A few minutes before 11:00 a.m. on a Monday morning, the fourth-year community psychology students began to congregate for their class outside Room 207 of the Gandhi Wing building on the main campus of the University of Nairobi .
It was a cold and foggy morning in Nairobi and the nine students who had arrived at the class sat close together, comparing notes while they waited for their lecturer.
Half an hour later, Michael Ndurumo enters. The 66-year-old assistant professor of psychology wore a gray suit, a white shirt, a matching black and white striped tie and black shoes.
He smiles gently at his students and the "strangers": the four-man gang composed of two reporters, cameraman and photographer from Sunday Natio ny NTV – who had joined his class that morning to witness his teaching.
Professor Ndurumo unzips his leather briefcase, takes out his books and a laptop that he gives to his assistant, Jacqueline Njue, who installed the projector for the PowerPoint presentation of the class of the day.
By all measures, it seemed that hundreds of other classes were taking place at the UoN or at any other university in the country at that time.
However, this was a unique class, because Prof. Ndurumo is deaf and therefore can not speak yet for 15 years, he has been teaching his normal hearing students through an interpreter.
In December 1960, at the age of eight, he traveled to Nairobi from his rural home in the Marua village of Nyeri to visit his father who worked as a cook at Mathare Mental Hospital.
During his stay in Nairobi, he contracted meningitis, a viral infection in the air that can be deadly readjustment if not treated quickly. In the case of Ndurumo, it only left him deaf.
"It was harder for my mother, but also for my father since I was the firstborn son," he said of the father's initial reaction to his condition and the struggle of the whole family to adjust to his needs. He is the fourth born in a family of 11.
He was a standard student at Muruguru Primary School in Nyeri when he became infected and the disease seemed to have sealed his fate and consigned him to the "lesser" vocations in life, such as tailoring, carpentry or stonework. These are the occupations that society has reserved for people like him who have disabilities.
But the fact that he was facing his students that Monday morning, and perhaps not a Jua Kali somewhere Nyeri, was a testament to a never-die attitude that has led him to the pinnacle of academic success.
'Psychological Dynamics of Modern Russia (Adapted from AV Yurevitch and DV Ushakov)' was the theme of that morning, at the end of which he asked his students to discuss how it applies to Kenyan politics today.
In particular, I wanted to know how the theme of the day is applied. to the ideologies of the Jubilee administration and how they have evolved since coming to power in 2013 and how it has crystallized in the agenda of the Big Four of the second term of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Miss Njue, who has worked with Prof. Ndurum or since 2012 as a volunteer when she was studying for her bachelor's degree in sociology at New York University, was the interface between the professor and her students.
He learned for the first time from the deaf teacher of his roommate that he had offered to teach free sign language to students who did not necessarily have hearing problems.
"It was a revealing experience," said Ms. Njue, who was hired by the university in 2016 as a graduate assistant permanently assigned to Professor Ndurumo to help him in class.
He is currently pursuing a master's degree in rural sociology at the same university. I asked him how much preparation he had to do in order to accurately interpret the technical terms for the students.
"I do not need to read your notes to translate them, since most of the terminologies in sociology and psychology are related," he told me. From time to time they get stuck in difficult terminologies for which there are still no signals for them, but in such cases, they improvise as they advance.
However, I was anxious to know how much is lost in the translation between the teacher and the students. "We do not lose much," said Mr. Dennis Lemeloi, one of the students in class that day.
"I pay more attention to him and the interpreter so that I do not get lost on the road, and that is a positive factor for me, it makes for a very interesting class," he said.
Her colleague, Cynthia Bach, who is pursuing a double degree in psychology and political science, said that her teacher's life story "has encouraged me a lot." Now he wants to learn sign language after graduating.
And what a story it has been!
Despite his condition and the concomitant social stereotypes, Ndurumo's parents were determined to give him an education like all his other children.
As there was no primary school for the deaf close to home, the young Ndurumo was forced to study with normal children at the local primary school in Nyeri.
His teachers and classmates made sure not to be left behind in their studies. He taught himself English by reading the dictionary because the disease hit him even before he learned the language.
In 1968, he took his Certificate of Primary Education exam and he performed very well. Unfortunately, he was forced to stay at home for a year, unable to go to high school because there were no schools for the deaf at home.
"A lot of people never thought that a deaf person could continue education up to the high school level, and nobody was willing to give me a chance," he said.
The teenager was introduced to Dr. Peter Lowry and Ruth Mallory, a couple of missionaries, who were in charge of Nyeri Baptist, a small Christian high school in Nyeri.
In 1971, he briefly went to St Peter's Mumias High to be near the school for the deaf, but in the same year, the Mallory arranged for him to transfer to the Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. UU., Becoming the first foreign student of the institution.
In the USA UU He received an interpreter to accompany him class and therefore, he was forced to learn sign language. Previously, he had been communicating by writing notes.
In 1974, he joined Gallaudet University in Washington, where he conducted general studies, including psychology, a field in which he would specialize later in life.
Two years later, He joined Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, which is an institution for the handicapped and admits students from all over the world.
He enrolled for his master's degree in educational administration, psychology and special education at the same university.
In 1980, he completed his doctoral studies in the same discipline at the same university.
When he obtained his doctorate, he became the third African deaf and first African East to acquire a PhD at that time. The other two were Western Africans.
After graduation, he took a teaching job at his former high school in Tennessee, and then moved to Gardner-Webb University, North Carolina.
In 1982, he returned home and joined the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) as a developer of curricula. He was entrusted with the task of developing a curriculum for special education and teacher training.
Gradually he rose to become principal director and head of special education at KIE, now the Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development: and he played a key role in urging the government to do more to develop sign language in Kenya
After 22 years with KIE, Prof. Ndurumo retired early and took a teaching job in 2003 at Moi University in Eldoret, where he was placed in charge of the department of educational psychology. His appointment made him the first deaf teacher in Kenya.
"Teaching was my first love," says Professor Ndurumo. "I like to share my knowledge with students, for me, every day is a day of learning and that's what life is all about."
In the 1990s, he was offered a teaching job at the University of New York, but the offer was withdrawn when the university administration learned that he was deaf. However, he did not have such challenges when he applied for a job as a teacher in 2009.
In addition to teaching, the director directs a nongovernmental organization called the African Institute for Deaf Studies and Research. the UoN road that trains qualified sign language interpreters.
Alice Kimani, a third year Bachelor of Education student at Kenyatta University, volunteers to run the institute and performs for him when he is out of college.