WHERE WE BEGAN
Background and Context
The creation of the Africa Blind Sports Organisation was born out of the existence of sports organisations catering for the Visually Impaired predominantly in Europe, Asia, and to a lesser extent North America (US) and Australia. This includes the British Blind Sports (BBS) and the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA); which is part of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). But there still remains a huge gap in Africa so far as Blind sports is concerned, prompting the creation of the ABSO by CEO/founder Fritz Festus Bisau. The idea of the ABSO was also partly born out of Fritz’s participation in different sports for the Visually Impaired, where he emerged with some excellent performances, such as in his school’s Blind Rifle Shooting competitions where he won the school’s trophy in six consecutive years.
The systematic, sustainable entrenchment of a culture of sport and recreation that is evidently missing among the visually impaired on the African continent, as a means of long-term empowerment:
A sportive, creative, empowered and self-confident population, thriving in a friendly, facilitating, sustainable environment, representing the best sportive talent that Africa has to offer regardless of the level of sight loss/visual impairment
A physical disability, is more often than not, caused by either an accident of some kind, or more rarely it is present from birth. Whilst this makes it harder for one to go about their daily life, it certainly does not make it impossible and sports is no exception. In the Kenyan context, sports for visually impaired persons has been so far characterised in the field of athletics by the excellent performance of athletes such as Abraham Tarbei who attained an unparalleled record by winning 3 gold medals, in the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics in the men’s 1500 meters and the men’s 5,000 meters respectively. Or Henry Wanyoike, who has also attained an unparalleled record by winning three gold medals in the last three Paralympics preceeding 2012, the first of which was in Sydney Australia in the 5,000 meters. Both men have been deprived of their sense of sight through an accident or from birth, but have not been slowed down in their quest to succeed.
Needless to say, these achievements are certainly breathtaking and inspiring to all, but sadly, the marginalisation of a vast majority of either partially sighted or completely blind and by extention persons with other disabilities still persists in Kenya, as these achievements have only benefited a fraction of the population in question. As a matter of fact, there are an estimated 17,000 children with visual impairment in the whole country (Kenya). Over all, there are a total of 332,000 kenyan citizens (0.8% of the population according to the 2009 census figures) who can be classed as either totally blind with no visual perception be it blurry, light, or objects (B1), or partially sighted giving them varying degrees and capabilities within the visual spectrum (B2, B3, and B4). Other reports including the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) place these figures a bit lower at an estimate of 331,593 (2012).
Further more, World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates put the percentage of visually impaired persons at between 0 and 2 % of the general population in any given African country.
But by sharp contrast, the number of specialist educational institutions is disproportionately lower than children with a visual impairment. In Kenya for instance, there are an estimated 17000 children with a visual impairment, while there are six institutions of learning purely dedicated to the Visually Impaired. There are a hoast of other such institutions, but which are intergrated, thus accommodating both fully sighted and Visually Impaired students. By entirety, there are an estimated 45,000 visually impaired youth of school going age in Kenya. But of these only an estimated 7,000 actually attend school according to the Kenya Society for the Blind (KSB 2016). As a result, visually impaired youths are the largest category of disabled persons not to attend schooling according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). In the grand scheme of things, this is significant, as the youth in totality between the ages of 15 to 30 constitute 75 % of the national population in Kenya and thus the largest pool of human resource (GoK 2012). In Kenya, the six institutions mentioned above include:
- Thika School For the Blind (the largest school of its kind in east and central Africa):
- St Francis School For the Blind (Kapenguria):
- Likoni School For The Blind (Mombasa):
- ST Lucy School For the Blind (Igoji):
- St Oda School For the Blind (Kisumu):
- Kibos School For The Blind (Kisumu)
But of importance to note with these six schools, non of them are located in Nairobi the capital which has the largest population of visually impaired persons, estimated at around 23,790 (KNBS 2012). This has in turn resulted in most visually impaired youths not having the essential skills for employment and for supporting themselves and their families.
Aside from the sportive achievements mentioned above and the establishment of these six specialist educational institutions, some commendable efforts have been made so as to allow visually impaired children access particular sports such as Football, through the work of entities such as Alive And Kicking, who have for instance, attempted to provide young people in the schools mentioned above with a taste of playing such a sport. Undoubtedly, this is a step in the right direction.
