Igikiro Special Unit for the Mentally Handicapped was started in 2002. It is located in Kamahuha Location, Makuyu Division, Muranga South District, Central province in Kenya.
Its aim is to provide Instruction to learners who are mentally handicapped. The unit started with six learners.
Currently there are over twenty learners. Sixteen are in the regular programme, three are integrated in the primary school and three are home based.
The Home based learners cannot get to school because they are profoundly mentally retarded.
The unit’s main objective is to train those learners to acquire basic self help skills to enable them fit accordingly in the community.
Majority of the learners cannot speak clearly. They are therefore trained to acquire communication skills.
Other areas of instruction include numeric skills, creative arts skills, religious education, perceptual training, and adapted physical education among others.
Out of sixteen learners in the regular programme, ten are mildly retarded and six are severely retarded. Those who show some improvement are integrated in the primary School and learn along with other children who are not handicapped.
The home based learners are profoundly retarded. They have delayed developmental milestone and they cannot sit down, stand, walk or speak. They cannot take care of themselves. They are not toilet trained and need to remain under high supervision throughout their life.
Taking care of these children is a major problem. All of them come from very poor families. Besides, some are orphans. Their area of residence is non-productive. Their parents are jobless and illiterate.
Therefore getting food for the children is a problem. Sometimes, they endure great hunger because their guardians cannot find food for them. Shelter and clothing is also another problem for them.
Most of the time the learners wear tattered clothes and do not have school uniforms, a situation which lowers their self esteem.
Their houses are dilapidated and most of the time they are forced to share houses with their parents and other siblings. Most of these houses have leaking roofs and they have to find for alternative shelter from their neighbors during rainy season.
Some of the parents also exhibit the characteristics of mental retardation and the learners usually undergo extreme hardships at home where parental love and guidance is lacking.
In school, the facilities to enable smooth learning are inadequate. The classroom is incomplete. Two other classrooms are needed in order to place and teach the learners according to their levels in different classrooms.
Also lacking are desks and tables which should be adapted to suit the different sizes of the learners. The learners also lack adapted toilets which should be properly constructed to suit their disabilities.
They do not have bathrooms where they could take a bath. In general teaching resources and equipment required for smooth learning are lacking.
These learners who have cerebral palsy require adapted chairs, wheel chairs and other equipment to support them.
The learners also lack regular food supply. The unit lacks funds to employ support staff like teacher aids, cooks among others. The current instructors are forced by circumstances to cook for them besides instructional duties.
There is also a severe transport problem. Reaching the learners when they are absent or when they are sick is a problem. The only means of transport is a bicycle. This would be eased if the unit could get a motorbike which would increase access to hilly and interior areas.
Majority of the learners cannot be integrated in the primary school programme. This is mainly due to their low intelligent quotient (IQ) ranging from about 19 – 50.
They require prevocational and vocational skills to enable them become self reliant. A main hindrance to the noble responsibility bestowed upon this is lack of equipment like sewing machines, carpentry materials among others.
The above are just a few areas which require immediate attention.
The unit appreciates volunteer assistance. Your support will help these children achieve their objectives in life. The learners, parents and the community at large would greatly appreciate volunteer assistance and donations in any form.
The teacher in-charge of the special unit is Samuel Mwangi, who is trained in Special Needs Education and is currently in Kenyatta University pursuing further education in the area of special Needs education.