Enhance funding on Special Needs, government urged

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu before the Senate Committee of Education.[Antony Gitonga,Standard]

Special needs education requires urgent attention to enhance service delivery for learners with disabilities.

This emerged during a meeting of the Senate Committee of Education with the Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu last week.

Committee chairman Joe Nyutu urged the government to review capitation disbursed to learners saying for a long time, funds have remained constant despite changing needs and challenges of the learners.

''Funds given to special needs students have stagnated since 2018 despite the inflation and increased number of learners with special needs,'' Nyutu said.

The Murang'a Senator said currently, the ratio of teacher to student in the schools is very low, urging for intervention.

"Other learning institutions get their capitation funds on time but the special schools always suffer and we shall raise this issue with the Cabinet Secretary for Education,'' he said.

Nominated Senator Peris Tobiko wondered why a proposal by the Ministry of Education to enhance capitation funds to SNE institutions five years back has never seen light for cabinet approval.

''Teaching devices required in these schools are costly and expensive. With delayed capitation it strains operation to the school administrators,'' Tobiko said.

Tana River Senator, Danson Mungatana said, apart from schools, the government has neglected the homebased special children.

''Does the budgetary allocation for Special Needs Education reflect this reality for those who have very severe difficulties that they cannot access such schools that they have to be home based,'' Mungatana said.

Kenya Institute of Special Education Director Dr Norman Kiogora said the government should look at the welfare of schools since learners need tender care for upbringing.

"Children with Learning Disabilities and attention disorders are not unintelligent, lazy or slow. They just learn differently. We nature people's ability according to their special needs,'' Dr Kiogora stated.

During this year's Kenya Music Festival State Concert in Nakuru, the festival chairman Dr Fred Ngala pleaded with President William Ruto to enhance funds to the competition to accommodate more learners with Special Needs.

''We would like to increase the participation of children with Special Needs. For the first time this year, we had 1,920 students participating in this festival,'' Dr Ngala said.

Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers (KUSNET) Chairman Peter Sitienei said only through enhancing funding as well as salary increment to teachers will transform learners' wellbeing.

''The current bargaining system was not built for us. It is not efficient and is too casual. We welcome the opportunity to explore several avenues that will be customised to our circumstances,'' Sitienei said.

He blamed the government for putting more emphasis on day secondary schools saying only 38 Special Schools exist in the country.

''We urge the government to implement the Presidential Working Party (PWP) Report so that the situation can be salvaged,'' Sitienei said.

The report had proposed capitation increase of Sh1,774 in Pre-School up from Sh604, Sh5,862 from Sh3,624 while Junior Secondary and Senior Secondary students will get Sh25,543 and Sh32,527 respectively up from Sh10,000.

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said SNE students in institutions are catered for noting that the government is in the process of collecting data which will guide on the supported disbursement.

''Home based I must admit we have not been very effective and that is the area we want to move into,'' Machogu said.

''When we give the normal capitation of Sh22,240 to students in high school, for disability we give between Sh35,000 to Sh37,000 because of the special needs they require.''

Director of Higher Education Darius Mogaka told the committee the taskforce report on education had made its recommendations on the capitation fees.

"We are waiting for the recommendations of the taskforce to be implemented and the issue of funds to special schools will be fully addressed," he said.

President Ruto pledged government inclusion of the SNE in its talent nurturing program saying they require a distinct learning environment to help them achieve their full potential.

''The Education CS need to see how more SNE children can be part of the music and drama festival so that they can too celebrate our culture and talent,'' Ruto said.