Role of higher education in promoting inclusive education

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Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies (JETERAPS) 2 (3): 144-149
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jeteraps.
Role of Higher Education in Promoting Inclusive Education:
Kenyan Perspective
Edwards J. Kochung
Department of Special Needs Education,
Maseno University, Private Bag Maseno, Kenya
__________________________________________________________________________________________
Abstract
Higher education is a process of imparting knowledge and skills to individuals and empowers them to;
participate in development, decision making and democratic process. Effective education takes place when
students are able to participate fully and benefit from that education. Higher education in Africa has been
perceived as a privilege of the few intellectuals or the rich and therefore those with disabilities are denied
accessibility. Currently less than 1% of people with disability in Africa have access to higher education and
success of this small portion of the population is limited. Persons with disabilities are unable to access higher
education due to barriers outside the institutions and those within. Such barriers include narrowly-defined set of
legibility criteria, negative attitude, and inaccessible environments. Inclusive education approach is
instrumental in addressing these barriers in order to open higher education for students with disabilities and all
those who are currently denied access on racial, ethnic, health, linguistic and cultural grounds. The purpose of
this paper is to examine the role of higher education in promoting inclusive education in African with a specific
case in Kenyan context
__________________________________________________________________________________________
Keywords: higher education, disabilities, barriers, inclusive education, Kenya
__________________________________________________________________________________________
BACKGROU D The aim of inclusive education is to remove the
Disability can be explained in terms of any restriction historical exclusion within and outside of the school
that results from an impairment and hinders a person through enactment or modification of legislation,
from performing an activity within the range policies and educational management practices in
considered normal for a normal person (Heward, order to promote the reorganisation of the educational
2006, Hardman, Drew & Egan, 2005). According to systems and the acceptance of all students
UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with independently of their differences, ( Rustemier, 2002,
Disabilities (2006), Article 1, (2006), persons with Rieser (2009). Differences among students may be
disabilities include those who have long-term related to disability, gender, size, colour or ethnicity
physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments and disability is just one of these differences and does
which in interaction with various barriers may hinder not limit ones strengths and abilities. Inclusive
their full effective participation in the society on education recognises that these differences are
equal basis with others (UN Convention on the valuable and bring creativity and through them ideas
Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006) others. In are shared and experienced. In other words, inclusion
this regard, disability is seen as a socially created is about transforming systems to be inclusive of
problem This definition focuses on the elimination of everyone and not about inserting persons with
barriers created by society that prevent persons with disabilities into existing structures (UNICEF, 2009).
differences from enjoying their human rights on The authors, (Heward, 2006, Hardman et al. 2005)
equal basis with others in relation to education state that effective inclusive education identifies
(UNESCO, 2005). Barriers that limit a person's full barriers in education systems that hinder the
participation include; negative attitude, participation of students with disabilities and come
discriminative policies and practices, and inaccessible up with solutions.
environments as a result of these barriers, students
with disabilities are being excluded from accessing Inclusive education constitutes a paradigm based on
higher education. According to findings from a series the concept of human rights and social model that
of focused discussion groups from 12 countries unites equality and difference as inseparable values
carried out in late 2005 and early 2006, access to and surpasses the formal quality model (Jonsson,
education was one the main concerns raised by these 2001). There are a number of international human
young people (Ncube & Macfadyen, 2006) right agreements that support the view that
compulsory segregation in education is against
According to UNESCO (2005), inclusion as a children's and young people's basic human rights.
dynamic approach of responding positively to pupil These include the UN Convention on the Rights of
diversity and of seeing individual differences not as a the Child (1989), the UN Declaration on Education
problem but as opportunity for enriching learning. for All (1990), the UN Standard Rules on
144
Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies (JETERAPS) 2(2):81-87 (ISSN:2141-6990)
Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with result of interaction between impairment and
Disabilities (1993), UNESCO's Salamanca Statement contextual barriers.
