.Kilifi County Deputy governor Flora Mbetsa Chibule speaking to PWDs stakeholders during PAMODZI for inclusive education in South-East annual meeting held at Pride inn Mombasa.Photo; Treeza Auma, KTMN

The gap of Poverty and low Teacher-to-students ratio has posed a major challenge in implementing inclusive education for learners with disabilities at the Coast region.

The Kenyan government and various non-governmental organizations have recently embarked on efforts to provide quality, equitable and inclusive education for learners with disabilities as well as special education needs but the gaps remain undressed.

According to the recent reports from PAMODZI for Inclusive education in South-East Africa, out of 99 Special Needs schools mapped at the Coast region, there are only 212-trained teachers attending to over 5000 learners with disabilities.

The project’s Policy Advocacy officer Wanjiru Mbugua clarified to the media in an exclusive interview that the teacher-student ratio is 1:24 for learners with disabilities from the schools they visited in Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale and Lamu.

Wanjiru reported that more boys with special education needs have dropped out from school in the last year compared to girls, revealing that poverty is the major cause of school drop-outs among learners with disabilities for both genders.

She said that as a program, they are working to address the disconnect between inclusive education policies and the implementation to address the existing gaps.

“We are working with policymakers including the county governments to make sure that we have the resources and targeted interventions that are supposed to support learners in these schools”, Wanjiru said.

She called upon collaborations from the government and other financers of education to bring on board more trained teachers to the special needs education schools so as to achieve quality education for the learners.

Wanjiru suggested the introduction of school-feeding programs in the special needs school to promote retention of the learners with disabilities.

She alluded to the instances during household visits whereby she revealed that most caregivers are grappling to provide meals for their children thus they can’t continue learning without food in schools.

Speaking in Mombasa during PAMODZI’s annual review meeting, Lucy Karegi, the head teacher of Pwani Special School for the Mentally Challenged, confirmed that poor staffing in the special needs schools is seriously affecting the quality of inclusive education.

She said that learners with disabilities require more attention from their teachers and thus they need adequate teachers to achieve quality education.

Mrs Karegi explained to the media that even understaffing subordinate staff in the special needs education boarding schools is equally a serious problem since the learners need constant care during and after school hours.

She called upon the government to add more special educators to the special schools to bridge the gap of poor staffing.

“It is difficult to provide the Individualized Education Plan for the learners with disabilities since the teachers are very less”, Karegi said.

The school head noted poverty as a major setback to inclusive education in the region, explaining that parents mostly lack means of transportation of their children to and from school and as a result, most learners stay at home.

Kilifi County Deputy governor Flora Mbetsa Chibule speaking to PWDs stakeholders during PAMODZI for inclusive education in South-East annual meeting held at Pride inn Mombasa. Photo,Treeza Auma,KTMN

“Most of these students come from very poor backgrounds, Others don’t get meals at home, and some parents are not able to provide basic needs that would enable the learners to come to school, making it difficult for them to attain education”, she said.

She also added that placement of learners with a disability to Special needs education schools is also a setback since some learners have more needs that can’t be provided in the school they are placed in.

Especially for Autism Spectrum Disorders, She urged the government to build institutions specifically for it to avoid having learners being enrolled as mentally challenged in some special schools.

Mombasa County Chief Officer for Education John Musuva said that Mombasa county is the first in Kenya to provide free lunch to learners in all special needs schools in the county since February 2022.

He said that the county embarked on the initiative to retain the children in school because most learners are from poor backgrounds and do not get the chance to eat at home.

According to Musuva, Mombasa county will spend over Ksh. 60 million per year in providing free lunch for 11,000 learners in public Early Childhood Development and Special needs schools, each allocated sh30 per day.

“Providing free lunch to the learners in special needs public schools is one of the ways that Mombasa county has adopted to ensure a 100 per cent retention of learners in schools”, Musava said.

Kilifi county deputy governor Flora Chibule acknowledged the gaps in implementing inclusive education in the county, saying that the county government is committed to bridging the gaps.

She said that the county is planning to have pilot schools in each sub-county to place adequate infrastructure and trained teachers to ensure that all learners with disabilities in the county receive quality and equitable education.

“It’s high time the society buried the myths and cultural mentality associated with disability. We as county government have realized the gaps existing in the provision of inclusive education and therefore we are focused on addressing them”, Chibule said.

Kilifi county recently enacted the Kilifi County Persons with Disability Act that among other Disability issues, seeks to enhance inclusive education in the county.

By Treeza Auma

Treeza Auma is a Digital Content Producer and founder of https://www.ktmn.co.ke KTMN She is also Television journalist at Kenya News Agency and Leadership Accelerator at Women in News.

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