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Safaricom Foundation steps in to help children with autism

Last week Safaricom handed over a sanitation facility to St. Joseph Children’s home and a 30 bed capacity dormitory to Meru school/COURTESY

MERU, Kenya, Mar 20 – Over 200 pupils with special needs from three schools in Meru County have benefited from a Sh4.8 million donation by the Safaricom Foundation for the construction of various facilities.

The funds will aid in the building of school dormitories, sanitation facilities and perimeter walls in Meru School for the Mentally Challenged, Kariani Primary School (Special Unit) and St Joseph Children’s Home.

While handing over the funds at the weekend, the Foundation’s Chairperson Joseph Ogutu emphasised the importance of investing in education of children with autism saying the challenges they face pose a great hurdle to their academic pursuits.

“It is a great challenge to look after children with autism and therefore construction of a perimeter wall will provide the capability for the institution to be able to contain the children,” Ogutu said.

He noted that inclusive and equitable quality education as outlined in goal number four in the Sustainable Development Goals could only be achieved when rights of all children are realised regardless of their disabilities.

”The Convention on the Rights of the Child also sets out the rights that must be realized for children to develop their full potential, free from hunger, neglect and abuse. At Safaricom Foundation, we are constantly working to aid the achievement of both objectives,” he said.

Meru School for the Mentally Challenged Principal Catherine Kamunde commended the Foundation for supporting the institution urging parents with children living with autism to open up and seek help in special schools that support children with special needs.

“The transition for the mentally challenged and those with autism is a bit challenging hence they cannot even compete for the job market,” Kamunde stated.

“Don’t keep the at home, don’t hide them. Look for somewhere you can enrol them because autistic children can learn something and they can do something,” she added.

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In 2016, the Schools Heads Association of Kenya reported that more than 100,000 children living with disabilities are out of school for various reasons, including discrimination and stigma.

The Commission of University Education in the same released a report showing that only 600 students living with disabilities were enrolled in both public and private universities across the country.

According to the United Nations, enrolment of children in primary education has reached 91 per cent but close to 60 million children remain out of school.

Although 50 per cent of the nearly 60 million kids out of school are said to be living in conflict-affected areas, a significant number of the remainder are disabled.

The SDGs intend to eliminate disparities based on gender and physical disabilities by the year 2030.


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