Today marks the United Nations International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 15 per cent of the world population — of about 1 billion people — have a disability. Eighty per cent of this population lives in the rural areas of developing countries. Locally, Kenya has an estimated 6.5 million people with disabilities. A Ministry of Education 2016 survey indicates one out of every 10 Kenyans below the age of 21 suffers from a form of disability. This survey was in conjunction with the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) organisation. The study also showed that more than 16 per cent of children with disabilities were out of school. 18.4 per cent of children and young adults below 21 years with disabilities were either total or partial orphans.
Children with disabilities and special needs in Kenya remain disadvantaged when it comes to accessing proper primary education. For example, a 2018 report by the Ministry of Education, shows that the number of disabled children out of school has been rising steadily. About 300,000 children are disabled and out of school, while the number of teachers with special needs training remains inadequate, with only 1,135 teachers having been trained by 2016.
Contrarily in October this year, the Cabinet Secretary for Education George Magoha said that the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) had trained 29,000 teachers to handle children with disabilities, while 17,000 trained teachers were already deployed in schools to cater for children with special needs.
Currently, the Ministry of Education spends Sh455 million on the primary education of children with special needs. Under the Free Primary Education programme, the ministry allocates Sh3,700 per learner with disability per year.
The VSO report, identifies the most prevalent disabilities among children in Kenya as multiple disabilities, which accounts for over 31 per cent, visual impairment, which accounts for 20 per cent, hearing impairment at 10 per cent, and physical impairment at about 9 per cent. Disability among girls stands at about 54 per cent while boys account for 46 per cent of child disabilities.