Ali Macnaughton: How Project Riandu is seeking to empower Deaf teenagers in Kenya

Posted on July 15, 2015

Project Riandu is an ambitious project with a fantastic aim. It seeks to change the lives of deaf teenagers in eastern Kenya for years to come.

The collaborative team, consisting of both Kenyan and UK groups, has recognised the difficulties faced by young deaf people in Kenya. Not only are they burdened with communicative challenges, but also face marginalisation, demonization and discrimination[1].

Ashamed parents hide their deaf children thus restricting them from educational, social and employment opportunities. Many are abused both physically and sexually. Only 12% of deaf people in Kenya are educated to secondary level[2]. This has severe consequences for their quality of life and ability to tackle the poverty that 34-42% of Kenyans live in[3].

It was originally the Mbeere Mothers’ Union who saw this injustice and wanted to change it. They funded and built a primary school for the deaf which now has 150 students per year. But this is not good enough. They have seen many deaf students being forced to leave the primary school with no prospect of the future education necessary for them to participate meaningfully within the local economy.

To change local stereotypes and opportunities, deaf teenagers need the skills to succeed. By the provision of a secondary school level of education, they should be well equipped to integrate into society and to take ownership of their lives. The school will be located between two mainstream schools thus ensuring the students learn how to interact with hearing people.


Elizabeth, one of the students set to move into the school, informed the UK team of her desire to become a doctor. She is smart and has an ever-improving command of KSL (Kenyan Sign Language). But she will not be able to even consider this option unless she has a secondary school to attend.

The Mbeere Mothers Union invited a UK team of volunteer students to support the project. They are fundraising, providing building designs and committing to help on the build site this summer in Kenya. The teams involved are so very passionate for the success of the project.


A great part of the project is the awareness of deafness that it is bringing to both Kenyan and UK communities. The UK team are working like mad to raise the money to support the build (they are self-funding their personal trip costs). Through the project, they are learning a lot about deafness and sharing this with their peers. It is revolutionary for the Kenyan team to be making these steps towards a more inclusive society as deafness has been majorly stigmatised in their history. Combating centuries of it demonization they are making a bold step for rights of deaf people. The UK student team are majorly inspired by this group.

Does our aim motivate you to help us? Last year we built enough buildings to cater for 46 deaf students at the school.

The building work continues until it will cater for 200 students as intended by the local team. But to do this…we need further funds, £400,000 in total!! Why not get involved? Let us know of any skills or fundraising ideas you have. Make a rogue decision and volunteer with us?

Visit our website: Watch our documentary: Donate at: Any other queries, please contact:

Do continue to follow our exciting story!

[1] State of Disabled People’s Rights in Kenya, African Union of the Blind, p12, 2007, viewed 11/03/15

[2] The global average of children enrolled in secondary school is 73%. Statistics sourced from 2012, World Bank.

[3] World Bank Statistic, viewed 11/03/15

Ali Macnaughton is the UK Assistant Project Manager for Project Riandu. Find out more about the project at these links: Website: Documentary:  Facebook: Our Twitter:

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