamed of being a teacher. I was into commerce and finance. I tried several times to get admission into university for a degree in finance but it was futile because many institutions didn’t admit deaf students at the time.

I later settled for a teaching course after witnessing a mass failure in both primary and high schools by deaf students.

I knew I wanted to be a part of helping as many deaf students as possible because there are so many challenges out there.

Peter, I have to get this out of the way. Everyone describes you by your smile. I know Kenyans smile a lot but yours is, like, constant. Is that by choice?

I get that a lot. [laughter] I’ve always had it I guess since I can remember. Maybe it’s by choice. Life is a gift and a smile is a choice regardless of the situation you are in, you know.

I was born a normal child, a third born in a family of six children. When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with a disease that was known as blue baby. It’s a condition where there’s a hole between the ventricles. My body could not withstand surgery at the time and I had to wait till I was 10.

I contracted malaria after the surgery and by the second week of treatment, I started losing my hearing and ended up totally deaf.

Everything changed. You can imagine being deaf in a class of hearing pupils. I relied on self study. I was stigmatized and couldn’t take part in games or extra curricula activities. It was a difficult time for the young me. I think I learned resilience at a very young age.

Talk to us a little more about your work.

Other than teaching, I also coach students in games and sports. In 2012, one of my students participated in the World Deaf Athletics Championship in Canada. She also represented Kenya in the Deaf Olympics competition in Sophia, Bulgaria in 2015.

I am the coordinator of deaf athletics in the Central region of Kenya. This work involves mobilizing adults to participate in athletics. Most of them have represented Kenya and won gold and silver medals.

I am the assistant treasurer of the Handball Deaf Team of Kenya. We participated in the first world deaf handball championship in 2018. We got first position in Africa and became fifth in the world. I couldn’t join them on this one because I was attending the YALI fellowship.

You just mentioned the Mandela Washington Fellowship. How has attending leadership programs impacted your vision as an African leader?

Leadership programs are very important for young leaders. Having been a part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, The Wells Mountain Initiative Fellowship, The Global Development Award, Kenya, I have grown in my leadership and interpersonal skills.

My vision is to have a society where deaf people are included in major decision making organs. We face a lot of self-avowed “experts” who decide matters relating to deaf people without including or understanding us.

My end goal is to set up a platform that will be used to advocate for the free education for deaf people from primary school all the way to college.

I am constantly looking to partner with institutions which advocate for deaf people in matters education.

I’d like to encourage young people to work together and take this continent to the next level. We come from greatness. We are greatness and we must intend to build even greater environments for our future generations. Don’t think and strategize for your children only. Build and strategize for 10 generations from now.

When this brave young leader is not all serious in a classroom or in sports activities, he loves watching South African drama series like Scandal and Rhythm City. He also loves a plate of ugali and beef stew which he claims gives him maximum satisfaction.

Peter reminds me of Tony Elumelu’s Africapitalism philosophy. Look it up if you haven’t already. We wish you the very best Peter, keep soaring like the eagle you are. Keep transforming lives.


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