Inclusive education practices are growing in Kenya, but many barriers continue to exist for developing an inclusive education system. The barriers are being addressed by bringing the community together to identify the best ways to minimize their impact on inclusive education. This grassroots approach to inclusive education on a national scale is necessary for students with disabilities to gain sustainable access to a quality inclusive education system in Kenya.
Two inclusion committees were formed at two school sites and included:
- Students with and without disabilities
- Parents of students with and without disabilities
- Teachers from primary and special schools
- Administrators from primary and special schools
- Members of the local Ministry of Education
- Community members with and without disabilities
Each inclusion committee had between 20-25 members at any given meeting. The availability of Fulbright grant funding allowed for the committees to meet on a weekly basis.
The committees set two types of objectives which identified three additional goals in each category:
1. Inclusion goals
Inclusion goals pertained specifically to increasing the number of children with disabilities accessing inclusive primary education.
2. Sustainability goals
The three sustainability goals targeted how to sustain ongoing conversations on inclusive education and disability rights when grants funds ran out.
Each inclusion committee developed an income-generating activity (IGA) to raise funds to sustain the project in the absence of grant funds. Both inclusion committees decided to rear local breeds of chicken to sell in order to raise money for committee administration costs, to pay for committee member allowances for transport, and to supply refreshments for each committee meeting.
To maintain momentum toward the development of a country-wide inclusive educational system, inclusion committees created three inclusion goals and three sustainability goals. Inclusion goals at each school site focused on teacher training, sensitization of the community on issues related to inclusive education and disability rights, and increasing the time spent together by students with and without disabilities from special and primary schools. Sustainability goals at each school site focused on member donations of materials and poultry to grow the IGA and for developing an internal management system to effectively maintain the project.
The author took the data on the successes and challenges of each inclusion committee and shared them in Nairobi with national stakeholders, including:
- Directors of the national Ministry of Education
- The Chief of Education for UNICEF Kenya
- The Deputy Chief for the Office of Education and Youth at USAID East Africa/Kenya
- Faculty members in the Special Needs Education Department at Kenyatta University
- The Special Advisor for International Disability Rights in the U.S. State Department
- Action for Children with Disabilities (ACD), an inclusive education network
By sharing the inclusive successes and challenges with national stakeholders, schools with emerging inclusive practices were connected and the inclusive network expanded. This network is maintained through regular email correspondence.
Articles 24 (Education) and 32 (International Cooperation) in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) were referred to for justifying the development of an inclusive education system. Local disability legislation was also cited as a way to progress the national conversation on inclusive education and disability rights. The local laws discussed included:
- Article 27, Section 4 of the revised Kenya Constitution of 2010
- Article 54 of the Persons with Disabilities Amendment Bill
- Basic Education Act of 2013
"To further facilitate the development of an inclusive education system, a realistic inclusive education plan needs to be set up by each province, with input from people with disabilities along with local governments, teachers, parents, students, and community members. However, this will not happen on a large scale in Kenya if realistic goals are not set within each district, and shared with an inclusive network of schools throughout the country." - Brent C. Elder, Ph.D.
Explore the full article "Right to Inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities in Kenya," available for download below. The article covers:
- The current inclusive education system in Kenya, and how those practices relate to Article 24 of the CRPD
- Local laws and international instruments that shed light on the extent to which students with disabilities have a right to inclusive education in Kenya
Dr. Elder's research focuses on the development of sustainable inclusive education practices in under-resourced schools. Specifically, in his work he utilizes a critical disability studies lens to examine the intersections of disability, poverty, and education. During the 2015-16 academic year, he conducted his doctoral research in Kenya as a Fulbright scholar. Dr. Elder has published in the International Journal of Inclusive Education, Disability and the Global South, Disability Studies Quarterly, Societies without Borders, and the Journal of International Special Needs Education.