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65th annual Comparative and International Education Society: Status of the Realization of Equitable and Inclusive Education in Kenya

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By Margaret Wawira

We took part in the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) 65th annual conference which took place virtually from April 25th to May 2nd. The theme ‘Social Responsibility within Changing Contexts’ resonates with EACHRights’ strategy of advocating for the right to education through community involvement to enhance government–community interactions. The interactions range from information sharing to community consultation and, in some instances, active participation in government decision-making processes on upholding the right to education.

The Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) is the largest and oldest of 47 comparative and international education societies around the world. It has more than 3,000 individual members comprising of researchers, analysts, practitioners, and students drawn from cross-disciplinary perspectives. CIES members explore educational issues related to schools, students, teachers, and administrators from early childhood and primary school to secondary and higher education, as well as non-formal education and lifelong learning. Some members compare achievement inequalities across socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, and language while others examine the relationship between education and cultural processes, democratization, globalization, economic development, and political conflict. CIES seeksto contribute to an understanding of education through encouragement and promotion of comparative education and related areas of inquiry and activity.

Our Education Support Programme Manager, Ms. Margaret Wawira, presented on the topic ‘Inclusive and Equitable Education in East Africa: a Comparative Analysis of Policies and Legislation. The presentation informed the status of the realization of inclusive and equitable education in Kenya as outlined below.

Status of Realisation of Equitable and Inclusive Education in Kenya

Inclusive education, which is as a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners, demands that the government develops and enforces relevant policies and legislation that facilitate effective implementation of inclusive education practices.

The realisation of inclusive education is in its nascent stage in Kenya. Various barriers have stood in the way of developing an inclusive education system. The barriers include: poverty, teenage pregnancies, limited access to healthcare, unavailability of clean drinking water, child labor, natural disasters and prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Other challenges are: privatization of education, gender inequality in learning institutions and the geographical distance it takes for children to access schools. To bring the point closer home, children must walk more than 3 kilometers from their homes to access education. Further, some children, especially in ASAL areas go to school hungry as they cannot access food, and this ties back to poverty.

To address these hinderances, the Kenyan government has ratified various international and regional human rights treaties which emphasize on all-inclusive values, provision of education-related services and the rights of learners. These treaties include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural rights, The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) among others.  

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Various examples of Human Rights Treaties and Conventions

Kenya has also formulated and enacted laws and policies that address equity and inclusion issues include: The Kenyan Constitution; 2010; The Children’s Act, 2001; Persons with Disabilities Act, 2003; Sessional Paper No.14; 2012; Kenya Education Sector Support Programme, 2005; The National Special Needs Education Policy Frameworks, 2009; Kenya Vision 2030, the Basic Education Act, 2014 and the latest, the Sector Policy for Learners and Trainees with Disabilities 2018. These policies further call for availability of trained personnel, school-community collaboration, curriculum differentiation, zero discrimination on admission. The policies have catered to learners with disabilities and special needs and have ensured that leaning is accessible and equitable for them too.

Despite enactment of these policies, and the fact that Kenya has for a long time advocated for inclusion, implementation remains to be an inevitable reality. Several reports have indicated that education leaders, school principals and other key players in the education system are not aware of inclusive education policy and practices and this has resulted into implementation challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic has further entrenched inequalities with children from poor backgrounds being locked out of digital learning simply because they cannot afford a television set, radio, or internet access. People living with disabilities, in this case the blind, have been left out of the digital learning space seeing as digitization does not accommodate them. This has exacerbated discrimination, and deepened inequalities in access to education for them.

Infographic showing the realities of learning experiences in the context of COVID

It is against the backdrop of such realities that we have partnered with Regional Education Learning Initiative (RELI) members to conduct a study that will identify all the policies that speak to issues of equity and inclusion in education and determine the status of implementation. The study will also document challenges and make recommendations on effective measures that different stakeholders can implement to ensure the realization of inclusive education for the children of Kenya.  The study will reveal an interesting perspective by covering various groups of children who have been left behind. These include refugee children, children of imprisoned mothers, pregnant and parenting teenagers and, children living in urban informal settlements.

In conclusion, the implementation of inclusive education practices is anchored on enforcement of existing Policy and Legislation related to inclusive education. Currently, there is a lack of proper mainstreaming of inclusion at the school level. Qualitative data also reveals that laxity in teacher/community attitude towards these policies is the greatest impediment to inclusive education implementation.  Low teacher motivation, limited teaching and learning resources as well as imbalanced student-teacher ratio where one teacher must bear the burden of serving 80 children alone are other demoralizing factors that have stood in the way of inclusive education implementation.   

The need for proper comprehensive dissemination of policies across all levels particularly at the school level; Development of a country/region-centered plan, implementation of inclusion policies; Development of an inclusive network that monitors challenges hindering the realization of inclusive education for the children of Kenya are some of the recommendations that came from the CIES session.

Further, the need for school based in-service programmes on inclusive education for teachers in the regular schools; multisectoral approach to address barriers and awareness creation to harness positive attitude towards inclusive education which recognizes diversity as a fundamental value and ensures that no child is left behind are additional recommendations that were proposed during the session.

The the 65th annual conference gave room for feedback from education experts around the world. The feedback will be instrumental to our continued advocacy work as we do our best to ensure access to education for all children in Kenya.

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We understand the importance of approaching each work integrally and believe in the power of simple.

Melbourne, Australia
(Sat - Thursday)
(10am - 05 pm)

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Melbourne, Australia
(Sat - Thursday)
(10am - 05 pm)