However, to meaningfully and decisively deal with the issues of marginalisation and sports accessibility to disabled persons once and for all, there needs to be a more radical and holistic approach, including the establishment of even more efficient, well-thought, but above all comprehensive strategies, such as the creation of even better continent-wide organisations and entities that strive to holistically and sustainably promote the different abilities of physically disabled persons through focusing on particular spheres, while recognising their varying passions and talents within the same broader field such as sports, whilst at the same time being cognisant of the challenges disabled persons face in Kenya and Africa because of ignorance to cultural practices, to lack of sufficient support in homes and institutions of learning, among other challenges. Equally, it is important to have proper methods of assessment, in order to gage the exact impact sports and other social activities are having on the target communities
So, in recognition of the above we must appreciate that for instance, in the field of sports, not all will be interested in Football or Athletics.
It is for these reasons, that the Africa Blind Sports Organisation, has been established as a non-profit making entity, so as to allow for the discovery, development, nurturing and application of sporting abilities of persons with visual impairment at national, regional and continental levels. Inspired by the British Blind Sports (BBS and other such organisations as stated above), the Africa Blind Sports Organisation seeks to achieve its goals Through Football, by overseeing the eventual creation and continuous training of national teams, which will seek to represent Africa in the Paralympics and international competitions, as has been extensively done in Brazil, China, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Grece, Japan etc but not on the African continent. By also overseeing the creation, and continuous training of regional teams which will give rise to a Footsall league in African countries, as is the norm in countries such as Great Britain. Beyond Football, the Africa Blind Sports Organisation also seeks to enable participation in sports such as:
- Rifle Shooting for the blind,
- Goal Ball,
- Cycling etc, as well as overseeing the creation and continuous training of teams where possible within these other fields of sports, in view of different sporting interests that are likely to exist. In this regard, the ABSO seeks strategic partnerships and welcomes like-minded and equally passionate entities and persons to assist as much as possible in realising this ambitious but achievable dream. Such strategic partnerships will be the key to ensuring that the ABSO’s vision is sustainable, while ensuring that as many of the target community as possible are positively impacted
At the same tine, to properly assess the impact that programs will be having on the target communities, the ABSO uses an extremely hands-on approach, in which it visits the target communities and takes note of exactly what takes place on the ground. The ABSO uses its own funds to carry out these assessments, and writes regular assessments in a period of three to six months and annual reports every year. Equally to ensure maximum long-term success with the envisaged projects, the ABSO first conducts pilot projects when attempting to role out an initiative. This ensures that adequate preparations are made for the proper role out of a project, as a direct result of seeing the exact reactions and impacts generated by the pilot project.
Ambitious? Radical? yes! But if Africa is to change for the better and have a chance at being at par with the world, all that we do must be a paradigm shift from what we are used to as a continent. We must move away from a culture of crafting brilliant laws and plans, creating a false display of immense achievements and progress by creating much unnecessary hype through constant appearance on social and other media platforms, making extremely eloquent but immaterial past perfect, present perfect or future perfect speeches in public gatherings of what has been or is to be implemented, to a culture of fewer eloquent public speeches, and a more silent but vigorus and sustained effort of enforcing and properly implementing brilliantly crafted laws and strategies, whilst acknowledging that practical implementation always has been and always will be more challenging than strategy and policy formulation itself and thus requiring pragmatism. In other words, we must have form and substance, as opposed to just form. Equally, the ABSO argues that African institutions and leaders in different sectors must have priorities that are in sink with the needs of the populace, while ensuring that such projects are sustainable in the long-term. Simultaneously, we must cease blaming other nations for obvious political, socioeconomic and other self-inflicted failures of our own after attaining independence from our former colonial masters, as our destiny is now entirely in our hands. It is only through a radical shift from empty words to tangible action and a focus on the right priorities among a hoast of other critical paradigms, can we fully realize the African dream of among other things, an inclusive and respectfull society to all and hopefully eventually be at par with nations such as the Asian tigers, who have badly outdeveloped Africa yet they attained independence at a similar period if not much later on. It must be mentioned that the Asian Tigers with a few exceptions like the Philippines, set clear and realistic targets at their independence in order to attain their current level of socioeconomic prosperity. This was achieved without necessarily adopting the Anglo-American liberal democratic models of the West. But if a paradigm shift is not made in Africa, Africa will only continue to enjoy theoretical prosperity contained in its laws and strategies, with nothing tangible to show in practical terms.
