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Activists demand end to discrimination of disabled pupils in special schools

The  Children’s Rights activists in Migori want pupils with disabilities enrolled in the same classes with their able-bodied counterparts instead of isolating them in special schools.

They  also  urge the government to allocate more funds for pupils with disability so that regular schools can install special equipment to facilitate their admission.

The  activists led by the Girl-Child Network Migori Chapter say that although the government has put in lot of efforts towards integrating the disabled pupils in regular schools, there still exist institutions for special learners only.

The  existence of such special units, they say, goes against the current government policy of working towards integrating pupils with special needs in normal schools and hence the need to scrap all special schools in the country.

“Let the disabled children fully learn with their able-bodied counterparts,” said Chairperson of the Migori County Branch of Girl-Child Network, Mrs. Elsa  Matiko.

In  a  press  briefing on Monday at Isebania border town, Matiko urged the Parliamentary Education Committee to push for the scrapping of special classes in the country.

The  activist regretted that only a few of the disabled pupils enroll for national examinations because of the minimal funding to cater for their education at  primary level.

The  activists claim many potential candidates are locked out by the system despite the state funded Free Primary Education Programme being in place.

Under  the current system, according to Mrs. Matiko, children with disabilities learn in separate classes, commonly referred to as special units, or special schools. The government allocates a paltry Sh2, 000 to every pupil with a disability, double the amonut is allocated to able-bodied pupils.

But  the activists say this is not enough and demanded that the government earmarks funds to open up regular schools to these pupils.

“We  also want it to be mandatory for all teachers to undergo training on teaching pupils with disabilities. Currently only about 20,000 teachers out of the 240,000 are trained to handle the pupils with special needs.

For  the last 16 years, the government has widely been praised for implementing compulsory free primary education, but the rights groups claim over 200,000 pupils with disabilities are yet to reap the benefits.

“The  money allocated to pupils with disabilities is inadequate, the environment in regular schools is unfriendly, they do not even have wheelchair ramps, this is unacceptable,” stated Ms. Adeline Onyango, the Network education programme coordinator, who flanked her chairman at the press briefing.

The  organisation in partnership with Save the Children Finland have piloted the concept of putting pupils with disabilities in the same class with the normal ones and found it to be working well.

Education officials in the region agreed that separating the disabled from their able-bodied counterparts is discriminatory.

“It  is  wrong, you cannot just lump special needs education as a category,” said John Otieno, a senior education officer at the county Director of Education’s office in Migori town.

By  George  Agimba

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