There is so much hype about home schooling during this time when Kenya, like all other countries, is responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. The use of education-related ICT innovations that would have otherwise struggled to be recognised has gained momentum.
Indeed, every cloud has a silver lining. Who knew Kenyan children would one day receive education through online platforms while at home? Making laptops available to children seemed mythical in 2013 when the government promised free devices for all school-going children.
With the current reality, the future of Kenyan education is bound to revolutionise, informed by these adaptations. This gives us an opportunity to look into the fate of home schooling children with intellectual disabilities; those who have Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, some forms of epilepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, among others.
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In general, these children exhibit delayed development and slow cognitive progression, seen through their socialisation and how they attend to activities of daily living. Still, they are educable and deserve to be educated as a basic right.
The current education system has put a lot of focus on inclusive education, which emphasises the need for both children with disabilities and those without disabilities to attend similar schools. In the past, special needs education schools were distinct from other schools attended by children without disabilities.
What does inclusive education look like in the era of home schooling? The unique experiences and needs of children with intellectual disabilities call for an empathic analysis of the circumstances surrounding their education so that the newfound joy of delivering education does not become the reason they will become side-lined from this very education.
At a glance, it is easy to argue that at this time, these children are under the care of their parents or a caregiver and are therefore being educated. The irony is that a parent of a child with an intellectual disability does not necessarily have adequate skills and knowledge on how to teach them.
It is the reason special needs education teachers are trained. In addition, there aren't enough special education teachers in Kenya, and therefore they may not have the time to give individualised support to children who are at home at this time.
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The task can be overwhelming for parents, more so when people are faced by many other challenges like reduced incomes, working from home and even having to support various children with schooling all at the same time.
It is also easy to argue that children with intellectual disabilities can do without education during this time because they will not be expected to sit for national examinations at the end of the year. That argument is discriminatory in nature.
The country has witnessed many innovations and pioneered local production of commodities that were previously only imported. This makes the existence of Covid-19 a golden opportunity to re-look at many opportunities that were previously ignored.
In the area of education, it is mostly private service providers with online learning platforms that have made their platforms available for use during this time. There is hardly any platform that has specifically been popularised for children with intellectual disabilities.
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This may be attributed to the scarce data on the kinds of intellectual disabilities and their specific education and ICT use potential. Without this data, it is difficult for innovators and service providers to consider customised modalities of delivering a curriculum to children with intellectual disabilities.
This is unfortunate because this opportunity on its own offers the nation a chance to explore potential opportunities and even carve out some ICT-related career paths for persons with intellectual disabilities.
As witnessed in many ways during this time, anything that would have previously been ignored in the past is now an opportunity worth exploring. It is time to re-look at curriculums and policies to ensure that they are adaptive to support children with intellectual disabilities so they benefit from education in these changing times.
Parents and care takers of these children will play a big role in this because of the experiences of handling home schooling during the response period. Soon, the scope of inclusive education will mean education that is beneficial for all children irrespective of whether or not they have a disability.
Ms Muyomi is the executive director of African Grassroots, a social justice advocate and a disability rights scholar at the University of Pretoria
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