(1994), World education Forum, Dakar (2000) and
UN Convention on the Rights of persons with There are no statistics to show the number of people
Disabilities (2006). These international initiatives and with disabilities in higher education institutions in
documents have played important roles in various most countries in Africa and considering human
countries worldwide when formulating new policies rights and equality in education, accessibility to
and strategies in inclusive education. higher education for persons with disability is still far
in many countries in Africa. This state of affairs may
Although in some African countries secondary be attributed to negative attitudes, discriminatory
education is part of higher education, in this paper, policies and practices, and inaccessible environment
higher education refers to education provided in in higher education. Various African countries have
colleges and universities that offer degrees or made political declarations commitments, particularly
diplomas. through the adoptions of the UN Convention on the
rights of the child (1989), World declaration on EFA
Inclusive Education in the context of Higher (1990), The Standard Rules on the Equalisation of
Education in Africa Opportunities for Persons with disabilities (1993) and
In African society the traditional education included UN Convention on the rights of Persons with
every member of the society and was provided on Disabilities. However most of these countries have no
equal basis within the community and everyone legal frameworks and policies for implementing these
participated at his/her level. There was respect for resolutions. It is therefore not strange that in most
individuals, equity and social justice that did not African countries, inclusive education is still at
permit any person to suffer because of his difference. concept level and where attempts have been made
This in essence was inclusive education. However, most of them do not go beyond the pilot stage.
modern education system came with its inequality by
creating first class citizen and second class citizens in Students who enrol in higher education institutions
the name of providing quality education through are expected to come from high schools, however
heterogeneous strategies. The current higher most countries in Africa especially south of the
education system in most African countries is based Sahara the majority of students with special needs
on the same principle where these institutions have and are vulnerable do not complete high school
been ivory of tower and the surrounding communities education and when they compete they do not meet
have not been part of higher learning institutions. university and college admission criteria that is based
Higher education has been used in many African on high academic performance and economic ability.
countries to reinforce inequality in access and success The few vulnerable students especially those with
in education as it has remained an agent of exclusion disabilities who complete high school are in special
for the vulnerable members of society. In the name of education institutions where the quality of education
offering quality education, universities and other offered is low due to the negative attitude of teachers.
colleges of higher learning end up isolating members
of society who are different. Students who are Challenges to Inclusion in Higher Education
different are seen in a negative context and same as The main challenge to implementation of inclusive
inequality. In this case inequality in higher education education is policy issue. While the World
is regarded as normal and continues to exist. Conference on Special Needs Education (UNESCO,
Exclusion of certain students in higher education is 1994) recognised the need for reforms in schools,
based on the principle of those who are different in without significant changes in the policies in the
terms of disability, ethnic/racial, cultural, linguistic, universities and middle colleges, the objective of
and rural has no regard for individual differences. inclusive education cannot be achieved. Universities
need to move from ivory tower and work with
Higher education has always been associated with communities so as to provide accessible housing and
specific outcomes such as good employment other services for students with disabilities
opportunities and high income but with the dwindling
economy many students finish their university and In African countries where human rights policies
college education without getting any employment. have been enacted, those policies only exists on
Universities and colleges are also competing for most paper and in the majority of those countries they are
bright students and those with resources to fill the hardly translated into practice. Most of these policies
limited spaces available in universities and colleges. have no clear goals and defined principles which
Institutions for higher education still perceive ultimately make those policies difficult to implement.
disability from the basis of medical model rather than As a result of inability to implement human rights
social model making it rather difficult for them to policy, there is lack of interest in developing policy
understand that the student's learning problem is as a on higher education for persons with disability. This
lack of policy on higher education means that
145
Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies (JETERAPS) 2(2):81-87 (ISSN:2141-6990)
institutions of higher learning cannot invest in the grants and make loans available to those who need it.
elimination of barriers, which is evidenced by poor They should promote community participation in
architectural accessibility to higher institution order to maximise resources so as to ensure that there
buildings, low number of lectures with training in is sufficient, efficient and sustainable resource
special needs education and lack of awareness about allocation to education for vulnerable students.
