On the 11 th of August 2020, Don Orione Centre and the County Government of Kajiado entered into a Memorandum of understanding that was signed by Ms. Florence Waiganjo CECM- Gender, Social Services, Culture, Tourism and Wildlife and Fr. Alejandro Ruiz, Director -Don Orione Centre .This MOU was witnessed by H.E. Martine Moshisho –Deputy Governor, Kajiado County
This MOU sets in motion a joint 4 months (September 2020 to December 2020 )COVID-19 joint emergency intervention program for children and youth with mental conditions and syndromes who are now at home without access to rehabilitation, education and training a situation that puts them at risk of regression.
The impact of COVID-19 is likely to be worse for people in lower socio-economic groups, and children with disabilities face an even greater risk of being left behind and regressing.
In front of this complex reality, we have identified three main areas of need;
With schools shut down until next year, children are at risk particularly those with special educational needs and disabilities as they are likely to regress on the progress that they had made in education, rehabilitation and skill based training before the pandemic and over the past years.
This is a vulnerable group that requires specialized, time sensitive education and support and unfortunately wide scale, specialized programs are not available to them and generic homeschooling and e-learning solutions may not be suitable and accessible.
The risk of regression is also very high on areas like physical mobility, independent life and communication in addition to emotional and behavioral regression due to lack of access to rehabilitation services and individualized programs.
Before the pandemic, parents normally had the support of caregivers, teachers and from organizations like our Centre, so parents were able to engage in other different activities to support the financial need of their families.
Also for children with special educational needs and disability, to attend activities and to move outside of the house is an important element for the rehabilitation process and social activities are fundamental in the process of stimulation and inclusion.
Currently face-to-face contact lessons with caregivers and teachers are not available due to the restriction put in place to mitigate against the pandemic. This puts a strain on the parents who have to sacrifice their working time to spend with their children. Additionally, some children are losing access to networks of support, leaving them vulnerable to isolation.
The pandemic is already placing stress on many Kenyan families. But parents who have children with special education needs and disability face even greater stress. Without adequate support, considering many of these families have a very poor social background, leaving in small rooms, no access to open areas, with a child with special condition is a real stressed situation we need to consider urgently.
With the schools closed and in addition to challenges faced by students with special need, private teachers have also been greatly affected.
Currently, many of them have been laid off without pay or on forced leave without pay thereby making them struggle to provide for themselves and their dependents.
The risk of hunger and shelter is now becoming a reality for these professionals who are in this sector of education. Additionally many of them are facing stress and depression due to uncertainties about the future and stigmatization from the community due to their imminent poverty.
Through this joint emergency program, we will have prevented regression in the lives of 360 students with special needs ; additionally give relief to over 360 parents/guardians and 20 teachers who are also affected by the consequence of this pandemic.
This will help ensure that we have not left behind persons with disabilities as we fight against this pandemic.