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Children with disabilities in Coast to benefit from inclusive education

All Children with disabilities across the Coast region are set to benefit from Inclusive Education through a three-year holistic approach programme sponsored by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) in collaboration with the Government of Kenya.

Kilifi County-based NGO Kesho-Kenya is implementing the programme through PAMODZI, a project focusing on addressing the awareness gap and disconnect between inclusive education policies and implementation.

The project will bridge the inclusion gaps among learners with disabilities not only in the Kenyan Coast region but also in Malawi and Tanzania where other transnational consortium partner organizations will be implementing it.

Speaking to the press during the project launch on Friday, the Executive Director of Kesho-Kenya Evans Odhiambo, said the project will be able to evaluate the policies that exist in inclusive education in the implementing countries as well as identifying and addressing the challenges in implementing them.

Odhiambo clarified that the other primary aim of the project is to engage with the government of Kenya on increasing the budgetary allocation in inclusive education for children with disabilities.

According to Odhiambo, recent analyses indicate that funding for inclusive education has shown a steady decrease over the recent financial years (FY2016/17 to FY2020/21).

“Out of ten children in special needs schools at primary level, only five are able to transit to secondary schools and out of the five, majority don’t go to quality schools due to limited inclusion,” Odhiambo said.

“One of our key commitment is to ensure that all the children with disabilities out of schools, in primaries, special needs institutions, secondary and integrated schools get the opportunity to attain quality and equitable education just like any other child in Kenya,” he added.

He revealed that there are still cases of children with disabilities being hidden at homes, being denied the opportunity to enjoy their rights.

Odhiambo said that as a result, obtaining accurate data on such children has proven to be a major challenge in implementing inclusive education policies.

The Kesho-Kenya director however promised that through PAMODZI, they will conduct a survey to identify how many children with disabilities are not attending schools as well as the numbers that are already in school but cannot obtain quality education due to the conditions of the schools.

“We will map out all the children and the facilities put in place to help these children. With the data in our hands, we will be able to inform the communities about the responsible institutions so that they can obtain the necessary help,” Odhiambo said.

National Council for Persons with Disabilities Regional officer in Kilifi County, Mathias Tsuma, lauded the move while explaining how limited or no inclusion of PWDs is a major setback in enjoying the constitutional rights.

He said that inclusive education among children with disabilities has not been prioritized due to low budget allocations and lack of cooperation of some caregivers in the communities.

Tsuma said there is a tremendous need for the government and NGOs to work together to create awareness on inclusion of the PWDs so that the nation can move forward without leaving anyone behind.

“I am happy that organizations like Kesho-Kenya and others are putting in place efforts to address the challenge of inclusivity which is a major issue our brothers and sisters with disabilities are facing,” Tsuma said.

“Coming up with such projects is an indication enough that no one will be left behind. We are trying to achieve a society free from any kind of discrimination and therefore the effort to provide equitable education to the children with disabilities is a great tool to moving forward as a nation in a cohesive manner,” he added.

Tsuma urged other Civil Society Organizations to come out and bridge the gap in implementing the inclusive education policies in the region.

Addressing the media during the launch, Assistant Director of Policy and Partnership in the Education Department in Mombasa County said that most children with disabilities are not able to achieve quality education because their health needs are not primarily addressed.

Bawazir called on the Ministries of Health and that of Education to collaborate in ensuring that children with disabilities attain quality and equitable education.

She gave an example of scarcity of specialists in physiotherapies and speech therapists in the region making the children to lag behind in obtaining the required education.

The assistant director said most teachers do not possess the necessary skills to address the needs of the children with disabilities in schools adding that most times, the children feel abused when they are forced to do something they are not able to do without an appropriate assistant.

“For example, there is only one speech therapist and there are a lot of children with the special need to be attended to. They end up missing on a number of things,” Bawazir said.

“We need to approach this issue of inclusive education for children with disabilities with a holistic approach especially between the health and education sectors because all children have equal rights to education and health,” she added.

Bawazir lauded Kesho Kenya for the PAMODZI project that has officially kicked off in the Coastal region of Kenya and is set to be taken to other parts of the country later on.

The project-PAMODZI for inclusive Education in South-East Africa will provide support for civil society to become active and influential in shaping education policy to better meet the needs of communities.

By Treeza Auma

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