NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 28 – “I hear my parents say that it costs more to educate me than my normal brothers and sisters,” said Atanus Muli a pupil at Thika School for the Blind.
Muli is part of the 3.5 percent population in Kenya that have a disability and noted with sadness that, “many children like me are hidden at home by their parents or guardians because they are ashamed of us.”
“We encourage the community and our parents not to hide their children with disabilities because we have potential to learn and become great people,” he added.
Faith Wairimu who is also disabled narrated a sad story of her fellow classmate at Joy Town Special School in Thika. “I have a friend called Oscar who is disabled but used to go to the same school as his able-bodied brother in Central Kenya. Oscar’s brother used to help him with studies but he completed school before Oscar did.”
“This change forced Oscar to stay home for a few years before a friend told his parents about Joy Town and Oscar joined the institution but lives too far from home and he has to commute every day. Often, the matatu conductors do not allow him to get into their vehicles and when they do they make him pay for more seats because of the space taken up by his wheelchair,” narrated a teary eyed Wairimu.
Speaking at the National Conference for Children with Disabilities, the two explained their myriad problems to Education Cabinet Secretary Joseph Kaimenyi.
In a memorandum to Kaimenyi, the two on behalf of all students with disabilities further noted: “Most of us need more time to be able to learn and complete the syllabus.”
“Unfortunately this time is not enough for us, the syllabus is also unfair to us and our teachers are overwhelmed trying to balance teaching us and helping us in our day to day challenges.”
“We want the syllabus to be adapted for us. Some have writing difficulties and end up getting poor marks at national exams as their writing is termed illegible,” they added.
The students explained to the Education Secretary that only teachers in the special schools understand their handwriting and understanding of things.
They noted with concern that other teachers are oblivious to their uniqueness and predicaments hence they end up failing.
“When doing exams we are told to name diagrams such as maps which we cannot see. Like for me I was born blind, I do not know how a human being looks like; I have never even seen my own mother,” added Muli.
“How will I be able to identify where Mount Kilimanjaro is on a map of Africa? I end up losing all the marks for that question.”
“When national exam results are released; our schools are not given positions, we are left out.”
“We want to compare our performance… we want to be rated as per our disability category,” he explained.
Kaimenyi in his address warned parents who hide their disabled children at home will face harsh penalties.
He added that the children have a right to education saying, “Those who lock up disabled children are depriving that child of being successful and making something of themselves.”
The Education Secretary promised that the syllabus for the special need students would be reviewed to accommodate the problems that they face while learning in schools.
“We have drastically reviewed and reduced the academic requirements when it comes to the special needs pupils to make them more inclusive,” he said.
He further called on teachers’ unions to include teachers of special need pupils within their unions.
“There is a newly created Special Needs Teachers Association where all disabled person teachers are registered and the Teachers’ Service Commission ought to take them on board.”
“This will ensure that there is equality between all teachers in the country,” he added.