Persons living with disabilities face numerous challenges as they often remain marginalized and minoritized in most societal settings.
There are slightly over 46 special schools in Kenya that cater to the educational needs of students living with disabilities. These students can thrive academically if their learning environments are tailored to suit their unique needs.
Most of these students need to be in secure environments, where their physical safety, emotional well-being and psychological welfare are guaranteed. Special needs are to be administered to their different needs; the deaf, dumb and blind and other disabilities. Educating these special needs students in public schools with no special attention to their needs could mean that their social and emotional needs are not met.
Specialized learning enables differently-abled students to feel comfortable seeking help and support in their areas of need. Blind students in schools designed to suit their needs can easily access help from teachers trained in Braille with precise comprehension of the challenges they face. These institutions enable the pairing of expert teachers and needy students, an impactful step in their academic journeys. As such, these students are able to focus on their challenges and advance academic wise.
It is quite essential to develop individual learning styles that will ensure all students are catered for in their diversity and challenges. For example; while celebrating International Deaf awareness day last month, Iten school for the deaf revealed that the reduced funding from the government could lead to its closure. The institution educates more than 70 deaf students in a much more comprehensive way than other learning institutions.
These students in their early primary education could struggle to fit into society if immediate action to salvage their education is not taken. Teaching aids access to other basic rights that they might not enjoy as their fellow students. Education ensures that access to health, clean water and sanitation, and sexual and reproductive health rights are easily availed to students.
Special needs students could remain minoritized in their communities because of communication barriers, and the enlightenment lacking how to expertly deal with these students. Hearing aids are quite expensive, hence, without frequent monitoring by the school, preservation and donations, education and survival in the community could be tricky.
Little comprehension of sign language, with barely any institutions to train parents, friends or the community at large on how to communicate is one of the overlooked measures that can promote inclusivity. This lack of inclusion will continue to frustrate their desire to be educated, interact with family and friends and publicly participate in forums that directly affect their welfare.
Most institutions have yet to incorporate specialized communication channels that address the challenges experienced by people and students living with disabilities. Rarely do companies roll out job opportunities in braille in order to include everyone person in their hiring and recruitment processes. Captioned media could be relatable to persons living with hearing impairment but pretty expensive depending on the setting and most schools can barely afford that.
The government needs to focus its resources to fund special schools to ensure that all children have access to quality education. Special schools need frequent breaks, specialized expertise to tend to the needs of the children and a community that supports and champions their rights.
The government has the obligation to ensure that all children access quality education despite their unique challenges and achieve their maximum academic potential. Failure to prioritise and invest in their education could mean that they will have limited access to education and other basic rights and privileges attached to it.
Comprehensive funding of these institutions will ensure that special students participate in public forums and activities that propel the government forward. Therefore it’s necessary to revise policies and implement laws that promote this. Working around the recently abolished NG-CDF funds, their most frequent funders, would be a step in the right direction.
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