Embodying the spirit of inclusiveness in Education

Embodying the spirit of inclusiveness in Education

By Lydia Manyasi

The Oxford Dictionary defines inclusion as “The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those having physical or mental disabilities or belonging to other minority groups. For example: “the school promotes an attitude of tolerance and inclusiveness”

The 17 values and Principles of Governance under Article 10 (2) of the Constitution of Kenya are: Patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people; Human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised; Good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability; and Sustainable development.

The arrangement of the values appears very deliberate, having the universal ones (at the national level) listed first, followed by those that affect the executors of the first cluster, beginning with Human dignity that should be observed for each and every individual to feel valued – inclusiveness among them. It emphasizes the fact that “our similarities as human beings far outweigh our differences. 

All of us have the same basic needs and desires. We all want food, clothing, shelter, a job, to be healthy, and a better life for our children. We are all in the same boat – planet earth. We are all in this together.” In this very cluster is equality that should see to it that the varied and unseen needs, assets, and perspectives of people are not disregarded. The rest of the values encapsulate the strategies that should ensure their grounding.

The definition of inclusiveness above brings this discourse to the area of focus – the physically and mentally challenged in the Education sector. Before delving into plight bedevilling the group, it is worth recognising and commending efforts witnessed lately of ensuring 100% transition into higher levels of learning. Education is a total experience for which the United Nations Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Commission laid out four critical pillars:

Learning to know that lays the foundations of learning throughout life. This pillar refers to the basic knowledge that we need to be able to understand our environment and to live in dignity. It is also about arousing curiosity, allowing us to experience the pleasures of research and discovery;

Learning to do. Learning to do refers to the acquisition of practical skills, but also to an aptitude for teamwork and initiative, and a readiness to take risks. As such, this pillar is about the competence of putting what we have learned into practice so as to act creatively on our environment;

Learning to live together is the pillar that the UNESCO Commission emphasizes more than any other. It refers first of all to developing an understanding of others through dialogue—leading to empathy, respect, and appreciation. Yet if we are to understand others, we must first know ourselves; and

Learning to be is founded on the fundamental principle that education needs to contribute to the all-round development of each individual. This pillar deals with the broadening of care for each aspect of the personality. It deals with giving us the freedom of thought, feeling, and imagination that we need to act more independently, with more insight, more critically, and more responsibly. 

The foregoing pillars are in focus when policy makers make public pronouncements and it would appear that is where it all stops. This assertion is made in reference to the treatment of the physically and mentally challenged in the institutions the lot find themselves. It is indeed very noble that establishing the said institutions was considered at all! 

Unfortunately, there are very rare occasions when these institutions are the focus of discussion – and are misused by publicity-happy leaders who want to be seen as benevolent and as such occupy undeserving headlines in the news coverage for deeds that should be their responsibility to ensure. These include receipt of donations in kind and monetary from well-wishers. 

The gory details of what actually happens within the precincts of these institution remain murmured by the workers whose prayer it is that one day something would be done to ensure proper running of these institutions! Given a chance during visitations by well-wishers, one actually hears first-hand, the plight of these challenged members of the society. What happens to them after the visitors are gone remains covered or should we say buried within those establishments! 

Naturally, Learning to know presupposes that these challenged citizens will develop the powers of concentration, memory, and thought. In short, that they will learn to learn; Learning to do is supposed to enable them to turn the knowledge they acquire into effective innovations; learning to live together is about recognizing their growing interdependence, about experiencing shared purposes, and about implementing common projects and a joint future. Only then can it be possible to manage the sometimes-inevitable conflicts in a peaceful way; and, learning to be ensures that at the end of their education, they would be able to discover and open the talents which are hidden like a treasure within each of them. 

These four pillars need not be made to appear unattainable. All charged with the responsibility of nurturing these challenged among us should be as selfless and committed as should, and not use the opportunity to enrich themselves! They have been given the opportunity to be the voice of the challenged. Adopting a Human Rights-based approach may provide both a vision of what they should strive to achieve to secure the freedom, well-being and dignity of all; and the human rights standards and principles to uphold.

To all the physically and mentally challenged who have managed to overcome the odds to the heights they have attained, you deserve the celebration accorded to you!!  (

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