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School For All - Improving Educational And Life Opportunities Of Children With Disabilities In The Rural And Semi-Arid Areas Of Mbita Constituency In Kenya

Children with disabilities are one of the neediest groups of the Mbita district of Homa Bay County. From their earliest years they experience discrimination on the part of society and their own parents and at times are perceived as a punishment for sins. The hostility of the environment is at times more painful than health problems. The Nyanza Province, which includes the Homa Bay County, has the highest percentage of respondents in the country showing a negative attitude towards their disability by those closest to them: 16% respondents experience aversion every day, 3.5% at least once a week and 6.3% at least once a month.

Unable to count on the support of their environment, children affected by disability have limited opportunities for development and education. Some of them begin their education later than their non-disabled peers. Most are not sent to school at all. According to 2009 estimates, only about 6% of children with disabilities were included in formal education.

Special schools are designed for children with physical or intellectual disabilities and blind or deaf children. These schools have dormitories and receive government support. Special classes should essentially be for children with a specific type of disability, who take part in school activities along with children without disabilities but also receive additional support from teachers and take part in activities adjusted to their special needs in a separate classroom – equipped and adapted to their cognitive capabilities. Some schools have neither classes, nor qualified teaching staff or professional tools to assess the type and degree of a child’s disability. As a result, most students with a disability are misdiagnosed. Occasionally, students are misdiagnosed with disabilities when in fact they simply cannot cope with the schoolwork, are orphans or are HIV-infected.

Following an assessment of the situation of children with disabilities in the Mbita district, carried out by the Partners Poland Foundation in October 2016, it was decided that help would be provided for these schools. Special schools receive substantial support from the Ministry of Education. Schools with special classes receive very little financial support from the central authorities – an additional PLN 40 a year for each child with a disability. Sending a child to a special school entails high costs to be borne by the guardian. Education in schools with special classes is generally accessible and much less expensive.

School For All - Improving Educational And Life Opportunities Of Children With Disabilities In The Rural And Semi-Arid Areas Of Mbita Constituency In Kenya

The measures were planned for two years: 2017–2018. The main aim of the project is to equalise the prospects and educational opportunities of children with disabilities attending schools with special classes in the semi-desert, rural areas of Gembe and Rusinga as well as the Mfangano island in the Mbita district in Kenya. The measures of Module 1 included an assessment of the situation and educational opportunities of children with disabilities from 11 local communities. After an analysis of the findings, a report was drawn up, summing up the situation of children with disabilities and recommending potential solutions to the existing problems. Methods of working with the teachers, children and local communities were developed and tested. As a result of these efforts, a manual for teachers was drawn up towards the end of 2017, to be distributed in 2018. The plans also included recruitment of future trainers. The 12 candidates who reported an interest underwent training and took part in a coaching session following the pilot training.

The infrastructure part of the project consisted of the construction of four new classrooms intended to serve as centres for education support and the renovation of classrooms in 11 schools with special divisions. The centres for education support in 11 schools were supplied with furniture and educational materials. The entrances to classrooms were adapted to the needs of children with disabilities: ramps were set up and their edges were marked in yellow.

Training sessions are planned for 2018 for teachers from schools with special divisions in the Mbita district. The trainers will have been trained by the Foundation in 2017.

School For All - Improving Educational And Life Opportunities Of Children With Disabilities In The Rural And Semi-Arid Areas Of Mbita Constituency In Kenya

During implementation of the project, a group of investigators visited 495 households in 11 areas covered by the study. Individual in-depth interviews were carried out with 28 key stakeholders. A manual for teachers was prepared. Ten candidates successfully completed training to become trainers and are prepared to train teachers working in schools with special divisions. More than 300 children from 11 facilities have easier access to classrooms thanks to the adaptation measures (ramps). Students also attend the centres for education support to work by themselves or take part in additional activities. The centres offer educational materials such as atlases, dictionaries, books, globes or board games.

Thanks to the implemented measures, the number of students with disabilities taking part in school activities has increased. There is also greater acceptance for children with learning difficulties in the school environment as well as parental awareness of the needs of children with disabilities. Thanks to the established centres for education support, students are showing greater interest in learning, reading and study with books, which in the future will translate into better school results and better employment prospects. The teachers have also gained a suitable place for individual compensatory work with students with disabilities.