OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Advancing inclusive education for children with disabilities in non formal schools in Kenya’s urban slums

Supporting teacher preparedness and adapting teaching materials to provide quality education to children with disabilities

Photo of Maria Omare
33 17

Written by

What problem does your idea solve?

Children with disabilities in urban slums such as Kibera are denied their right to inclusive education, and consequently development opportunities, which results in further impoverishment and vulnerability towards violence .They remain out of school due to lack of financial resources, lack of access to inclusive schools that are equipped to meet their needs and inadequate skilled personnel in schools to cater for them to learn.

Explain your idea

In 2003 the Government of Kenya introduced free primary education as part of a strategy to achieve Education for All by 2015. However, urban informal settlements’ demand for schooling is way above supply in the few public schools close to these areas. This led to sprouting of non formal schools in informal settlements. A baseline study in by The Action Foundation in Kibera Slum found that all the 13 non formal schools sampled had enrolled children with different types of disabilities. Teachers reported to have low confidence and inadequate skills to teach their students with disabilities. 12% of teachers are untrained and in some schools up to 6 children share a text book. Teacher training is a major challenge facing inclusion of children with disabilities in education . We will enhance teacher preparedness in teaching learners with disabilities through our low cost and participatory Inclusive Schools Training Program (ISTP) that is designed to support teacher preparedness to provide quality education to children with disabilities in low resource non formal schools . The program involves monthly workshops, community engagement, online and classroom support. Since 2015, we have worked with 13 non formal schools in Kibera and have trained 26 teachers who are teaching a total of 163 children with physical and intellectual disabilities. In the next 12 months we aim to train 52 additional teachers in 26 additional non formal schools in Kibera and Kawangware.

Who benefits?

Teachers and all students attending non formal schools benefit. A study by Allavida Kenya in 2012 found that in approximately 500,000 children in Nairobi, about 60% are enrolled in non formal schools. In school and out of school children with disabilities living in informal settlements will benefit from learning in an inclusive setting. Teachers will become more knowledgeable, skilled and innovative and all students will have improved academic performance, social interactions and friendships.

How is your idea unique?

A large body of academic literature is available on the theme on inclusive education but the implementation of inclusive educational strategies is still limited in Kenya. This is particularly the case in informal settlements which face several challenges including poorly resourced schools. Through this initiative, we aim to bridge the gap between theory and practice through our sustainable teacher to teacher training program. Our idea is unique because we are helping children with disabilities living in informal settlements access a school closer to them by growing the capacity of teachers in non formal schools to meet their learning needs and providing learning materials. There are major gaps in the knowledge and capacity in teaching children with disabilities in non formal schools. With the support of Open IDEO we aim to have a wider impact and by providing practical recommendations to create more inclusive and accessible learning environments in urban informal settlements.

Tell us more about you

We are a grassroots organization that has worked in Kibera and other low resource communities for 7 years. Our ED,Maria, is an ADA international fellow on inclusive education:- The team at TAF comprises 5 individuals working full time to implement and design our project activities, with grassroots and international experience in inclusive education.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Our unanswered questions about our idea include:- How can we provide specialized education materials, mobility and assistive with the limited resources available? How can we handle the high student to teacher ratio in the schools? We realize that this may result in reduced quality of learning? How do we keep the teachers and volunteers motivated during and after the project implementation period? How will we enable teachers to address unique psycho-social challenges among learners with disabilities? Among these challenges are lack of self-awareness, low self-esteem and coping with stress that need attention. How can we meet the educational needs of learners with multiple and severe disabilities within an inclusive school setting?

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Kenya

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Idea Maturity

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

The feedback we received led us to recognize the need of incorporating community participation as a component in our program. We discovered that community participation is vital for the success of our program as it will help us advocate for change in perceptions about disability, build support and raise awareness on the benefits of inclusive education . By involving community members, we will build continuous support that will help us work towards ensuring that communities become places where all individuals including students with disabilities feel included, accepted and recognized. We have also included online training and support such as through webinars with experts to support teachers to gain a global perspective on inclusive education and other program components. Feedback from contributors and teachers helped us see the need of working with the parents as paraprofessionals in order to increase their involvement and facilitate education within the students' home setting

Who will implement this idea?

This idea will be implemented by The Action Foundation team that comprises of 5 individuals. We will be working on this full time at our office and partner schools in Kibera and Kawangware.We will work closely with teachers, parents and the community members. We will involve the Board of Management in the schools to offer guidance as well as seek expert advice from learning and training institutions,Ministry of Education, and individuals in the community who have experience in our focus area

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

We have a board of directors with a wide range of experience in non profit management, strategy, finance, and community development and a team of advisers with expertise in the field of disability. We consult our board of directors and advisors when we need make critical decisions. We have participatory approach to activity planning and implementation where we consult with the community by holding community meetings/ dialogues to help add value and give insights to any interventions we intend to carry out. Incase we need to make foundational changes we will seek the community's views through Focused Group discussions, household interviews and key informant interviews so that any changes to be undertaken will be accepted by the community and will address their most pressing needs.

