Professor Julia Ojiambo a member of the National Fund for the Disabled of Kenya (NFDK) Board of Trustees has urged Teachers in special needs schools to emphasize practical skills training to enable learners with different disabilities to be self-reliant once they complete their education.
According to Prof. Ojiambo, with constant training, and practice both persons with physical and mental disabilities will learn to be responsible.
NFDK member observed that due lack of vocational skills many learners with disabilities are left at the mercy of relatives or caregivers, once they complete their education.
“We must think about a time when learners with special needs will not be in school when they are back in their communities and how they will survive. I have interacted with differently abled children who are geniuses or more talented than ordinary children. It is disappointing that some parents become disinterested in their education,” stated Ojiambo.
According to News reports by the Kenya News Agency (KNA), Ojiambo noted that some of the renowned photographers, performing artistes, entrepreneurs, painters, and fine artists around the world were former special needs pupils adding that youngsters with disabilities have a way of turning their gifts, creativity, and passion into a livelihood.
Speaking at Njoro Special School after opening a Sh 2.6 million dormitory block whose construction was funded by NFDK, Prof. Ojiambo further urged parents of learners with disabilities to invest in their children’s talent and consider enrolling them in courses like fine art, tailoring, leatherwork among others, depending on the child’s gifts.
“If this is not done, such gifted children will sit on their talent, which can stand in their way of achieving financial independence,” she observed.
Prof. Ojiambo represented the National Fund for the Disabled of Kenya (NFDK) Board of Trustees chairperson Dr. Kristina Kenyatta –Pratt who had been scheduled to be the chief guest.
Njoro Special School is a sanctuary for children with neurodiversity (Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy), other developmental disorders, and children with multiple disabilities like deaf and visual disabilities.
The classes at Njoro Special School are divided into Nursery, Primary, and Vocational training wings. Courses offered at the vocational training wing for persons with physical and mental disabilities include shoe making, weaving, beading, hairdressing, and ornament making.
Ojiambo highlighted NFDK’s pledge to donate devices and tools to pupils in special needs schools once they acquire vocational skills.
She disclosed that beneficiaries will receive sewing machines, saloon kits, welding machines, masonry kits, water pumps, and mobility aids to uplift their living standards. Local institutions that support them will also receive aid.
Ojiambo said NFDK wants to enhance the socio-economic empowerment of special needs children for a ‘just and equal’ society.
“We have embarked on a process of supporting Persons with Disabilities, which is our core mandate. We have been moving around the country where we have donated different equipment and machines to empower them financially,” said Ojiambo.
She explained that the core mandate of NFDK is to aid by funding and empowering persons with disabilities to realize their potential through socio-economic integration by supporting them with mobility enablers and business gear.
“As a Fund, we empower persons with disabilities to realize their potential through socio-economic integration by providing mobility appliances like wheelchairs, crutches, white cane, and hearing aids. But today as you can witness, we are donating sewing machines, welding equipment, barber kits gear among many others,” she added.
Ojiambo expressed regret that persons with disabilities (PWDs) have historically missed out on opportunities to be part of the workforce due to erroneous perceptions, fear, myths, and prejudice that continue to limit understanding and acceptance of disability.
“Myths abound, including that PWDs are inefficient at work and that accommodating a PWD in the workplace is expensive. It is such notions that employers must overcome to tap into the value that persons with disabilities can add to every value chain,” observed Ojiambo.
She stressed the importance of empowering PWDs adding that like other people, it is their human right to have a dignified and productive life.
Inclusion of PWDs in employment, Ojiambo noted provides them the opportunity for social and economic participation.
Diverse workgroups and talents are, indeed, key to better solutions to social, economic, and business challenges.
NFDK also supports institutions for persons with disabilities through cash grants to improve their facilities and sustainable income-generating activities. These institutions are special schools, units, vocational centers, and rehabilitation centres.
These institutions have been receiving Sh300, 000 every financial year to advance infrastructural development amenities like toilets and walking pavements to make the daily life of this group of persons a bit easy.
To qualify, both individuals and heads of institutions are required to fill NFDK Forms B and A respectively obtained from their website, applicants are also advised to obtain relevant endorsements from government administration and for the case of individual PWD, one should be formally trained/apprenticed.
After following the instructions, individuals applying are advised to pick any equipment of their choice not limited to livestock, cash grants, and mobility aid like wheelchairs and many others. The forms are then dropped at the Deputy County Commissioners’ offices countrywide for further action.
National Fund for the Disabled of Kenya is an endowment fund that was established under the Trustees Act Cap 164 of the Laws of Kenya. The mandate of the Fund was to enhance the social and economic empowerment of persons with disability in Kenya.
In the 2019 census, 2.2 percent of Kenyans, or 900,000 people — 1.9 percent of men and 2.5 percent of women — live with some form of disability.
Besides, there are more PWDs living in rural than urban areas with residence prevalence rates of 2.6 percent (0.7 million) and 1.4 percent (0.2 million), respectively.
Additionally, the 2019 Labour Market Assessment commissioned by Sight Savers revealed that unemployment and poverty are some of the major challenges PWDs in Kenya’s face. It was estimated that PWDs constitute less than two percent of the workforce.
In the same line, the UN Statistics show that 80-90 percent of PWDs of working age in developing countries, and 50-70 percent in industrialized countries are unemployed.