education for students with disability. The presence
of students with disability in secondary schools and The current common practice is that students
their absence in universities and middle colleges enrolling into higher education are coming from
confirm that there are some concern in universities regular or special needs education high school
and colleges. Lack of interest in developing policy on systems. High school institutions catering for
education of persons with disability may be attributed students with disabilities are prepared for such
to poor attitude, ignorance, professional learners. Most of these institutions have sign
protectionism towards segregated education, language teachers and interpreters and brail
antagonism towards inclusive education from within specialists which higher education institutions do not
disability itself. It is also sometimes difficult to have. Institutions of higher learning are are not
accept policy on disability and education with the prepared to convert text books to electric formats for
assumption that it is costly without any evidence. certain groups of students and provide sign language
However, some countries in Africa, such South interpreters and captioning at campus events for those
Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia have policies on who are deaf or blind. Some students require voice
disabilities. recognition technology (voice input), the software
allows students to speak into a microphone and the
The role of higher education in inclusion of students commands and texts are relayed to the computer, this
with disability in Africa must be considered against is important for those who may not use standard
the background of current existing myriads of keyboard due to motor or visual limitation and helps
challenges. Although current studies suggest that students having difficulty writing or reading.
more students with disabilities are in high schools Whether students go through regular or special
and ready to pursue higher education in middle education system, they face certain barriers before
colleges and universities than in the past, there is lack enrolling into higher education and after getting into
of evidence on the number of people with disability higher education.
who complete secondary education and enrol in
higher education. Barriers faced by students before enrolling into
higher education include;
Universities and colleges of higher learning lack Social exclusion and stigmatisation by the
policy on inclusive education and are hardly prepared society
to enrol students with disabilities. There are no Higher education institutions catering for
transitional systems in place for students with those with disabilities are not available in
disabilities when they move from high school to every community.
higher education. There is need to have strict Environments where higher education
transitional process for students with disabilities institutions are situated are not disability
when they move from primary to secondary and friendly and the facilities within the
when those students are enrolled, those students community that they are expected to use are
should be represented in student organisations and also inaccessible.
University managements so that their concerns can be Admission criteria to higher education
heard. institutions are complex, inflexible and
stringent for vulnerable students intending to
The universities and colleges of higher learning do be enrolled.
not have teachers with knowledge in instructional Most vulnerable students intending to enrol
methods for students with disabilities. In institutions into higher education are coming from poor
of higher learning where inclusion is being practiced, economic background
there are biases on the inclusion of some categories
of disabilities, such as those with intellectual When students meet all the requirements for
impairments. Higher education institutions are further admission into higher education they still face certain
faced with high cost of higher education against weak barriers within higher education institutions. These
national economies and even where the economy is barriers within the institutions include;
good, there is lack of commitment on financial Rigid curriculum and examination systems
support to students with disabilities. Individual Lack of appropriate teaching methodology
African countries have to make commitment to Feeling of inadequacy by teachers
support those who are coming from economically Content based teaching
weak background by reducing direct costs on Rote and memorisation learning
education to individual households and introduce
146
Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies (JETERAPS) 2(2):81-87 (ISSN:2141-6990)
Tuition and coaching of students who can The Children's ACT 2001, makes Primary education
afford is free and secondary education is highly subsidized.
Exams are weighted high to discriminate Policy framework: It was not until the year 2009
students that Kenya had a specific policy document on special
Despite these challenges, there have been some needs education. Implementation of special needs
attempts in various African countries to practice education has always been guided by reports of
inclusive education. In South Africa, there has been a various commissions, taskforces and committees
pilot programme at Buffalo city area in the Eastern in dating back to 1963 when Kenya attained its
a project run by Cape. In Kenya the Oriang inclusive independence. These commissions include Kenya
education project has been successful and in Sierra Education Commission (1964), the National
Leone, the Kabala Community based project. In Education Committee on education objectives of
Uganda, Leonard Cheshire has been working in (1967), The Presidential Working Committee on
Uganda Inclusive education Project since 2007. In Education and Training for the Decade and Beyond
Ivory Coast, there has been improvement in (1980), The Totally integrated Quality education and
enrolment in mainstream schools after the inclusive Training (1999) and Task force on Special Needs
education pilot programme in 2003. Most of these Education (2003). The reports of these commissions
cases in inclusive education are in basic education. It emphasised the need for early identification and
may not be correct to generalise the situation in assessment of children with disabilities, awareness
Africa since inclusive education experiences within creation, integration of children with disabilities into
Africa can present different characteristics. regular schools, integration of special needs
education in the training of all teachers and
Inclusion in higher education in Africa has to take a addressing educational needs of all learners in terms
different approach considering that a large proportion of curriculum, examinations, learning aids and
of children is still out of school and those who get physical facilities.
