Developing Inclusive Environments, Oriang, Kenya
The Framework for Action (Salamanca) stresses the importance of ‘external support services’, ‘community perspectives’ and ‘resource requirements’ to make inclusive education a success. In this article Orpa highlights the achievements of teachers, parents, pupils, community members and Leonard Cheshire International staff in a cluster of five schools in Western Kenya in promoting inclusive environments and practices. A support structure has been put in place in order to ensure the sustainability of this inclusive initiative and to encourage community ownership. Resource centres have been established in each school to both support and document the inclusive process.
Leonard Cheshire International (LCI) has been supporting a pilot inclusive education programme in five schools in Oriang, Western Kenya, since 2001. The project benefits 2,200 children of whom 178 have minor-to-severe disabilities (mainly low vision, physical disabilities, epilepsy, learning disabilities, and a small percentage have hearing difficulties). Many children have intellectual impairments caused by malaria and the lack of access to appropriate treatment.
Through its Regional Training and Development programme, LCI provides technical and financial support to the project. LCI’s East and North Africa Strategy highlights the promotion of inclusive education, with a general shift from long-term residential support to community-oriented activities. Support is provided to Oriang through two technical staff experienced in inclusive education, and includes: the development of structures; appropriate attitudes; and the capacity building of teachers, pupils, parents and wider communities to achieve quality education for children with disabilities.
Inclusive learning environments
A core strategy is the enhancement of classroom environments, which has led to the creation of language-rich classroom environments and the introduction of the learning centre concept. The learning centre is a carefully planned area of the classroom where children can engage in active learning, interaction, sharing and co-operating with each other. Emphasis is placed on allowing learners to develop at their pace, become confident and self-motivated. Activities involve children in peer teaching for developing valuable leadership skills. Children share experiences rather than compete, they are involved in self and peer evaluation in a non-threatening environment, and they develop and explore their own individual learning styles. The learning centre encourages choice and decision making as well good time management and keeping on task. Through in-service training activities, the project encourages change in the teacher’s role from one of imparter of knowledge to one of facilitator of learning, becoming a full partner in the learning process.
The following improvements have been made to the learning environment – many have been achieved through community mobilisation:
- building ramps to classrooms and school buildings
- construction of adapted latrines for children with physical disabilities
- enlargement of classroom windows
- painting walls to improve the lighting in some classrooms
- rebuilding of all the dilapidated classrooms
- levelling of the play grounds to ease mobility.
Using all the senses
Training workshops have been held to encourage teachers to integrate all the senses in their teaching, helping learners with special educational needs to make use of their remaining senses. For instance, a learner who does not hear well is offered opportunities to use amplified sound, special seating and enhanced classroom visual cues, including charts and real objects. A learner with visual impairment can use touch and auditory senses.
Whole Language Approach
The ‘Whole Language Approach’ has been introduced in Oriang. This is based on the inter-connections between the six language skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, observing and dramatising. This promotes children’s physical, emotional, spiritual and cognitive development. It also provides a useful platform for exploiting children’s interest in nature, stories, poems, humour and music. As children participate in interesting but purposeful activities, their language abilities and thinking skills will develop in natural ways.
African culture in classroom instruction
Teachers from the lower primary (and the head teachers) have recently had training in using this approach to language teaching. They are encouraged to incorporate positive aspects of African culture and tradition in primary school literacy and language studies. With an initial focus on oral culture, teachers can create enjoyment in language and literacy learning through artistic conversations (one person acting more than one role in story telling) puns, tongue twisters, riddles, proverbs, folktales, myths, legends, and songs. By incorporating African culture into classroom instruction, it is envisaged that the community will become more involved in the school.
An agreement with the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) has led to ongoing in-service training for Oriang teachers. The KISE courses offer certificate and diploma qualifications, lasting one and two years respectively. There is distance learning during term-time, and meetings with tutors in the school holidays.
This model of training, although available for other curriculum areas such as Maths and English, is the first of its kind in Kenya to incorporate inclusive education. The results of a baseline survey by LCI in 1999 played a significant role in the design of the course. At the moment 15 teachers are on an in-service Diploma Course in Inclusive Education, which includes sign language, Braille, and use of teaching and adaptive aids.
The project is run by a management committee from the local community, in the interest of sustainability. The committee has been trained in community project management, and this capacity building is ongoing. The 16-member committee supervises the work of five School Disability Committees (SDCs). An SDC consists of two people each from the following groups: disabled people; parents of disabled children; teachers; school committee members; and community health workers. Each SDC works with Support Groups (mainly organisations of disabled persons) to identify disabled children and support their education and welfare. Through the SDC parents receive training in education and care of disabled children. The project has empowered all parents as partners in school management to be more involved in decision making.
Using Child-to-Child principles the project has been able to disseminate key messages to pupils and community members through participatory theatre, storytelling, music and poetry. Following the teaching of teachers in the Child-to-Child approach, children are now working with parents and community health workers on action plans to help pass disability messages to the community and promote community action towards disability.
A central resource centre has been established which provides specialist support for schools and families. This has a library, training facilities, a therapy area, and a communications unit. In future it will offer Internet facilities. It was decided that a central resource centre was not sufficient, so each of the five schools also has a small resource point offering a mini-library, access to play materials and teaching/learning resources, including pupil and teacher-made resources.
This year we intend to document the process of inclusive education and how it has changed the lives of so many – not only disabled children, but also their community. We intend to do this through a newsletter and a video documentary. Both will include stories of human interest and lessons learned. We plan to use these for education, sensitisation and mobilisation of key players, including the Ministry of Education. In this way we hope to influence change at policy level, in teacher education and in the community.
Orpa Ogot is LCI’s Inclusive Education Liaison Officer and she can be contacted at:
PO Box 5575
To read a longer article about this project, click here
For further information about LCI’s work in the East and North African Region contact:
PO Box 38748 – 00600
Tel: +254 020 572197
Fax: + 254 020 572249