Catherine Ngovi, a Business Management student at Kenya Institute of Management shines at Miss and Mister Deaf International 2019 beauty pageantry held in St Petersburg, Russia.
BY CAROLINE MWENDWA
Speak of grit, resilience and focus. Catherine Ngovi, the reigning Miss Deaf Kenya and recently crowned Miss Deaf Africa in the Miss and Mister Deaf International 2019 gala in Russia, is a student at the Kenya Institute of Management. Her story is one of exemplary passionate driven life, whose force is unstoppable; not even by a hearing disability, which now appears to us a point that distinguishes her go getter attitude. Discovering her interests early in life, while in Primary school, Ngovi, kept at what she loved to do; modelling. “Ngovi’s keenness on hygiene and sense of style struck me while she was still very young, in class five I remember,” recalls her mother, Christine Ngovi whose account of what led to Catherine’s condition reveals that she was born deaf, and as the parents, they got to discover it while she was eight months. “Coming to terms with the fact that our daughter couldn’t hear, was not the easiest thing for us, but we accepted it and committed to do our best to see that she lives a fulfilling life,” says her mother.
Beating the odds
Catherine’s talent could not be dimmed by her disability. While at the Machakos School for the deaf, one of the teachers took interest in her outstanding knack and ineptitude skill in modelling. She did all she could to keep the flame burning. “I remember she could at times come home with handmade garments that they used to practice runway modelling. The teacher also taught her dancing as part of it,” says Christine, her mother.
Christine however reckons that in most schools, the art of modelling is not so much encouraged as other sports such as ball games are prioritised.
A date with rejection
Catherine’s ordeal in searching for a college after high school would prove daunting as school after school would decline admitting a deaf student. “School searching was such a nightmare, I would visit a school, and later regret as some administrators would blatantly dismiss us on grounds that her performance was not at par with the school admission standards, disregarding that for a learner with disability, the case was different,” Christine laments. From our conversation, it is apparent that there are not enough institutions, nor measures to accommodate the high number of young people living with deafness. After a long and frustrating search for a college that could accommodate Catherine, the parents were about to give up, only schools for the deaf were willing to take her in, and Ngovi was opposed to the idea. “I had studied all my life in a school for the deaf, I wanted to interact in a different setting, to prepare for the world, and not limit me for the world,” says little Ms Ngovi. When she had already resolved to join a hairdressing school, for the lack of an academic institution willing to admit her, the parents learnt that the Kenya Institute of Management, is open to deaf students, and even provides interpreters. “This was such a relief; my ache was quietened. I had lost hope but KIM, proved to be one of a kind,” says an elated Christine.
The ordeal Ngovi has been through is a sneak pic of the society. “The public displays ignorance to the plight of people living with disability. We need interpreters in institutions of service such as hospitals,” she points out. Even the general public, needs education, sometimes, deaf people are not recognisable, and motorists can be rude at them, not inferring their condition.”
In the abundance of time
Catherine Ngovi’s growth in the modelling industry, did not die, she saw beyond all hurdles, and willed victory. “I remember after high school she enrolled for a competition that was taking place at Cool Breeze, which we supported all we could. We bought her all the attires required and showed up at the event, but only the winner was mentioned,” recalls her mother. The incidence was discouraging, and they advised her that the modelling industry may not hold much for her. However, Ngovi continued to seek other avenues to explore her talent, without much engaging them.
When she enrolled and took part in the competition that landed her to Miss Deaf International, they were taken aback. “I remember that is when I went home and went through my documents to retrieve the modelling certificate she received when she was in class five. It dawned on me, that she knew what she was made of, believed in it and committed to traverse borders on its ticket. And so she did!
Ambassador for change
With the platform and recognition that she currently holds, Ngovi intends to reach out to young people who did not manage to complete school and encourage, even create means for them to complete. “The reason I pursued a modelling career, and worked to win was because I want to show the world, and the legislators as well that even the people living with disability are immensely talented and can achieve anything they set their mind to achieve. Caroline Mwendwa is the Editor Management Magazine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org