enrolled are not able to complete primary or
secondary education. According to UNESCO, 1994 Although there is no policy document on inclusive
Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, education per se, Kenya is a signatory to UNESCO
inclusive schools must recognise and respond to the Convention on the Rights of the child and UN
diverse needs of their students, accommodating both Convention on the Rights of the Persons with
different styles of learning and ensuring quality Disabilities which are addressing issues of inclusion.
education to all through appropriate curricula, The ideas on inclusion are contained in the Special
organisational arrangements, teaching strategies, Needs Education Taskforce report (2003) and Special
resource use and partnerships with their communities Needs Education policy (2009). General education
policy documents emphasize equal right to education
Inclusive Education in Kenyan Context and training for all children and youth. The Kenyan
Background: According to Kenya National Survey constitution and Children's Act (2001) gives all
for Persons with Disabilities, (2008), overall children a right to free and compulsory education
disability rate is 4.6. This means that there were regardless of their differences. The country education
about 1.6 million people living with disabilities with policy on Free Primary Education (2003) requires the
55% males and 45% females respectively. In Kenyan state to provide education to all vulnerable members
the constitution guarantees that all citizens are equal of the society including those with disabilities.
and have a right to freedom regardless of race colour,
gender, religion, disability political affiliation and Based on the aforementioned policy frameworks,
that every person has a right to basic education. inclusive education is being provided in institutions
of higher learning where students with disabilities are
Education for children with disabilities was enrolled in regular colleges and universities to attend
introduced in Kenya in 1940s and has been running classes with their peers. It is important to note that,
parallel to general education system. However, the when these students are enrolled, they find Higher
majority of students with disability are still not education institutions ill prepared to accommodate
accessing education due to expensive separate special them and as a result they face a lot of barriers.
education system among other reasons. Although
special education policy was developed in the year Inclusion Practices in Higher Education: The
2009, only about 10% of children with disability are political, social and economic structures in Kenya do
accessing education and the majority of who are in not favour inclusion in higher education. The
urban areas. University and college education is structures are discriminatory, and exclusive to
offered in both public and private institutions. In vulnerable members of society especially those
public institutions, the government through the coming from poor families and those with
ministry of education subsidizes. Loans are made disabilities. While in and secondary education, there
available and sometimes those who are very needy is additional resource support in terms of personnel,
are given stipends to meet accommodation expenses. and equipments, there are no support systems in
147
Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies (JETERAPS) 2(2):81-87 (ISSN:2141-6990)
higher education. While there is affirmative action for differences. Barrier to inclusion has also been
admission of students with disabilities in colleges, the attributed to resources. Resource barriers to inclusive
universities do not have any. education can include; lack of peripatetic services,
lack of support staff (sign language interpreters and
Although there is no formal statistics on the number Braille transcribers), and community involvement,
of people with disabilities accessing higher education shortage of regular and special teachers among
in the country, it is evident that there are three public others.
universities and one Diploma College that offer
inclusive education. The universities are Maseno Socioeconomic aspect is another factor that affects
University, Kenyatta University and University of inclusive education in HE. Education in Universities
Nairobi and the diploma college is Kenya Institute of and colleges is not free and the cost is far above the
Special Education. In these institutions students are ordinary citizen. Bearing in mind that majority of
given support by special teachers and other students with special needs in Kenya come from poor
professionals. These institutions admit students with background. It is evident that their families are not
disabilities into their various programmes. For able to meet expenses for higher education. In cases
example, Maseno University has had students with where students with disabilities have been enrolled in
different forms of disabilities since 2003 including universities the HE authorities have complained of
those with cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, and luck of funds to reduce environmental barriers such
blind. hence every year there is always a student as; school buildings and toilets, class size, acoustic
completing and graduating with a degree however environments so that they are accessible to all
with some difficulties. Students who go through students regardless of the differences.
