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UN hails Kenya’s inclusive learning, online lessons

By Protus Onyango | July 4th 2020

Education policies on people living with disabilities, girls and refugees have earned Kenya global praise.

The country also got accolades for providing radio and online lessons to students during this period when the world is dealing with deaths arising from coronavirus.

The 2020 Unesco’s Global Education Monitoring report identifies Kenya as a country where students with disabilities attend special schools, integrated schools and special units within mainstream schools targeted at those with hearing and visual impairments, intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities.

The country rated highly after implementing the 2018 sector policy for learners and trainees with disabilities, which extends education provision in mainstream schools.

The policy recognises special schools’ pivotal role in the transition towards inclusive education and relies on education services provided by existing arrangements as well as home-based education, especially for those with severe disabilities and in vulnerable circumstances.

According to the report, 1,882 primary and secondary mainstream schools in Kenya currently provide education for students with special needs.

The report provides an in-depth analysis of key factors for exclusion of learners in education systems worldwide, including background, identity and ability. These include gender, age, location, poverty, disability, ethnicity, indigeneity, language, religion, migration or displacement status, sexual orientation or gender identity expression, incarceration, beliefs and attitudes.

The report identifies an exacerbation of exclusion during the Covid-19 pandemic and estimates that about 40 per cent of low and lower-middle-income countries have not supported disadvantaged learners during temporary school shutdown.

Though Covid-19 pandemic has overwhelmed many national health systems, the report says in mid-March, Kenya began running primary and secondary school lessons on public radio, coordinated by Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD).

The report says uncertainty over the virus’ deadlines led governments around the world to impose lockdowns and curtail economic activity, threatening billions of livelihoods.

Affected countries

“One key measure to limit the risk of contagion was school and university closures. At the peak of the closure period in April 2020, 91 per cent of the global student population was affected in 194 countries,” the report says.

It adds only a handful of countries, including Belarus, Nicaragua and Tajikistan, kept all schools open throughout, although a few high-income countries, including Australia, the Russian Federation and Sweden, kept some schools open.

The report says poorest countries have relied relatively more on radio.

For instance, 64 per cent of low-income countries used this approach for primary education, compared to 42 per cent of upper-middle-income countries. It says the use of radio had weakened over the years, although there had been exceptions, such as Sierra Leone, which broadcast education radio programmes five days a week in 30-minute sessions during the Ebola crisis.

The report says Covid-19 thus precipitated an education crisis, fuelled by the deep and multiple inequalities discussed in this report. During this period, millions of people had to make tough decisions, as some had to decide whether to respect or evade quarantine restrictions, medical staff needed to choose among patients’ competing needs and authorities had to decide how to allocate economic support.

-The Writer is a 2019/2020 Bertha Fellow.

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