Working with children with special needs

special needsIn many African societies, children with special needs are kept at home. Many believe it is a curse from God so parents often hide them. This denies many talented children the rights and opportunities they might otherwise access through education. IIRR partners with local schools to provide support to children with special needs – hearing impaired, visual impaired or other physical special needs.

In 2015 IIRR supported three schools in Kenya with: 40 teachers’ guides for the 5 examinable subjects for each class (1-8), 14 Braille machines for pupils, 19 foldable walking canes, Braille sentence builders, communication boards, speech kits, wooden abacus, counter, pegboard, 5 wheel chairs and hearing kits. This has greatly motivated teachers and special needs children to perform better. Two classrooms are also rehabilitated with ramps for the visually impaired. In Uganda, 12 girls received eye glasses, 4 with lumber corset, 2 boys with wheel chairs, 1 girl with clutches and 2 girls underwent eye surgery to restore their eye sight. Watch video

Here is what the Logologo teacher for visually impaired learners had to say:
Only IIRR has supported us so generously. “As a visually impaired teacher, I can now comfortably teach both sighted and visually impaired learners using the Braille materials given which I have never had before. I appreciate UKAID donors, for this kind gesture,” says Mr John Osman. Read the Loglogo story

Accomplishments in Education in 2015

Water in schools: - In 2015, 38 water storage systems (34 in Kenya and 4 in Ethiopia) have been installed in schools. This has significantly reduced girls late coming and absenteeism.  Incidences of abduction and other forms of gender-based violence that normally occur when girls trek long distance to fetch water spells have been significantly reduced. Meals are also being cooked with clean and safe water.

Climate Smart Energy saving stoves: - Every day, children carry firewood to school to cook meals. With energy-saving stoves, kids no longer have to carry firewood and are free from hazardous smoke. The time they used to spend gathering kindling is now spent preparing for class. The benefit to the environment is significant too, as fewer trees are being cut down for fuel. Schools have also been able to reduce their fuel wood by as much as 50%

Solar Lights: In 2015, a total of 250 solar panels are installed (225 in Ethiopia and 25 in Kenya). This has enabled children, especially girls whose time is split between household chores and homework, to read at night. Teachers also use solar lights to prepare for their lessons and can help student-formed study groups at night as well. Having light in schools has the added benefit of improving security for girls who are easy targets when it gets dark.

Improved classrooms:- In hot and humid areas, teachers often lead classes under the shade of trees to escape the heat. In 2015, IIRR built 20 new “climate smart” classrooms in Ethiopia and Kenya, which are specifically designed to stay cool. They are well ventilated and have good aeration, leading to a much more conducive learning environment. Because of the additional classrooms, enrollment increased significantly. Teachers report students are more alert and attentive and teaching is more fun and relaxed.

Hostels/Dormitories: In 2015, two dorms, one each for boys and girls, were constructed and furnished in Samburu and Marabit counties of North Central Kenya. Each dorm accommodates up to 90 students. These dorms provide a safe environment for girls who are often harassed by men/boys on their way to school. By living in the dorm, girls can fully concentrate on their studies since there are no household chores occupying their time. They can also interact with fellow girls and have time for extra-curricular activities like clubs and sports, which help build their assertiveness and confidence. There is also a correlation to a reduced incidence of teenage pregnancy for girls who live in the dormitories, and the dorms also serve as Rescue Centers for girls who are under threat of being forced into early marriage within their communities.


Girls Camps, Clubs and Sports: Girls camps allow female students from neighboring schools and communities to meet one another and engage with role models (teachers, chiefs, police officers, nurses, members of parliament, etc.) who have come from similar backgrounds as themselves and succeeded in life. Through interactions with these mentors, girls learn valuable leadership skills and gain confidence. As a result, it has been noted they interact better with teachers and can articulate their needs to their parents and school authorities better. They have also increased their negotiation skills with parents and men who wish to marry them while they are still young. There is evidence that girls who participate in camps have reduced dropout rates and perform better than other students in national and school exams. A total of 1,395 girls participated in summer holiday camps. Read more about summer camps.

Special Needs Education: The Kenyan National Survey for Persons with Disabilities counts 1.3 million people living with disabilities in the country, which is 3.5% of the total population. The global average is 15%. This notable discrepancy is largely because many families hide away their children with disabilities. Of all children with disabilities who should be in school, only 39% have attended primary school and only 9% attended high school. In 2015, IIRR provided three schools in Kenya with tools to help students with special needs. These included: 40 teacher’s guides for the 5 examinable subjects for each class (1-8), 14 braille machines for pupils, 19 foldable walking canes, braille sentence builders, communication boards, speech kits, wooden abacuses, counters, pegboards, 5 wheelchairs, and multiple hearing kits. Two classrooms were also rehabilitated with ramps for the visually impaired. These tools have made it much easier for special needs children to thrive in their classrooms. In Uganda, 12 girls received eyeglasses, four were fitted with lumber corsets, two boys provided wheelchairs, one girl given crutches, and two girls underwent eye surgery to restore their eyesight.

Goats for Girls (Goats4Girls): The Goats4Girls program is an “earn and learn” initiative that aims to provide economic opportunities for girls to stay in school while simultaneously earning an income. Each girl receives two mature goats to start their herd. They then pass on two young goats (the first born) to another girl selected by community leaders and teachers, and can sell the other kid goats to pay for school expenses and other personal needs.

In 2015, IIRR dispersed 906 goats to 453 girls, and an additional 664 goats were passed on to 332 girls by beneficiaries from previous years. As the result, 785 girls who dropped out of school, or were at risk of dropping out school, were able to continue their education.

Through the program, girls finally have control of their own destiny. And for young women who have never owned anything before, having the goats provides a unique sense of control and empowerment. In 2016, IIRR plans to expand this program to 1,000 girls in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.



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