CBM's partnership with the Waldorf Kakuma project promotes an inclusive learning environment in the Kakuma refugee camp, in Turkana, Kenya.
In the remote, arid plains of Turkana West Sub-County of Kenya lies the Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, home to more than 160,000 refugees from South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Ethiopia. Poverty is widespread, with a large proportion of camp residents living on less than $2 a day. Only 20% of the refugee population is employed, which is in stark contrast to 62 per cent of Turkana residents and 71 per cent across wider Kenya.
For refugees with disabilities, the situation is even worse. They are at higher risk of violence, discrimination, and abuse.
This International Day of Education, CBM draws attention to the plight of refugee children in Kakuma, Kenya, where inclusive education gives hope for a peaceful, stable future. The project is in line with this year's theme "Learning for Lasting Peace" by breaking down barriers for children with disabilities, providing them with education and promoting acceptance in the community. Through inclusive education, CBM and its partners are laying the foundations for a more peaceful future by ensuring that children who were once marginalised and the wider community are now equipped with the knowledge and skills they need for a harmonious society.
Barriers to education
Access to basic services, including education and employment, is severely limited. Children with disabilities face additional barriers to accessing education, often resulting in lower attendance and higher dropout rates. The physical environment of the camp presents several challenges for people with mobility impairments.
Education in the camp faces major hurdles. The school-age population has increased largely due to the influx of refugees from South Sudan. Overcrowded classrooms, a lack of basic resources and an insufficient number of qualified teachers make learning difficult, especially at the secondary level.
“While striving for universal education, challenges like access, retention, transition, and quality remain significant. In Kenya, especially, there's a notable gap in providing necessary learning aids and in community acceptance of children with disabilities,” observes Bellah Wairimu, the Project Coordinator with the Waldorf Kakuma Project in Turkana.
During emergencies and humanitarian crises, there is a critical shortage of infrastructure and trained staff for early childhood care and inclusive education, particularly for children with disabilities. Existing educational facilities are overstretched, and frequent droughts compound these challenges, making it difficult to provide adequate care and education to these children.
The Unique Approach:
Recognising this challenge, CBM partnered with the Waldorf Kakuma Project (WKP) and African Inland Church Health Ministries (AICMH) and initiated a project in Kakuma Camp and Kalobeyei Settlement in 2021. The project focuses on inclusive education for children with disabilities in refugee camps.
The project, which was awarded the prestigious Zero Project Award 2024, combines long-term inclusive education initiatives such as barrier-free renovation of schools, provision of suitable learning materials and education of parents and caregivers on inclusion with short-term humanitarian measures that meet the immediate nutritional needs of children with and without disabilities.
Funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the project is also working with the Kenyan government and regional organisations for persons with disabilities to expand its reach in the region.
These efforts focus on training 124 primary school teachers in inclusive teaching methods that consider the rights of children with disabilities, as well as sexual abuse prevention and peer-to-peer learning.
"Our advocacy and awareness campaigns aim to educate the local community about the importance of including children with disabilities in all learning areas, as protected under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. WKP has observed a positive shift in understanding among parents and caregivers about inclusive education. There's a changing perspective in the community on how children with disabilities are viewed. Parents and community members are starting to change their attitudes, debunk myths about disability, and support these children by welcoming them and ensuring their education,” notes Paul Kimeu, a social worker with the Waldorf project.
The impact of these campaigns is evident in the community: social workers' reports show increased school enrolment and higher retention rates of children with and without disabilities indicating that the message is being well received. The Turkana West community is increasingly adopting and promoting a culture of inclusive education.
Stories of Change
Josephine, a seven-year-old living in the Kakuma refugee camp, was born with one arm. When she fled Sudan to Kenya, a teacher who had been trained in inclusive education by Waldorf identified Josephine and invited her to return to school. Today, Josephine is doing well at school and enjoys learning with her classmates.
From 2021 to 2023, approximately 860 children with disabilities have experienced an improved learning environment and received medical and rehabilitative services. In addition, 1,230 parents and caregivers of these children were educated about children's rights.
The impact of the Waldorf Kakuma Project goes beyond the classroom. Their work includes:
- Inclusive Education: Tailored teaching methods that incorporate art, music, and movement to ensure that every child, regardless of ability, is actively involved.
- Community engagement: Raising awareness and changing perceptions of disability in communities.
- Medical and educational assessments: Identify children with disabilities and provide the necessary medical support and assistive devices. Encouraging immunisation and breastfeeding.
- Strengthening the local economy: By working with local suppliers and creating employment opportunities, the project strengthens the local economy and leads to positive change.
Looking to the future
As the project continues to grow, it is setting its sights higher. The goal is to replicate the success in other regions of Kenya to make inclusive education the norm, not the exception, and ensure that every child, like Josephine and Princess, can thrive.
At CBM, we believe that education is key to breaking the cycle of disability and poverty. We promote systemic change through curriculum development, awareness raising, advocacy and teacher training so that persons with disabilities around the world have access to quality education.
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