The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that for any country’s population, at least 10 percent are living with some form of disability. Applying this to the Kenyan context would mean that there are at least 4 million Kenyans live with disability. However, there’s no accurate picture of how many disabled people there are in Kenya. Owing to this fact, very little information is available on the lesser known forms of disability such as learning disabilities.
Speaking at the KCCL annual walk, Hon. Mohammed Gabbow, CEO of the National Council for People with Disabilities, acknowledge the fact that accurate data is limited and pointed out that, “NCPWD has dedicated its resources and is working hard with partners to ensure that accurate data is available. Of our seven strategic objectives, one that we have prioritized is ensuring that statistics about persons with disabilities are maintained and that they are registered for the purposes of planning and providing services.”
This lack of information and subsequent poor policy planning has led to gaps within the system that have left children with learning disabilities disenfranchised. Despite the fact that children who suffer from learning disabilities are often misjudged as slow/poor learners, those who are correctly diagnosed still have to contend with limited access to suitable and accommodating education environments.
Currently, very few institutions in Kenya offer children with learning disabilities an opportunity to study and flourish. More worrying is the fact that Kenya has very few special needs teachers, thus hampering efforts of the few schools open to children with learning disabilities.
Hon. Josepheta Mukobe, PS Ministry of Devolution and Planning, highlighted this fact stating that, “In order to achieve equitable education, tertiary institutions need to provide incentives to aspiring teachers to take up special education to reduce the strain on the few special needs teachers currently available. Additionally, key stakeholders need to ensure that policies are uniformly implemented to reduce inequities within the system.”
Access to education is not just a human right, it is the single greatest predictor of a fulfilling life, and perhaps the most important measure of a society’s social and economic potential. Without that access, a future of living separate from society becomes cemented at an early age. Given an opportunity, children with learning disabilities are capable of overcoming any barriers and realizing their full academic, vocational and social potential. But access is not enough.
In fact, access without expertise can actually increase the chance for social stigma without increasing the opportunity to learn. Too many members of the special learning community—whether in elementary or graduate-level learning environments—find themselves relegated to the back of the classroom without appropriate support to ensure they learn.
Although the constitution has offered a great foundation, a lot has yet to be implemented. The government needs to make rights of disabled people a priority to ensure that people with disabilities are not marginalized in areas concerning education, employment and social welfare.
Hon. Susan Mochache, PS Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection, affirmed that, “As a ministry, we are committed to making certain that a disability perspective is applied in all aspects of policy and labour legislation. Additionally, we recognize that effective implementation and enforcement of existing disability laws and policies and providing for equal education and employment opportunities are among the factors that will contribute to the reduction of poverty and to the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities in Kenya.”
This walk is aimed at raising awareness about children with learning disabilities and highlight the work institutions like the Kenya Community Center for Learning (KCCL) are doing in offering specialized education, as well as demand for better regulation within the education sector to be inclusive of all learning abilities.