By Josephat Nehemiah & Samuel Okerosi
- This public institution is dedicated to catering to the unique needs of individuals with mental impairment.
- Each learner gets individual attention from the teacher, and each teacher is assigned ten learners on average.
- Learners here learn these skills to earn a living from them and be self-sufficient in society, just like any other person.
In a world where inclusivity and equality are paramount, Kisii Special School stands as a beacon of hope and achievement to the special group of learners seeking basic knowledge.
This public institution is dedicated to catering to the unique needs of individuals with mental impairment.
Through a special curriculum certified by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD,) learners are exposed to the best skills and knowledge to adapt to the outside world.
Kisii Special School was founded in 1985 as a special unit with only six learners. It has now grown to 135 learners, with the infrastructure being expanded to ten classrooms.
Currently, the institution has flourished and is being celebrated for its unwavering commitment to fostering personal growth, academic development, and independence, among learners.
At the center of the school’s success lies a team of passionate and highly-skilled educators and professionals.
Their expertise and passion have created an environment that not only addresses each learner’s unique needs but also fosters a sense of belonging and community.
Joseph Nyang’au is the head-teacher, deputized by Gladys Nyakundi, with eight other teachers trained to teach special needs pupils and students.
To them, this profession is more of a calling than just working.
“I love my job; loving doing this job makes it easy for me to work with this special group daily. There are challenges, but that love keeps me going,” explains Beatrice Miseda, one of the teachers.
Teaching the special group
Kisii Special School is a home for 135 special needs learners.
They go through three levels (foundation, intermediate and pre-vocation) before graduating to join vocational training centers.
They are taken through various aspects in their curriculum that tailor them to cope well with society.
“We teach them environmental activities, numeracy (mathematics), social skills, creative activities, psychomotor activities, agriculture and religious education and other skills that will enable them be self-reliant,” Mr. Nyang’au said.
According to their curriculum, they start lessons from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the two lower levels—foundation and intermediate—while pre-vocational continues into the afternoon, up to 3:30 p.m.
Mentoring special learners
“We want them to become independent. Looking into the future, in case the care givers or guardians die, what would happen next? We prepare them for the outside word. We want them to be as abled as possible,” Ms. Miseda.
These special learners are taught a wide range of things that will help them when they graduate.
They are taught to make soaps, beads, door mats, earrings, and flower bottles. They are also taught hygiene and cooking.
All these aspects help the learners to know how to go about life outside the school once they graduate from the pre-vocational level.
They are taken through first aid protocols to help each other within the institution and later in life.
Library and talent
Unlike other libraries that are full of reading resources, Kisii Special School is equipped with books and also a lot of workshop materials like beads and raw materials for making their products.
Going through their end products that are assembled in the library and workshop, you wouldn’t believe they’ve been designed by the special learners.
They have made a lot of beautiful stuff, such as fluffy carpets and door mats, which are expensive.
Just like the mainstream schools, Kisii Special School identifies and nurtures talents, which has enabled most of the students to shine in other aspects of life, such as in games and sports.
Interestingly, they do not sit for exams but are assessed in terms of their skill mastery.
Each learner gets individual attention from the teacher, and each teacher is assigned ten learners on average.
Beating the odds
“We make soaps and mats that we sell and get money. Learners here learn these skills to earn a living from them and be self-sufficient in society, just like any other person,” Ms. Betty said.
Mr. Nyang’au adds, “The success of this institution extends beyond individual achievements. Kisii Special School actively collaborates with local businesses, government and the wider community to promote inclusivity for these special needs children.”
By the time the learners are at the pre-vocational stage, they do excellent jobs in the allocated tasks they have been learning.
It is true that these mentally challenged learners, when conditioned and nurtured well, can do what an average person can do.
Their results shout louder in the markets and workshops where their products are on display.
School and society
The head-teacher, Mr. Nyang’au, confirms the interconnectedness between the school and the community.
“The society has provided the school with “house parents” who take care of the learners during the nights while at their dormitories.
Also, the community, through well-wishers, donates some stuff for the learners.
The school, in return, takes good care of these special learners and nurtures them to become valuable community members.
The community also provides the institution with other non-teaching personnel that help in other departments.
“Teaching is a profession but teaching in a special school is more of a calling. Understanding these special learners is tough and you have to understand them for you to be able to handle them. This is a challenge that teachers have to deal with,” says Mr. Nyang’au.
He also says that the limited funds pose a major threat to the development of the school and also its running.
The amount offered by the government and the small amounts paid by the parents of the kids does not fully cater for the school’s needs.
The school infrastructure is also not advanced and they are in need of a workshop for their finished products to be assembled and marketed.
The ratio of teachers to learners is also seen as a challenge (10-13).
Despite all these challenges, the school, however, has maintained its objectives and continued to work toward its mission of training learners to be self-sufficient.
Opening the gates
Ms. Nyakundi, who is also in charge of the curriculum in the school, advises parents with kids with special needs to take them to special schools to team up with others and become better and more productive in society.
“Sensitizing the society on the importance of taking the special cases to the special schools should be done by everybody.
We remain focused and determined to ensure we mobilize people on the importance of educating the special needs children,” she stated.
The head-teacher says that the chief’s barazas and other forums let people sensitize society on how productive it’s to educate children with special conditions.
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Let’s give these special needs children avenues that will ensure that inclusivity is achieved.