Abolish special education and adopt holistic approach

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020 00:00 |
Constitution of Kenya. Photo/Courtesy

Mercy Mugure

Special needs education in Kenya has made remarkable gains in past decades, but more needs to be done to ensure quality education for all children.

To effectively implement inclusive education, special education training for teachers should be abolished and replaced with compulsory disability courses.

There is nothing “special” with having special education teachers as disability in itself embodies diversity.

This should be embraced and planned for in all aspects of life, including education. 

A teacher can be trained to handle diverse needs of students ranging from those with disabilities to those with various talents.

This will reduce the need for having special schools and units that are meant to cater for needs of children with disabilities since every teacher will be equipped to individually handle all students.

Education is the foundation for the social, economic, and political development of a nation.

The Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities Article 24 recognises the right of learners with disabilities to education and Kenya is a signatory to the legislation.

In the Kenyan Constitution, the right to education is provided for in Article 53(b)  which guarantees the right to compulsory and free primary education for every child.

Article 54(b) provides that persons with disabilities have a right to access educational institutions that are integrated into the society.

I went to an inclusive school, commonly known as the Regular School, together with five other learners with intellectual and learning disabilities.

I particularly remember how our class teacher, would make us sit under a tree and guard our classmates’  belongings as they played.

There was no single day we participated physical exercises, and no one thought we needed to.

The physical infrastructure was not modified to suit our needs, and there were no ramps, adapted desks, tailored toilets, nor means of transport to school. 

Learners with disabilities should access education on the basis of equality with others through inclusive education that recognises and caters for their diverse needs rather than isolating them or putting them in special units.

The special units benefit the teachers trained in special education, who seek better salaries but not the learner.

Learners with various types of disabilities and different age groups are put in one crowded class.

A student can be in one class over years without progress as his/her peers go on to graduate. This often frustrates the parents. 

Practical Inclusive education is transformative in nature and it involves a holistic systematic reform.

It involves modification of content, teaching methods, approaches, structures and strategies to bring equitable and participatory learning experience and environment for all learners.

Inclusion values the wellbeing of all students, acknowledges differences and requires elimination of all possible barriers.

The Competence Based Curriculum launched in 2017 recognises children are differently endowed with abilities and offers home-schooling provision for children with severe disabilities rather than having them in units.

To achieve inclusive education goals, the education system in Kenya must focus on a whole system approach and not just the education environment.

Resources must be allocated to train all the teachers on skills that will enable them support and teach all types of disabilities, they must be trained on handling assistive devices and sign language so that they communicate with all students equitably. This is expensive, but for a good course. 

No child with a disability should share our experiences of isolation —The writer is a PhD student at University of Pretoria

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