Stadi Za Maisha Trust Programs
Our Inclusive Approach in Early Years of Learning is based on the philosophy of “NO Child Left Behind.”
We believe Inclusion and inclusive practice in the early years is about practices which ensure that everyone “belongs”: the children and their parents, caregivers and the community at larger. Every child is unique and will develop at their own pace, so it is not about treating all children in exactly the same way but treating each child fairly and paying attention to their individual backgrounds, interests and needs.
Inclusion is sometimes taken to apply specifically and only to those children identified as having special educational needs (SEN), learning in mainstream settings. However, it has a much broader meaning and applies to the practices, attitudes and, above all, values that create early childhood communities in which everyone feels comfortable, that they “belong” and can contribute.
- Children in early years should be supported to:
- Feel safe and welcome at any given setting.
- Develop a sense of belonging.
- Play, learn and develop at their own pace to reach their full potential.
Stadi za Maisha Trust aims effective advocate and promote inclusive practices in all the communities in Kenya and settings by constantly engaging policy makers and other stakeholders in early years of learning to develop strategies that will improve upon their inclusive practice to the benefit of all learners, caregivers and society. Children thrive in nurturing, stimulating environments with the love and support of trustworthy adults. These devoted and skilled adults know them well, take an interest in them and meet their physical and emotional needs very well. Very young children learn and develop within their loving families and wider ecologies, including extended families, communities and friends. Children gain resilience early in life. Within these aims, children are encouraged to play and learn about lifestyles that are different to their own and gain an awareness that diversity should be celebrated and honored in every level of society. Early years settings are well placed to provide a safe environment where parents, caregivers, and children can learn about each other’s differences and similarities and learn to respect and value each other.
Very young children thrive in nurturing, stimulating environments with the love and support of reliable adults. These devoted and skilled adults know them well, take an interest in them and meet their physical and emotional needs very well. Very young children learn and develop within their loving families and wider ecologies, including extended families, communities and friends. Children gain resilience early in life.
In such optimum conditions, attuned and knowledgeable adults may recognise early signs of cognitive, social, behavioural or emotional needs. When adults know the children well and observe them at play, they are likely to notice when they not respond to different stimuli or meet developmental milestones as or when expected. Early consultations with other professionals and family members are crucial. As long ago as 1978, the Warnock Report (Department for Education and Skills, UK) underlined the importance of early identification of special educational needs. So, instead of waiting until a child reached school age (5 and above) before making a referral or diagnosis, it was recommended that professionals consider children at a much younger age.
When children live in poverty and or there are other adverse conditions in their lives, such as violence, drugs, bereavement or war, their chances to thrive and achieve well are greatly reduced. This is particularly detrimental when there are other underlying special educational needs or disabilities. As Mensah and Badu-Shayar (2016) proposed, ‘difficulties found earlier on if not attended to, can have a cascading effect on the rest of a child’s life’ (p.4). Special educational needs may go unnoticed, and affected children may miss valuable, early opportunities to develop strategies early on in life. For such children, well-resourced early childhood centers with well-trained adults can make a profound difference to their life chances (Taggart et al, 2006).
An inclusive education strategy is needed for children from birth to 8 years with clear aims, objectives, parameters and success indicators. A number of questions need to be explored from the beginning, such as ‘When will interventions be made?’, ‘Who is suitably qualified to identify a broad range of special educational needs and disabilities?’, ‘Who should families contact if they are worried about their child?’, ‘What measures and diagnostic tools are suitable for very young children?’, ‘How ethical are any tests that might be administered?’, ‘How will the voice of the child be included?’, ‘What qualifications should adults have for this work?’, ‘Who is qualified to give specialist advice and support?’, ‘How can professionals and families work together to support children?’ and ‘Where should children with different special educational needs and disabilities be supported?’.
Parents and communities are likely to benefit from accessible training programmes to help them play with their children and observe them at play. This will support them to help their child and assess what they can do very well and what they need to do next. Parents should know who to approach if they have any concerns.