The workshop was officially opened by Dodoma Regional Education Officer, Mr. Remegius Ntyama, on behalf of the Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Dr. Shukuru Kawambwa. In his speech, Dr. Kawambwa, highlighted that currently there is no isolated vocational education and training for PWDs, however, there is a general curriculum which caters for all students admitted in these centres.
It was noted that due to social, economic and political dynamics, the needs of skills for PWDs has also changed. Therefore, there is a need to make some improvement in order to cater for needs of PWDs. It was insisted that there is a need to do curriculum innovation or adaptation instead of curriculum change (i.e. overhauling the current curriculum). Curriculum innovation can involve utilisation of alternative methods and activities in learning the same topic or skill. It could also involve utilisation of different ways of communication such as sign language for students with hearing impairment; Braille for students with visual impairment (blindness and low vision) etc. It is a duty of the vocational teacher to prepare ‘individual education programme (IEP)’ for students with disabilities.
Discussions among workshop attendees showed that the current curriculum on vocational education and training does not meet the needs of people with disabilities. It was deemed that we are currently in the wake of a number of social, economic and political transitions in our countries.
Likewise, vocational educations for PWDs need to change to reflect the current situation. PWDs need to obtain skills to cope with globalisation challenges.
It was revealed that the current teaching and learning environment in vocational education and training centres has failed to provide adequate skills and knowledge which can support PWDs to compete in employment market as well as start up their own income generating activities.
Furthermore, it was revealed that the activities in vocational education and training centres are more theoretical than practical. There is no entrepreneurship education which is linked with vocational training. Time length of vocational training was also a concern for many workshop participants.
Recent development studies have directly linked poverty as a major influencing factor on issues of disability and handicap. To ensure development of people with disabilities it is imperative not only to ensure that they are groomed-up with essential education and skills but also to create scopes and opportunities to utilize their acquired capacity through employment.
Employment of people with disabilities in a just and fair environment of equal opportunities and scopes will ensure economic boost and contribute in the reduction of poverty. If poverty addressed, positive influence will occur improving the situation of people with disabilities in the country.
Access to economic options for people with disabilities is very scarce in Tanzania. On attaining education, the people with disabilities have to encounter many barriers in their efforts to find income opportunities.
Many employers deny them the access to jobs. Lack of practical experiences and vocational skills are also obstructing their access to income generation options. Access is also denied to the business sectors. It is very hard for them to get in-touch with credit facilities and enter into the markets.
Majority of the people with disabilities including severe level of disabilities have the confidence to be educated and to be engaged in contributing activities.
In addition to education, acquisition of skills is an important prerequisite in the life of a person with disability. Skill leads to employment and therefore, self-sufficiency and independent living.
Despite this reality most skills training facilities are inaccessible to people with disabilities. In addition cost sharing policy limits the majority of would be trainees who cannot afford the same. Skills training institutions for people with disabilities lack the capacity to train competent individuals who can compete in the open labour market.
There are a number of laws and policy on skills development and employment for PWDs such as:
a) Vocational Education and Training Act 1994 (No. 1), provides a legal framework for the implementation of a flexible vocational education and training system that responds to the labour market.
b) Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1982 (No. 2). Establishes a quota system which stipulates that 2 per cent of the workforce in companies with over 50 employees must be persons with disabilities. Also establishes the National Advisory Council which advises the minister responsible for social welfare of disabled persons.
c) Disabled Persons (Employment) Regulations 1985, defines the eligibility and registration requirements for disabled persons under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1982.
d) Disabled Persons (Care and Maintenance) Act 1982 (No. 3), provides and designates responsibilities of caring for disabled persons to families, relatives, local government, central government and non-governmental organizations. Also establishes a National Fund for Disabled Persons.
e) National Employment Promotion Service Act 1999 (No. 9), provides or makes arrangements for the registration, employment, counselling, vocational rehabilitation and placement of persons with disabilities.
f) Employment and Labour Relations Act, 2004 (No. 6), forbids direct and indirect discrimination in any employment policy, including discrimination based on disability.
g) National Policy on Disability 2004, aims at providing a conducive environment for people with disabilities to engage in productive work for their development and the utilization of available resources for improved service delivery.
h) National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA), 2005 to 2010, which recognizes disability as a cause of poverty.
