TO ENHANCE SUPPORT

MPs want free boarding schools for special needs learners

The proposal that will amend the Basic Education Act of 2013 and is sponsored by Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui.

In Summary

• The proposal requires the government to develop at least one primary and secondary school with free boarding facilities in each county

• However, there are conflicts with current plans as the education ministry seeks to integrate learners with special needs in regular public schools.

Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui. /FILE
Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui. /FILE

The Ministry of Education will be required to build and maintain at least 47 boarding schools for learners with special needs if a proposal before parliament is passed.

The new set of schools will cater to pupils with learning difficulties, visual and hearing impairments, physical disabilities and those with emotional challenges. 

If passed the government will develop at least one primary and secondary school with free boarding facilities in each county. 

 

The proposal seeking to enhance support for special needs children will amend the Basic Education Act of 2013.

The Basic Education (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is sponsored by Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui. 

"This move is to address the plight of children with special needs who may be travelling long distances in order to attend classes," it reads.

The proposal is yet to be tabled on the floor of the House but enjoys the support of the Education Committee that is set to discuss it next week.

Conflict

However, the bill conflicts a previous resolution by the Education ministry that seeks to integrate learners with special needs in regular public schools.

A policy document by the ministry dated May 8 says mainstreaming special education will end discrimination, stigma and low self-esteem, and boost confidence.

 

Under the plan, special schools were to be shut down and their resources used to support children living with disability in an integrated school environment.

Special needs education director Fredrick Haga yesterday said the phaseout will be done in stages.

“We should not continue to accept exclusion for children with disabilities during the crucially important life experience of schooling. If necessary changes are made, all students will benefit,” he said.

Haga said the current disability support system is underfunded and inefficient and gives people with disability little choice and no certainty of access to appropriate support.

“When a child goes to a special school, it’s not because the child has an intellectual impairment, but because the community school does not welcome children with an intellectual impairment,” he said.

A 2016-17 study by the National Survey on Children with Disabilities and Special Needs in Education showed that 11 per cent of all learners in Kenya have at least one form of disability.

The report showed 35 per cent of learners with disabilities get their education in special schools, while 65 per cent of learners is in regular schools with designed units and sections to accommodate their disability.

Learners with visual impairment account for 3.1 per cent, physical disability three per cent, intellectual disability 2.5 per cent, hearing impairment 1.2 per cent, speech and language at 0.9 per cent and deaf and blind at 0.2 per cent.

(edited by O. Owino)