To achieve the above lofty goals in a sustainable way, the ABSO first exclusively focuses on Kenya. It is carrying out a basic empowerment program, giving canes to the Visually Impaired in Kenya while preaching the message that disability is a different normalcy throughout institutions of learning for the Visually Impaired. This first phase of the program is a pilot project, in order to gage the exact reaction and impact of the affected community before proceeding with the actual role out of the program. This includes institutions of higher education. By continuously empowering these people in such a basic way, they will be able to be more mobile by having the freedom to walk with enhanced knowledge of their surroundings, in turn allowing them to internalise the concept of actively engaging in sports, as is being brought to them by the ABSO. The giving out of canes to visually impaired persons wwill be carried out under an initiative the ABSO has dubbed Let’s Move About. This empowerment program, will be followed by basic sports equipment such as blind footballs with Ball bearings inside, as well as sports attire such as t-shirts, shorts, blindfolds, and other necessary pieces of sportsware. We have started the empowerment program in Kenya, and hope to cover all six major primary/secondary institutions of learning for the visually impaired in Kenya. We have began this work at Mitoto Intergrated Primary/secondary school in the Trans-Nzoia region in Western Kenya. We donated bicycles, blind footballs and blindfolds. We hope to replicate such activities in other such institutions of learning and in communities with visually impaired persons across Kenya.
However, to create the best environment within which this sportive potential can be nurtured in line with its vision, the ABSO will construct a fully fledged sports center in Kenya; due to the origin of its Chief Executive Officer/founder Mr Fritz Bisau, and other national officials; Deputy CEO Lawrence Momanyi, Secretary James Omondi and Treasurer Betty Nyage. Though in Kenya, this centre will be designed to hoast all nationalities involved in sports for the Visually Impaired from Africa and elsewhere in the globe, and will be the Head Quarters (HQ) and physical embodyment of the ABSO. Concrete details of this will be provided in due course on this website, our Facebook page, our youtube channel and our twitter feed.
At the ABSO, our motto is that Disability, A Different Normalcy!, because we believe that diminished or total sight loss, or any other disability for that matter, represents a different but equally capable state of being with a few adjustments in life. Thus, we welcome all like-minded entities of goodwill to assist us in this great endeavour, in order to bring about the empowerment that all human beings rightfully deserve; despite religious conviction, ethnicity, or any other affiliation. To all potential partners, absolute transparency is our core policy, as evidenced by the achievements we have registered thus far through the prudent use of financial resources to date. In other words, not a single penny will be used for another purpose other than the purpose for wich it was intended. We call on visually impaired persons of all ages and of all backgrounds to join us from wherever you are in Kenya. Tell a friend to tell a friend and another friend and even family members who are visually impaired or who know persons with a visual impairment to contact the ABSO via Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or email. Through the Africa Blind Sports Organisation, let’s become the movement and generation that ends the social stigmatisation around visually impairment and other disabilities in Africa once and for all .
Chief Executive Officer / Founder
Fritz is the proud founder and current CEO of the Africa Blind Sports Organisation (ABSO). He is God-fearing, a team player, social, outgoing, a realistic, methodic, thorough and a hands-on practical visionary, ever optimistic about the future, hence his decision to work with various communities in Kenya and outside. He is currently pursuing a Postgraduate or Masters degree at Nottingham Trent University.
Deputy Treasurer / National Coordinator
James holds a diploma in Computer Applications. He has considerable professional experience in logistics and management, including the supervision of incoming goods to a particular location such as warehouses, ensuring successful arrival and the highest quality of goods possible, in accordance with a purchasing order. In this regard, he has previously worked as a logistics clerk at Nairobi Intergrated Program for the visually impaired.
Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Lawrence is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Nairobi (UON). He has considerable work experience, having worked as an Information Technology (IT) assistant at the Kenya Society For The Blind (KSB) between January and June of 2016. Equally, he has also represented the KSB at various meetings and conferences during his short stint as the IT assistant.
Betty holds a masters degree in Public Administration, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Mt. Kenya University. She equally has a considerable amount of work experience in both public administration and as a Secretary, having worked for the county government of Nakuru (one of 47 regional governments in Kenya).
Yvonne is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Education at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. She possesses valuable work experience in the area of financial management when she worked at a mobile money shop for 3 months where she kept all records of transactions that took place on a daily basis. In addition to being computer literate, she is extremely knowledgeable on the preparation of a project proposal, as well as report writing.