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Special needs schools asked to equip learners with skills

Teachers in special needs schools have been urged to emphasize on practical skills training to enable differently abled learners to be self-reliant once they complete their education.

Prof. Julia Ojiambo, a member of the National Fund for the Disabled of Kenya (NFDK) Board of Trustees said that through constant training and practice both physically and mentally challenged individuals can learn and become responsible people.

She stated that due to lack of vocational skills many special needs learners are left at the mercy of relatives or caregivers, once they complete education.

“We must think about a time when learners with special needs will not be in school, when they are back in their communities and how they will survive. I have interacted with differently abled children who are geniuses or more talented than ordinary children. It is disappointing that some parents become disinterested in their education,” stated Ojiambo.

She indicated that some of the renowned photographers, performing artistes, entrepreneurs, painters and fine artists around the world were former special needs pupils adding that differently abled youngsters have a way of turning their gifts, creativity and passion into a livelihood.

Speaking at Njoro Special School after opening a Sh 2.6 million dormitory block whose construction was funded by NFDK, Prof. Ojiambo further urged parents of learners with special needs to invest in their children’s talent and consider enrolling them for courses like fine art, tailoring, leatherwork among others, depending on the child’s gifts.

“If this is not done, such gifted children will sit on their talent, which can stand in their way of achieving financial independence,” she observed.

Prof. Ojiambo represented the National Fund for the Disabled of Kenya (NFDK) Board of Trustees chairperson Dr. Kristina Kenyatta –Pratt who had been scheduled to be the chief guest.

Njoro Special School is a sanctuary for children with neurodiversity (Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy), other developmental disorders, and children with multiple disabilities like deaf and blind.

The classes at Njoro Special School are divided into Nursery, Primary and Vocational training wings. Courses offered at the vocational training wing for the physically and mentally challenged children include shoe making, weaving and beading, hairdressing, and ornament making.

Ojiambo highlighted NFDK pledge to donate devices and tools to pupils in special needs schools once they acquire vocational skills.

She disclosed that beneficiaries will receive sewing machines, saloon kits, welding machines, masonry kits, water pumps and mobility aids to uplift their living standards. Local institutions that support them will also receive aid.

Ojiambo said NFDK wants to enhance the socio-economic empowerment of the special needs children for a ‘just and equal’ society.

“We have embarked on a process of supporting People Living with Disability, which is our core mandate. We have been moving around the country where we have donated different equipment and machines to empower them financially,” said Ojiambo.

She explained that the core mandate of NFDK is to aid by funding and empowering persons with disabilities to realize their potential through socio-economic integration by supporting them with mobility enablers and business gear.

“As a Fund, we empower persons with disabilities to realize their potential through socio-economic integration by providing mobility appliances like wheelchairs, crutches, white cane and hearing aids. But today as you can witness, we are donating sewing machines, welding equipment, barber kits gear among many others,” she added.

Ojiambo expressed regret that persons with disabilities (PWDs) have historically missed out on opportunities to be part of the workforce due to erroneous perceptions, fear, myths and prejudice that continue to limit understanding and acceptance of disability.

“Myths abound, including that PWDs are inefficient at work and that accommodating a PWD in the workplace is expensive. It is such notions that employers must overcome to tap into the value that the differently abled people can add to every value chain,” observed Ojiambo.

She stressed the importance of empowering PWDs adding that like other people, it is their human right to have a dignified and productive life.

Inclusion of PWDs in employment, Ojiambo noted provides them the opportunity for social and economic participation.

Diverse workgroups and talents are, indeed, key to better solutions to social, economic and business challenges.

NFDK also supports institutions for persons with disabilities through cash grants to improve their facilities and sustainable income-generating activities. These institutions are special schools, units, vocational centres and rehabilitation centres.

These institutions have been receiving Sh300, 000 in every financial year to advance infrastructural development amenities like toilets and walking pavements to make the daily life of this group of persons a bit easy.

To qualify, both individuals and heads of institutions are required to fill NFDK Forms B and A respectively obtained from their website, applicants are also advised to obtain relevant endorsements from government administration and for the case of individual PWD, one should be formally trained/apprenticed.

After following the instructions, individuals applying are advised to pick any equipment of their choice not limited to livestock, cash grants and mobility aid like wheelchairs and many others. The forms are then dropped at the Deputy County Commissioners’ offices countrywide for further action.

National Fund for the Disabled of Kenya is an endowment fund that was established under the Trustees Act Cap 164 of the Laws of Kenya. The mandate of the Fund was to enhance the social and economic empowerment of persons with disability in Kenya.

The 2019 census, 2.2 per cent of Kenyans, or 900,000 people — 1.9 per cent of men and 2.5 per cent of women — live with some form of disability.

Besides, there are more PWDs living in rural than urban areas with residence prevalence rates of 2.6 per cent (0.7 million) and 1.4 per cent (0.2 million), respectively.

Additionally, the 2019 Labour Market Assessment commissioned by Sight Savers revealed that unemployment and poverty are some of the major challenges PWDs in Kenya face. It was estimated that PWDs constitute less than two per cent of the workforce.

In the same line, the UN Statistics show that 80-90 per cent of PWDs of working age in developing countries, and 50-70 per cent in industrialized countries are unemployed.

By Anne Mwale

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