More than 100,000 children with disabilities are out of school in the country, it has been revealed.
Statistics indicate that one in every 10 Kenyans below the age of 21 is disabled.
The revelation by Special Schools Heads Association of Kenya (SSHAK) has put doubts on the Education assessment resource centres at the Ministry of Education which are tasked with identification of learners and placing them in schools.
The development comes as school heads and other stakeholders converge in Nairobi for a three-day conference from Monday with the focus on curriculum for special schools and funding of the institutions which have remained wanting for years.
More than 300 delegates from about 2, 000 institutions and units are expected to attend the conference that has been jointly organized by UNICEF.
Several demands have been put on the table including a push to have the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) hire more teachers specifically for special schools, laptops for pupils in those schools and as well, increase in capitation.
The heads also want students in special schools given more time during national examinations and the issue of transitions to the next level addressed.
The association chairman Arthur Injenga said proper financing of special schools will go a long way in ensuring that those who are not in schools have access to quality education.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Mr Injenga said only 45,000 students are in special schools.
This comes at the backdrop of a report on university education released last Monday by Commission for University Education (CUE) which paints a picture of a sector that has not been given much attention.
The report states that it is only 645 students with disabilities that are in more than 70 public and private universities in the country.
Majority of the students had physical disability, followed by visual disability and hearing disability and the enrolment of students with disabilities is very small when compared to the overall enrolment at university level.
“This scenario is a clear indication that there are no deliberate structures in place to encourage and increase enrolment of this cadre of students,” states the report noting that there could be under reporting of enrolment and participation of people living with disabilities in universities.
It adds that universities are not well equipped to provide services to people living with disabilities.
It recommends that universities work with the national council for people living with disabilities, to improve and provide services to students and people living with all classes of disabilities.
The association Secretary General Rophus Mwamburi said special need education is complicated and called on government to provide enough resources to the sector.
Mr Mwamburi said that the issue of transition from one level to another needs to be addressed and funding should be done from early childhood to tertiary institutions.
“Children with disabilities in ECDE and tertiary institutions do not get government support. If they get support. Only those in primary schools and secondary benefit from government subsidy,” he said.
He singled out that as laptops are being rolled out not much has been done to benefit pupils who are in special schools.
A report by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) Jitolee, dubbed National Special Needs Education Survey (NSNES) conducted in 2014, found that the physical infrastructure and resources in many schools were not adequate and relevant for learners with disabilities.
“For instance, even though most schools had infrastructure facilities such as toilets and classrooms, some of the facilities were inaccessible to children with disabilities due to the absence of ramps and adapted desks, toilets and doors,” says the report.
However, the study found that children with disabilities had functional assistive devices to support the teaching and learning process.
The survey established that community held positive perceptions towards enrolment of children with disabilities in school but also established existence of stereotypes and misconception about children with disabilities within the community.
The study reveals that despite the presence of various laws and policies on the right of persons with disabilities in the country, children with special needs and disability have not been able to realize the right to free and compulsory quality basic education.
It notes that there is lack of effective mechanisms for the implementation of inclusive education in the county as an approach to ensuring that all learners are included in the education system and benefit from the right to education.
The report has recommended that the government reach out on rural areas with focus on boys, which it notes were found out to be most affected as well as conduct a nationwide study on disability prevalence among children, in order to inform equitable resource allocation.
It also recommends increase of special needs teachers and harmonize their distribution so that they are in institutions that are appropriate to their skills.