Development happens through jobs. Jobs allow families to escape poverty, individuals to develop skills, and excluded groups such as women and youth to gain economic independence. For persons with disabilities, education, training and access to employment is a very personal and sensitive priority.
In Kenya, while both legal and policy instruments are clear on the issue of inclusive education and access to employment, implementation is slow and there is no data on what has been achieved.
Nevertheless, Kenya has made a lot of progress in the inclusion of persons with disabilities in education, training and access to employment, particularly through available legal instruments such as the constitution of Kenya 2010 and disability ACT 2003. Other documents such as Kenya Vision 2030, TVET ACT 2014, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Employment ACT 2007 set minimum standards for including PWDs in education and employment by setting legal thresholds against discrimination.
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 and disability ACT address various disability issues including access to employment (through the 5% staff quota reserved for persons living with disabilities) and education. However, in order to achieve United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 “inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all” and SDG 8 “employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value”, more needs to be done to ensure that youths with disabilities have access to market driven skills to enable them compete effectively in the job market.
To achieve this, it is necessary to:
- Ensure that youths with disabilities have universal and inclusive access to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET);
- Create linkages between employers and TVET providers so as to realign TVET training to market driven skills and;
- Promote disability awareness and disability specific concepts such as universal design, reasonable accommodation and decent work so that persons with disability can achieve their life dreams.
Among the many efforts and innovations seeking to increase universal access to education and training and employment opportunities for youths with disabilities in Kenya is the EmployAble project by ADDA.
EmployAble Project is designed to work with mainstream Vocational training Institutions and employers to facilitate access to market driven skills by youths with disabilities in Nairobi. To this end, the EmployAble project facilitating partners, Agency for Disability and Development in Africa (ADDA) and Cheshire Disability services Kenya (CDSK) commissioned a partner mapping exercise to identify TVET providers, Employers and youths with disabilities who will benchmark the education, training and employment situation of youth with disabilities in Nairobi.
In order to carry out the mapping exercise, ADDA and CDSK developed and distributed a questionnaire to 65 youths living with disabilities and 30 employers. A desk review of 5 TVET provider’s curricula was done to identify TVETs that offer 21st century skills as part of their training.
Preliminary findings indicate that there is conflicting data on disability numbers in Kenya. Available data from the Kenya National Bureau of statistics2 show that persons with disabilities constitute about 3.5% of the Kenyan population. Although this data is over 8 years old, it is still way below the global estimate of 15% of world population living with disabilities.
On the issue of youth employment, the data shows that only 27% of the youth polled are in any form of employment. This is way below the national average of 60.1%4. In other words, the unemployment rate for youths with disability is at 73% compared to 39.1 average national unemployment rates. If we eliminate 19% who are students, still we have an unemployment rate of 42%.
On skills, it was noted that among the youths employed, 46% are unskilled, 24% are semi-skilled and only 30% are skilled. On the frequency of job application, 47% said they do not apply for jobs. This is in line with 60% of employers who said that they don’t receive applications from PWDs.
Other findings show that private sector employers do not actively source for persons with disabilities while recruiting talent (80%). The implication is that in spite of the letter and spirit of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and disability ACT 20035, affirmative action such as the stipulated 5% employment for persons with disabilities (PWDS) is slow in implementation.
Interestingly, 80% of employers say they have no problem employing a youth with disability as long as the youth is qualified. 35% of employers consider merit and then affirmative action when recruiting.
Overall, the mapping exercise has identified 65 youths with disabilities, 3 community networks of persons with disabilities, 3 soft skills providers, 2 mainstream TVET, 3 special education institutions and is working with the Kenya Federation of Employers to identify 15 employers.