The 2018 Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities defines inclusive education as an approach according to which ‘learners and trainees with disabilities are provided with appropriate educational interventions within regular institutions of learning with reasonable accommodations and support.’
Special education needs
The 2012 Basic Education Act includes intellectually, mentally, physically, visually or emotionally challenged or hearing impaired learners; pupils with multiple disabilities; and gifted and talented pupils under the category of children with special needs (Art. 44.3).
The 2009 Special Needs Education Policy Framework provided a broad definition of learners with special needs, including persons with and without disabilities, such as refugee children, orphaned children, and gifted and talented children. The revised 2018 Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities narrows the scope to learners and trainees with disabilities. In particular, the policy addresses learners with hearing impairment, visual impairment, deaf-blindness, physical impairments, intellectual and developmental disabilities, specific learning disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia), cerebral palsy, speech and language difficulties, multiple disabilities, autism and albinism. Moreover, it acknowledges other forms of special needs not expressly mentioned, such as gifted and talented learners and students affected by psychosocial disorders and chronic illness.
According to the 2009 Special Needs Education Policy Framework, education for learners with disabilities was provided in special schools, in integrated schools and in special units within regular schools and targeted specific categories, including learners with hearing impairment, visual impairment, intellectual disability and physical disability.
Recently, inclusive education has progressed, extending education provision for learners and trainees with disabilities in regular schools. The new approach recognizes the pivotal role of special schools in the transition towards inclusive education and relies on the education services provided by special institutions, special units in regular institutions and home-based education, specifically for learners and trainees with severe disabilities and under vulnerable circumstances. Currently, 1,882 primary and secondary schools provide education for learners with special needs.
Early identification, screening and assessment
Education assessment resource centres (EARCs) identify and assess the education needs of children with disabilities and identify the most suitable and appropriate education provision and services. Consisting of multiprofessional teams, including teachers and social and medical workers, EARCs involves the community in their activities of early identification, assessment, intervention and placement. EARCs’ activities have contributed to enhancing the inclusive education delivery strategy through an increased placement of children with special needs into integrated programmes.
The 2018 Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities aims to develop specific procedures and guidelines for assessment, early identification and interventions for learners and trainees with disabilities and to operationalize and establish new multidisciplinary EARCs at the national, county and sub-county levels.
Informed by the principles of inclusion, the 2012 Basic Education Act contains provisions on the elimination of gender discrimination, non-discrimination, encouragement and protection of the marginalised, persons with disabilities and those with special needs. The 2013 Technical And Vocational Education And Training Act laid the foundations for an education framework that facilitates the training of persons with special needs, minorities and marginalized groups (Art. 32).
In line with the country’s general development programme Kenya Vision 2030, paying particular attention to citizens with various disabilities and marginalized communities, the 2008–12 education strategic plan is committed to ensuring education to all children, including girls, marginalized children and those from vulnerable groups. The 2013–18 education strategic plan pursues, among its six priorities, the principles of equity and inclusion through gender in education, expanding education opportunities in arid and semiarid lands and establishing a Most Vulnerable Children Voucher System.
The 2010 Constitution laid the foundation for education for learners with disabilities. Enshrining the right to education for all (Art. 43.1), it introduced the concept of reasonable accommodation (Art. 54) and recognized the right to ‘access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society to the extent compatible with the interests of the person’.
Amended to be harmonized with the new international instruments, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the revised 2012 Persons with Disabilities Act reaffirmed the right of persons with disability to access learning institutions without discrimination, ‘if the person has the ability to acquire substantial learning in that course.’ It further compelled educational institutions to take into consideration the special needs of the groups in terms of entry requirements, curriculum, assessment and use of school facilities and reaffired the need to establish special schools and institutions, especially for the deaf, the blind and the ‘mentally retarded’ (Art. 18).