Maseno University confess that although they
successfully complete their degree programmes they As observed in other African countries, lack of policy
face various barriers. They site barriers such as on inclusion is another important barrier to inclusive
curriculum during instructions and examination education in Kenya. There is lack of policy guideline
process which make it difficult for them achieve their on admission criteria of vulnerable students into
maximum higher learning institutions and the type of learning
and financial support given to them when they are
Maseno University offers programmes in special enrolled in HE. Such policies would also address
needs education and has adequate staff to support issues of curriculum, staff/student ratio, language
those with special needs. The university has also used in, examination procedures and grade transition
made it mandatory that all students taking education criteria.
have to take an introductory course in special needs
education and those taking special education needs Despite these barriers, Kenya has demonstrated gains
programme are trained for inclusive classes. The in special needs education and has now embarked on
lesson learnt with these few students are, peers have strategies that will make inclusive education work.
no problem and are always ready to assist, teachers What is required is that national agencies such as
need very short training or support services Joint Admission Board(JAB) and Higher education
Loan Board (HELB) which are given mandate to
Barriers to inclusion in higher education in implement higher education policy have an obligation
Kenya: The implementation of inclusive education in to provide technical and financial assistance to all
institutions of higher learning has been affected students regardless of their differences and in
mainly by the negative attitude of teachers and other particular those with disabilities. They should publish
stakeholders. Since inclusive education involves regularly disability statements indicating how they
learners with special needs, its success to a large give support to students with disability. The
extent depends on the attitude of teachers. Teachers Universities and colleges need to provide; course
in HE institutions feel that they have no experience to materials in accessible formats, ensure buildings and
handle such students in their classes. They cite materials, are accessible, encourage flexible teaching
factors such as class size, lack of support staff, methods, provide support during exams, and allow
workload and less motivation as some of the additional time to complete courses. Students will
hindrances to inclusive education. also need assistance on a daily basis; interpret words
in sign language, take notes for students, helping
Instructional methods, examination systems and rigid students to overcome physical barriers
curriculum used in HE are some of the barriers to
implementation of inclusive education in universities CO CLUSIO
and colleges in Kenya. Universities and colleges have The universities are not aware that their institutions
common curriculum and educational objectives for are discriminative against students with differences
all students. Inclusion requires flexible including physical, intellectual, sensory, ethnic, or
learning/teachings and assessment based flexible and emotional. HE institutions to become sensitive and
accessible curriculum that is sensitive to individual
148
Journal of Emerging Trends in Educational Research and Policy Studies (JETERAPS) 2(2):81-87 (ISSN:2141-6990)
responsive to the diverse context of students Ministry of Education, (2009). National Special
conditions (Anittos and McLuskie 2008) Needs Education Policy Framework. Government
Printer, Nairobi.
Higher Education in Africa has a responsibility of
promoting lifelong learning that enables an individual Republic of Kenya. (2005). Kenya Education
to participate in development and decision making, SectorSupport Programme 2005 - 2010. Delivering
by making education accessible to ALL through Quality Education and Transiting to all Kenyans.
eliminations of all forms of barriers from both within Government printer, Nairobi.
Higher education institutions and in society. HE
ought to ensure that all professional courses offered Republic of Kenya. (2005). National Policy on
at the universities include information on the needs of Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Office of the
vulnerable members of society President, Nairobi.
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its programmes to include; provision of assistive A Commonwealth Guide to Implementing Article 24
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