Special School
Caption for the landscape image:

How State neglect has led to squalor in public special needs schools

Scroll down to read the article

Korara Special School and Junior Secondary School Teacher Chepngetich Damaris takes her Grade 7 students through an Agriculture class on September 22, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Schools for learners with special needs are grossly underfunded and cannot afford to hire enough caregivers as well as buy required assistive devices, affecting the quality of life and learning in the institutions.

Although special needs education (SNE) primary schools have a budgetary requirement of Sh1.328 billion they have only been allocated Sh455 million in the current budget. The administrations of the schools now say the institutions are operating in inhuman conditions and salaries for non-teaching staff have delayed.

SNE secondary schools have a requirement of Sh506 million but have been allocated Sh200 million which less than half of what they need.

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu admitted that inadequate funding has affected the operations of the institutions and appealed to Parliament to allocate more resources. He was responding to a question by Baringo Central MP Joshua Kandie when he appeared before the Education committee on Tuesday.

Mr Kandie had sought a statement on delayed salaries and understaffing of non-teaching personnel in SNE schools. The staff support learners in classrooms, dining area and in the dormitories. Some staff live with the learners in the dormitories so as to assist them at night, if need be. SNE schools are also required to have a nurse because of the health condition of many of the learners.

“The CS needs to prepare a Cabinet memo to address SNE matters and funding,” said committee vice-chair Malulu Injendi (Malava).

The MPs resolved to undertake a nationwide inspection tour of SNE institutions accompanied by ministry officials, who they accused of not adequately highlighting the plight of the learners at the budgeting stage.

“This underfunding poses a serious threat to the quality of learning in the institutions, especially those with learners with severe disabilities. The SNE institutions need to be supported adequately to acquire the relevant assistive devices and learning resources, and also pay the non-teaching staff and caregivers,” Mr Machogu said. He added that SNE schools require a staffing ratio of 1:1 for learners with severe disabilities but this has not been achieved due to the underfunding.

The Ministry of Education funds learners with special needs in primary school at the usual capitation rate of Sh1,420 and then adds a top-up of Sh2,300 per learner per year. Those in boarding schools get Sh11,000 as boarding grants.

Learners in secondary schools get the Sh22,244 capitation others in regular schools get and then receive a top-up of Sh35,730 per year.

There are 337 and 81 SNE primary and secondary schools, respectively.

Committee member and Lugari MP Nabii Nabwera described the conditions in SNE schools as horrible.

“To construct a dormitory in an SNE schools costs 50 per cent more than in regular schools because it has to be customised depending on the nature of the special needs. As leaders, we have to source for donors, sponsors and mobilise resources from the private sector to support the schools,” he told the Nation.

Charles Sigei, the headteacher of Korara Special School in Bomet County, told the Nation in a recent interview that the cost of maintaining SNE learners depends on nature of their disability.

“It’s very expensive to educate visually-impaired learners because of the materials they use. The Brailler goes for Sh100,000 and ream of Braille paper costs Sh1,000 and that can’t last a learner even a week, “Mr Sigei said.