What you need to know:
- Learners with visual impairment cannot access screen reader devices or braille machines.
- The children do not also have speech synthesisers.
- With the communities being nomadic in nature, learning for the vulnerable group is often disrupted by harsh weather patterns.
The plight of children with special needs and living with disabilities, especially in pastoral communities, has been worsening by the day since schools were closed in March.
Abdi Wako from Isiolo County, who uses a tricycle for mobility, said the radio and TV lessons aired by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) are not in inclusive formats, making it hard for some learners to benefit.
“It is so challenging for parents, who have fully taken up the responsibility previously shared with teachers, to interpret the aired content. They do not have the requisite training and knowledge,” said Mr Wako.
He noted that while the schools remain closed, the government should task tutors to teach parents of children with special needs and disability how to help the learners continue to learn.
The support services that learners with special needs used to get in schools, including occupational, speech and physical therapy, are no longer accessible, with many parents now forced to spend entire days with their children.
The learners, most of whom rely on assistive technology, continue to lag behind in learning as the ongoing KICD TV and radio programmes are not friendly to them.
Learners with visual impairment, for instance, cannot access screen reader devices or braille machines. The children do not also have speech synthesisers.
With many parents and caregivers of children with disabilities having suffered loss of income and employment in the wake of Covid-19, it still remains an uphill task for them to provide for the children and families at large.
Ms Halima Mamo, whose six-year-old son is deaf, was forced to close her grocery shop at far-flung Merti area to take care of the boy immediately schools closed. “Life has been miserable as I have no one to leave him with and most people within the neighbourhood mock him for being disabled,” she said.
While quite a number of children with disabilities in Northern Kenya have been enrolled in schools, there has been surge in the drop-out rate due to lack of support services in some of the institutions.
With the communities being nomadic in nature, learning for the vulnerable group is often disrupted by harsh weather patterns, including drought that forces their families to relocate from one place to another in search of water and pastures for their animals.
Speaking during this year’s Desert Wheel Race held in Isiolo, Nominated Senator Abshiro Halake appealed to county assemblies to come up with policies and laws to support vulnerable groups and ensure there are budget provisions for them.
“The counties must ensure the vulnerable groups have access to quality health care, job opportunities and empowerment programmes like the able bodied persons so that they have regular income to support their families.”
The Northern Nomadic Disabled Organisation Executive Director Harun Hassan called on counties to support parents of children with special needs and assist them in ensuring that learners with disabilities conveniently continue with learning like others.