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A conversation with Peter Muraya


Seven people in a line. Man with crutch receives certificate. He is wearing a shirt and a face mask.

Peter Muraya is a student from Njoro, in the Rift Valley of Kenya. He was involved in a train accident when he was 13, which left him without three limbs: without two legs and a hand. The accident meant that Peter didn’t pass his exams as expected. He did however manage to gain entry to a secondary school for persons with physical disabilities, and worked hard to emerge as the top student in his class.

During his undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and Community Development at Kenyatta University, Peter volunteered extensively and was committed to campaigning for students with disabilities. He subsequently applied for a master’s degree in climate change adaptation at the University of Nairobi.

Peter is now halfway through his master’s studies, via our Krystle Kabare Scholarship. We hear from him about the topics he is most passionate about: disability inclusion, climate change, and social protection.

What have you found most interesting on your master’s degree in climate change adaptation?

I’ve found climate change adaptation to encompass a lot of things including poverty alleviation, humanitarian assistance, energy, health and social protection. It’s not only about enhancing adaptation measures, but it’s also about building people’s knowledge and understanding so that they can use the tools they are equipped with to protect themselves from the impacts of climate change. I’m specifically interested in social protection as an adaptation measure for the most vulnerable segment of society.

In your experience, how much support is there for people with disabilities in Kenya?

Kenya has an unconditional cash transfer for persons with severe disabilities living in poverty – called Inua Jamii. It plays a critical role to protect persons with disabilities from diving deeper into poverty.

However, the programme faces targeting issues, because the definition of ‘severe’ disabilities isn’t uniform, nor is the definition of ‘poverty’, and some people are missed out. For example, I applied for the programme nearly ten years ago but was disqualified on the grounds that I didn’t have severe disability, perhaps because I was walking on prostheses.

And how about support in the education system?

Kenya has free primary and secondary education for all pupils. However, schools for pupils with disabilities are often public boarding schools, and they are expensive. A big percentage of children with disabilities come from families living in poverty. For instance, a child with a visual impairment would need to attend a fee-paying school for the blind – their parents wouldn’t have a choice of school. Because of this, many children can’t go to school, and this leads to the issue of uneducated youths with disabilities.

In my case, the financial strain on my family would have denied me the chance to attend secondary school. It wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for an emergency sponsorship programme created for me by my local secondary schools, thanks to Madam Wahome, the former principal of Njoro Girls’ High School, and the late Mr. Ndegwa, the principal of Njoro Central Secondary School.

Governments across Africa, including Kenya, should design social protection programmes to facilitate universal access to primary and secondary education by persons with disabilities.

What made you choose climate change as your area of study for the scholarship?

Climate change does not spare persons with disabilities in Kenya. The livelihoods of over 70% of Kenyans are dependent on rain-fed agriculture. The threat posed by climate change could mean the loss of livelihoods for persons with disabilities because of irregular weather patterns.

In Kenya, you cannot receive support from multiple programmes, even if you are affected by multiple issues, such as climate change – that is, living in a place that is classified as high flood or drought risk – and disabilities. So that means people with disabilities cannot access funds that support people in areas affected by severe weather events. To protect persons with disabilities, climate-responsive social protection should be expanded to smooth coping and livelihood recovery. I see piggybacking Inua Jamii as an option to enhance climate change resilience for persons with disabilities.

How does your disability affect your education now?

My education was highly affected by the time it took me to move between classrooms. Thankfully, this challenge is no longer a problem during my master’s programme, as it is online. However, new challenges have emerged: my typing speed is one, as most of the work is typed and submitted online. Having one hand, this is a difficult task, especially during exams. Alternatively, I can handwrite the answers but that poses another challenge when I have to scan them with my phone for submission.

Nonetheless, I have always loved education and the possibilities it brings an individual irrespective of their background. This conviction in the power of education has enabled me to break many barriers along the way.

Peter has completed one academic year of his master’s with Development Pathways’ Krystle Kabare Scholarship and hopes to graduate next year. This interview represents Peter’s views and is disseminated by Development Pathways.