Special education provision is specifically regulated in Part 6 of the 2012 Basic Education Act, stating that special needs education must be provided in special schools at different levels to cater for ‘the needs of pupils requiring special education’ (Art. 44).
Concerning policy, the 2009 Special Needs Education Policy Framework provided a comprehensive framework for the provision of special needs education in Kenya. The 2012 Sessional Paper No. 14 on Education, Training and Research further called for appropriate adaptation of curricula, teaching methods, education resources and the learning environment to cater for individual differences in learning processes and procedures.
As recommended in the 2013–18 education strategic plan, the Special Needs Education Policy Framework was reviewed and substituted by the 2018 Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities. With the overarching goal of promoting education and training for learners and trainees with disabilities, the latter has identified 16 thematic areas and developed specific policy statements, including an inclusive education policy, an assessment and early intervention policy, and an equity and gender mainstreaming policy. Compared to the 2009 Special Needs Education Policy Framework, the 2018 Sector Policy advocates the right of every learner with disability to be enrolled in a regular classroom and therefore recognizes the need to move towards inclusive education, overcoming segregated education. The policy cuts across all levels of education from early childhood to higher education. It also recognizes and provides for home-based schooling for those learners facing challenges to access regular schools.
The 2013–18 education strategic plan aims to implement inclusive education and to ensure that learning institutions are responsive to the education of learners with special needs and disabilities. It intends to achieve the policy objectives through the adaptation of the basic education curriculum, making it consistent with the needs of children with special needs, the review of the assessment and examination processes and the reforms of the teacher education curriculum. The same goals are included in the Medium Term Plan of Kenya Vision 2030 dedicated to Education and Training, where they are identified as the main catalyst towards the realization of Kenya Vision 2030.
As planned in the 2013–18 education strategic plan and in view of the new Constitution, the 2012 Sessional Paper No. 14 and the 2012 Basic Education Act, the 2007 Gender Education Policy was revised. The plan also called for more gender-sensitive school environments and affirmative actions to address the needs of the marginalized, gender minorities, those with special needs and learners in difficult circumstances.
The overall goal of the new 2013 Education and Training Sector Gender Policy, based on the principle of inclusion, is to promote gender equality issues in the education sector and to enhance empowerment for effective gender participation in society. The policy also addresses the need to ensure a flexible gender-responsive curriculum for special needs learners through the development of content on gender training and gender-responsive teaching and learning materials at all education levels and to promote equitable participation in STEM by learners with special needs.
In May 2019, a verdict of the Kenyan high court upheld a colonial-era law that criminalizes sexual intercourse among same-sex people.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and people living in rural or remote areas
The 2010 Constitution of Kenya recognizes Kiswahili and English as official languages of the country. It promotes the development and use of indigenous languages as well as of Kenyan Sign Language, Braille and other communication media accessible to persons with disabilities (Art. 7). It further establishes that the State shall adopt affirmative actions to provide minorities and marginalized groups with specific opportunities in education (Art. 56). As clarified in the constitution document, marginalized groups include indigenous communities and pastoral persons and communities, such as nomadic or settled but geographically isolated people who were or are experiencing disadvantage because of laws or practices of discrimination.
As planned in the 2013–18 education sector plan and in the Medium Term Plan of Kenya Vision 2030, the 2010 Nomadic Education Policy was revised. Acknowledging that education provision needs to take into account the spiritual, social, security, moral and other developmental concerns of nomadic communities, the new 2015 Policy Framework for Nomadic Education provides a specific sector framework to ensure nomadic communities have access to and effectively participate in relevant and quality basic education and training. The policy pays special attention to the themes of inclusion, gender and vulnerability within nomadic communities, especially among girls and children with special needs. To facilitate access to and participation in education, the policy calls for the establishment of more mobile schools and introduction of open and distance learning and for introducing innovative and flexible community-based education interventions.
The country has been implementing the Free Primary Education programme since 2003 to promote access to basic education and the Free Day Secondary Education programme since 2008.
