This year, Sense International, an organization targeting sensory disabilities in developing nations, launched its first deaf-blind curriculum in Kenya. The program will formalize education and promote specialized home care for over 17,000 deaf and blind children in a country with no precedent for disability education.
Sense International Kenya has been at work since 2005, when teachers began protesting in earnest to the Kenyan Institute of Education about the lack of programs and metrics to guide and measure deaf-blind education.
Kenya currently has 10 centers of education for the deaf-blind—in a country with a population of 42 million. The great demand for specialized care coupled with a total lack of curriculum has left many classrooms in chaos. Teachers with the best intentions, but no tools, have no recourse.
But the problems have roots far deeper than a lack of curriculum. For many families, the distance is just too great or boarding fees too expensive to enroll their children in the few special learning centers.
Without care or intervention, struggling families often can’t help but marginalize their deaf-blind children. Thousands of disabled people live shuttered, lonely lives due to a lack of education.
Sense International addresses these problems on several fronts. First, it recently pioneered a deaf-blind education program in Kenya, fully equipped with material and performance gauges on every academic level. It built the curriculum based on studiously researched input from parents and teachers of the deaf-blind, as well as established practices from its operations around the world in countries like Romania, Peru, India, and Uganda.
Sense also works with community organizations to ramp up specialized care for children with severe disabilities. They provide home-based education and therapy, train parents to care for their disabled children, and connect families with experts and organizations that offer advanced support.
Yet, perhaps most important of all, Sense advocates for policy geared toward the deaf-blind. For example, Tanzania, one of its countries of operation, currently subsidizes transport costs for disabled children to and from special learning centers. Sense is pressuring Kenya to adopt similar practices.
The notoriously bureaucratic Kenyan government presents another problem in itself. To combat this, Sense is cutting away at the red tape prohibiting reform by maintaining constant contact with leaders on sensitive issues.
“This project has shown just what can be achieved with political will and the expertise of organizations such as ourselves,” reports Edwin Osundwa, the country representative of Sense International Kenya. “We are proud of what has been achieved and are now keen to repeat the process for home-based education.”
– John Mahon