The major challenge facing all stakeholders is how to translate the optimism embodied in the policy into realism.
According to Mr. Baraka Mgohamwenda, Livelihood Project Manager, it is from above mentioned concerns that Tanzania Cheshire Foundation (TCF) in partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) - East and North Africa has developed a project which is aimed at improvement of the quality of life of the (PWDs) through support for employment in both formal and informal sectors.
It will also include sensitization of potential employers in the informal and formal sectors, training institutes, local communities and government.
TFC has established a Livelihood Resource Centre (LRC) in Dodoma region. Dodoma like other regions of Tanzania has a number of people with disabilities.
The types of disability include the following impairments: visual, hearing, communication, body movement, mobility, daily life inability, intellectual / developmental, learning and mental / emotional.
As a result of these, some PWDs have decided to shift from rural to urban areas for begging. This have made Dodoma to be known as region with a big number of beggars though not all who involve in begging are PWDs.
Mr. Mgohamwenda, further explain that the primary goal of the LRC today is to promote opportunities for people with disabilities (PWDs), to obtain decent and productive work, based on the principles of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.
In the context of the LRC project, the activities which are implemented are foreseen to contribute to the livelihood of the PWDs by creating the following enabling environment:
i. improved livelihood human and financial capital through provision of the relevant skills and business training or support for self employment via micro-credit schemes;
ii. improved access to natural and physical capital, transforming structures and processes due to sensitization of potential employers in the informal and formal sectors, training institutes, local communities and government;
iii. improved livelihood social capital through addressing the issue of low self esteem of PWDs and access to information regarding careers, job vacancies and other income generating opportunities which is limited at best and usually not tailored to meet the needs of PWDs;
iv. livelihood human capital development through establishing and development of the LRC structure, where PWDs can receive life skills, basic literacy and IT skills training, and vocational training, as well as providing a focal point for access to the relevant job information and a space to meet and share experiences;
v. in the long term to institutionalize the livelihood resources to enhance PWDs sustainable mainstream through provision of the outreach services from the LRCs and work with local community groups of PWDs and incorporate a livelihoods component as well as supporting them to self manage micro-insurance and savings schemes.
Through LRC project, Tanzania Cheshire Foundation (TCF) plans to reach about 600 youth with disabilities and more than 2,800 families located in all six districts in Dodoma region.
The project involve the youth who have started up their income generating activities and need a boost up in training to improve their activities or those who completely do not have any income generating activity.
LRC project has been successful in supporting PWDs with capital through small loans. In December, 2011, LRC entered an agreement with Dodoma PWDs SACCOS, where LRC provided TShs. 6,512,000/= to the SACCOS as seed fund to support its members to obtain capital.
By end of January, 2012, there were 60 PWDs who have had already accessed loans from the SACCOS who have been linked after undergoing some basic business skills training by LRC staff.
The loan ranges between TShs.50,000/= and 100,000/=. The trainees/ borrowers engage in: local brewing, small shops, food vendors, selling of charcoal, household stalls, fish mongers and bicycle servicing, buying and selling grains.
In addition, LRC utilise ‘apprenticeship’ model in supporting PWDs to obtain skills.
This model has proved to be very effective as students who went through this model were able to obtain adequate skills as they spend more time doing practical activities.
Graduates were able to be more creative/ innovative and obtained employment or start up their income generating activities within three to six months, which is less time than three years mandatory course time by VETA.
TCF has shown a different model in supporting PWDs in improving their livelihood. I call upon various stakeholders to support efforts done by TFC, and where possible link up with them in order to replicate such effective practices across the country.
The writer Masozi David Nyirenda is a Specialist in Education Management, Planning, Economics of Education and Policy Studies; he is reached through 0754304181 or firstname.lastname@example.org