The 2013–18 education strategic plan calls for the implementation of an education voucher scheme targeting children from poor households frequently absent from school or at risk of dropping out. Moreover, the 2017–22 National School Meals and Nutrition Strategy provides a framework for implementing school meals and nutrition initiatives in schools.
A policy for 100 percent transition in secondary school enrolment enables every learner to access quality secondary education irrespective of socio-economic status.
Aiming to increase education access of street children, the 2009 Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training Policy Framework addresses the learning needs of hard-to-reach children and youth through alternative primary schools or alternative education centres. The Street Family Rehabilitation Trust Fund also seeks to rehabilitate street children by providing them with special protection, education and psychosocial support.
Coordination across sectors
The Persons with Disabilities Act established the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, a semi-autonomous government agency which promotes the rights of persons with disabilities and mainstreams them in national development. It consists of representatives of different ministries, including the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, as well as representatives from disability organizations.
According to the 2018 Sector Policy, the Ministry of Education is the main duty bearer in provision of education and training on behalf of the government. The government works with other ministries, departments and agencies in partnership with various actors in the provision of education services for learners and trainees with disabilities. It also sets the need to develop a coordinating framework that will bring together the players who provide services to learners and trainees with disabilities and to develop a multisectoral framework.
The 2011 National Gender and Equality Commission Act establishes the National Gender and Equality Commission based on the principles of inclusiveness, non-discrimination and protection of marginalized groups. Among its functions, the commission coordinates and advises on public education programmes, mainstreaming a gender and an equality perspective.
Ethnic and linguistic groups and people living in rural or remote areas
The National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya has been established to promote the right of nomadic communities in education and to monitor the education policy implementation.
Cooperation across government levels
As set out in the 2012 Basic Education Act, decision-making authority was expected to be decentralized on financial, human resources and related functions in basic education. To support local authorities in the provision of public services, including education, the local government financing system established a Local Authority Transfer Fund.
The Department of Education has developed several standards to improve the safety and suitability of school environments, such as the School Safety Manual for schools and the Comprehensive School Health Policy. Specifically related to learners with disabilities, the 2003 Persons with Disability Act lays down their rights to accessibility and mobility, including barrier-free and disability-friendly environments, to enable them to have access to buildings, roads and other social facilities (Section 21). As subsidiary legislation, the 2009 Persons with Disabilities (Access to Employment, Services and Facilities) Regulations seek in particular to promote accessibility in education (Regulation 9).
The provision of barrier-free physical and social learning environments has also been recommended by the Taskforce on Special Education and has been set out among priorities for the realization of ‘Quality Learning Environment, Health and Safety’ in the 2018 Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities.
The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) is responsible for adapting the national regular curricula to the needs of learners with disabilities, including those with hearing, visual and physical impairments. In addition, specialized and specialist curricula have been developed to cater for learners and trainees who may not be able to access regular schools due to their disabilities, such as learners with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism and deaf-blindness. However, the 2018 Sector Policy mentions that a differentiated curriculum that meets the diverse needs of all learners and trainees with disabilities needs to be developed and implemented.
The KICD seeks to address gender issues in the development of curricula and curriculum support materials.
As set out the 2010 Policy Framework for Nomadic Education, the existing national curricula are expected to be adopted in all learning institutions located in nomadic regions, adapted to adequately respond to local needs and demands. This implies the recognition of the richness of traditional nomadic pastoral knowledge and techniques and the enforcement of the local language as a medium of instruction at low primary education level.
The Kenya Institute of Education is the responsible authority for the adaptation and adoption of specialized curriculum materials to cater for the needs of learners with disabilities in both primary and secondary education. In particular, the African Braille Centre produces and disseminates Braille materials to schools and units for blind learners, while Kenyan Sign Language is used as a means of communication for deaf learners.
