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Mwingi’s only mental school faces challenges amid country’s focus on CBC

Learners of Nuu School for the mentally challenged in their school. PHOTO| BONIFACE MWANIKI


As education stakeholders’ continue with the conversation on how to improve standards of education in the country – the focus has shifted to the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) which is yet to gain momentum as it seeks to replace the two decade old 8-4-4 curriculum with a 2-6-3-3 system of education which unlike the former won’t be examination-oriented.    
But even as the ministry of education officials led by Minister Prof George Magoha continue to campaign for the CBC which also recently received a huge backing from President Uhuru Kenyatta – the impact of government’s investment on the learners with various disabilities is too minute to be felt.
Both learners and special needs institutions in the country are still engulfed in a myriad of challenges ranging from lack of infrastructure and proper facilities to support learning.

One such school is Nuu Special School for the Mentally Challenged. The elementary education facility is located in the remote area of Mwingi East Sub- County approximately 34 Kilometers southwards off Mwingi-Garissa highway from Nguni market.

The school based at the foot of the mystical springs-rich Nuu Hills opened its doors 30 years ago with a meager enrollment of twelve pupils.  According to the principal Esther Karanja it started in 1988 as a unit under Nuu Primary school before later relocating to the present location about a kilometre before getting to Nuu Market. The pioneers of the institution were Catholic nuns of the Sisters of Mercy convention who spearheaded it from its formative stages before the government took over.

The facility which has since attained autonomy has been offering a variety of courses to learners with different mental disorders like brain damage and autism spectrum disorders and presently boasts of a population of 175 learners.

With a teaching workforce of twelve Teachers Service Commission (TSC) employed tutors and a similar number of subordinate personnel remunerated by the education ministry – the school has done considerably a lot in instituting a number of important skills and knowledge to the disabled children.     
“Most of them (learners) who have gone through our institution have been able to secure different jobs out there with some venturing into entrepreneurship while we have absorbed others in the school to offer services in their areas of competence” Ms Karanja says.

The headteacher says the institution offers different courses to learners with various mental disorders such as basic education and survival skills to learners with autism. On the other hand the young trainees with minor mental and physical disorders are offered courses in three stages – primary level (1, 2 and 3), pre-vocational training and vocational training.

 “Vocational training is the highest level of learning in the school whereby learners are equipped with life survival skills ranging from; beadwork & jewelry making, carpentry and masonry to tailoring and broidery”, she explains.

She adds that eventually, the learners are equipped with basic entrepreneurial skills to enable them manage their businesses after they step out of the school.

However, the school boss confesses that the journey of the school has not been without challenges which at times have affected the learners’ studies. Some of the notable challenges include inadequate training equipment such as sewing and welding machines among other learning materials.

The principal noted that the school attracted learners from the vicinity while others come from far and wide, as it is the only one of its kind in the entire vast Mwingi region. Due to this many parents opt to keep their children in school even during holidays as the institution doesn’t have commuter services. Besides, the transport challenge has been a bother to the parents from around the school who have had no option but to walk everyday to and from the facility in a bid to ensure their disabled children access the much needed education.  

The school also has been facing a serious water scarcity problem as it only receives the commodity from a public water pipeline which has proved to be insufficient due to rationing.  
Above all, even after the learners using their acquired skills to make some products, getting a ready market for them has been a tall order for the school.  The only place available to showcase them has been the nearby Nuu Market which is not always forthcoming as it operates once in a week.


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