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

Amplify focuses on collective community and participation while the process during the traditional funding model occurs majorly between the applicant and funder. Amplify brings the most important person ( USER) on board which is critical in any development initiative. Open IDEO has given us an opportunity to reflect on, improve and refine our idea by creating a platform for us to involve the community in giving us critical feedback which is key in ensuring project success and sustainability

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

The challenges of working in an urban slum are vast due to limited resources. Most of residents are unemployed and face difficulties in meeting their day to day needs. A teacher working in a non formal school in a slum faces challenges in accessing adequate resources to educate a child with disabilities.Most residents feel that a child with disability is not a productive resource thus are reluctant to invest in their education due to the stigma associated with people with disabilities. The biggest systems challenge faced by the end users is that the schools they work in are low resourced, with poor infrastructure and challenges of accessibility. This leads them to lack appropriate teaching materials and professional skills to teaching students with disabilities.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

Impact : By 2022 we aim to contribute to attainment of quality education for 1500 children with disabilities in urban slums in Kenya who have the least chances of attaining an education through our inclusive schools training program and community participation. Question :How do we package and design our model to ensure quality education standards are achieved amidst the cultural attitudinal perceptions in the community that children with disabilities cannot learn with their peers.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Between 1 and 2 years

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Under 5 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $50,000 and $100,000 USD

If your team/idea/organization has a website, please share the URL below.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bob Achgill

Hello Maria,

You may consider using the free His Hands Reader mother tongue literacy videos able to run on low end user smart phones as your ICT.

It's synergistic strategy of Hearing helping Deaf for rural or informal schools where access to interpreting resources is not available will help to expand literacy reach to both Hearing and Deaf.

In a city where there are 30+ mother tongue radio stations, you will appreciate that HHR apps are localized to each student's mother tongue. So even if the teacher does not know the Hearing child's MT the HHR app does. And the student can continue to practice their reading practice at home on the cheap family smart phone.

Someday soon in the Kiberi slum two Deaf children will be walking down the path and every Hearing child will be looking at the two Deaf children as if they are rock stars. They will be trying to "listen in" to their hand sign conversation because they learned those same hand signs "accidentally" as they too learned to read using the HHR mother tongue literacy videos.

The kinematic stimulas of seeing hand signs with each word will also help the Hearing child to grab hold of the word meanings making reading practice less stressful.

Children who feel overage to come to their grade level or girls who need to miss school or children whose situations keep them at home can continue practice at home.

Volunteers have added mother tongues and hand signs for these literacy videos in Cameroon, Afghanistan, Jordon, China and Ethiopia.

In a matter of weeks ... As volunteers step forward (maybe even from among parents in Keberi?!)... Every language of Kenya and neighboring countries can be added.

Here is some detail about the growing His Hands Reader volunteer literacy initiative...

Imagine a time when every Hearing and Deaf child can learn to read from the smart phone in their village...hearing and seeing their mother tongue and hand sign on the app?

The time is now!

Do you know someone who would like to volunteer to add their mother tongue or hand signs to the free His Hands Reader literacy system?

The mother tongue literacy videos with hand sign assist opens a path for total inclusion of deaf children among hearing. As hearing children use the mother tongue literacy videos with hand sign assist they naturally learn the means to communicate with deaf playmates.

And don't over look that the mother tongue literacy videos help Hearing children in the Multi lingual Education classroom.

It takes only 30 hours to add your mother tongue. Here are the instructions to volunteer...

Here is an example of the result of volunteers in Jordan who added their local business and mother tongue languages and local hand signs...


Bob Achgill
Helping Deaf and Hearing learn to read so they can read His Word

Here is a little more detail...

Would you like to volunteer to add your hand signs or mother tongue to

These are the ONLY qualifications needed to add your Mother Tongue language or hand signs to the :
1) Native speaker of your mother tongue or hand signs.
2) Read and write your mother tongue (not needed for adding hand signs)
3) Know English well enough to translate the 1742 basic Words to your MT or hand signs
4) Access to Android phone to use the HHR app to add your language. (1.5GB RAM, 3 GB free space)
5) total 30 hours to add your text with voice or video your hand signs.

Photo of Maria Omare

Thank you @BobAchgill ! It is great learning about His Hands Reader and how it can be helpful to learners who are deaf. It is great that this helps students who can hear help their peers who are deaf. We will take a keener look at this and see the possible ways we can engage.

Photo of Bob Achgill

I look forward to hearing from you!

View all comments