The 2006 National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Strategy for Education and Training encouraged the use of IT in education institutions to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The strategy aimed to support learning opportunities for students with disabilities, including those with impaired hearing and vision. The 2013–18 education strategic plan includes among its objectives the setting and implementation of comprehensive legal, policy and institutional frameworks for ICT integration in education at all levels and the development of adequate capacity for ICT integration for the entire education sector. Against this backdrop, the 2018 Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities intends to provide and maintain assistive devices and adopt new technologies to improve learning and training for learners with disabilities. Technical and vocational education and training institutions providing training to youth with disabilities have established laboratories which support integration of ICT in training courses.
The need to reform education assessments to effectively include differentiated modes more suitable for learners and trainees with disabilities has been reaffirmed in the 2018 Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities.
With reference to teacher training on inclusion, the Education for Marginalized Children in Kenya and Child-Friendly Schools initiatives are examples of in-service education training.
Teacher training on dealing with learners with disabilities is currently provided at the Kenya Institute of Special Education for both pre-service and in-service training of up to three months and at Kenyatta University, which provides a bachelor programme in education with a specialization in special needs education. The degree programme includes training on early identification. Training for teachers with disabilities is provided for different levels of education in three teacher training colleges.
As acknowledged by the 2018 Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities, regular teacher education does not adequately incorporate training on catering for the needs of learners and trainees with disabilities. The policy therefore intends to facilitate and improve quality professional development of personnel working with learners and trainees with disabilities by setting minimum standards valid for all institutions providing pre-service and in-service programmes for educators and staff and by supporting the recruitment and redeployment of concerned personnel. A special needs education teacher training curriculum has also been developed and implemented, thus providing specialized teachers to implement the adapted and specialized curriculum.
As far as pre-service training is concerned, the 2013–18 education strategic plan also points out the need to strengthen training opportunities for special needs teachers in, among other areas, functional assessment, speech therapy and autism and to introduce a skills-based evaluation for the programme in special education needs.
Not only are teachers supposed to be involved in the capacity-building enhancement but also trainers, caregivers, parents, education managers, learning support assistants and technical disability-related personnel.
The 2013 Education and Training Sector Gender Policy aims to institutionalize a gender-responsive and inclusive quality curriculum for teacher education and development. The need to reform teacher education curricula at all levels in order to incorporate cross-cutting themes such as gender sensitivity was reaffirmed in the 2013–18 education strategic plan.
With reference to gender and special needs education, the 2013 Education and Training Sector Gender Policy aims to ensure adequate and gender-balanced staffing in special needs education institutions and to develop gender-responsive capacity-building programmes for teachers and managers in special needs education.
People living in rural or remote areas
The 2010 Policy Framework for Nomadic Education intended to recruit teacher trainees from the nomadic regions, in particular female teacher trainees, with the purpose of creating education role models in the communities. Incentives to motivate teachers to work in nomadic regions as well as in-service training focused on nomadic conditions were to be provided.
Kenya provides annual education reports. Data is made available through Kenya Open Data.
The national education management information system (NEMIS) periodically collects and manages the data on enrolled learners with disabilities by education level and type of disabilities. According to the 2010 Policy Framework for Nomadic Education, a county-based nomadic education database was expected to be developed to collect data on nomadic education and integrate it with the national EMIS.
In the new 2019 national census form, a third gender, intersex, was added and new tribal categories for indigenous people created. For some indigenous tribes, who has been traditionally either not counted or grouped together with larger tribes, this acknowledgment may lead these communities to see recognized the right to use their language in schools.
The 2013–18 education strategic plan acknowledged the need to improve the EMIS functions. In particular, it aimed to establish a decentralized and integrated EMIS and education sector integrated financial management system within headquarters and in all 47 counties, institutionalize county and national planning processes through county education data banks and develop a sector-wide EMIS coordination policy framework.
The 2018 Sector Policy explicitly mentions the need to strengthen strategies for implementation and monitoring.