Africa should grapple with the huge disparities in education

24Sep 2019
Editor
The Guardian
Africa should grapple with the huge disparities in education

There are 4.2 million Tanzanians living with a disability. People with disabilities are often among the poorest and most marginalised in society. Disability has a significant impact on health, employment and education. More than half of children with disabilities do not attend school as a result-

-of their health or activity limitations. Illiteracy among Tanzanians with a disability is 48%, compared to 25% among those with one. This seriously hinders social and economic development.

 

The exclusion of people with disabilities from the workplace, either through discrimination or inaccessible work environments, costs Tanzania $480 million every year. People with disabilities often live in severe poverty due to the challenge of securing a steady income amid widespread exclusion.  Households headed by persons with disabilities experience greater levels of poverty.

The government has recently  blamed stigma and discrimination by Tanzanian communities as the reason for many children with disabilities not accessing education.

George Jidamva, Assistant Director for Preparatory and Primary Education in the President’s Office (Regional Administration and Local Government) said   awareness raising should be a continuous activity to combat this failing.

Opening a regional meeting on inclusive education bringing together participants from eastern and southern Africa as well as some Asian countries, he said that a big number of children with disabilities are still hidden in the community.

Their condition is compounded by stigmatization and discrimination whose effect is that many are not enrolled in schools. It is estimated that 7.9 per cent of the population has one or other kind of disability, but less than 1 per cent of children in preparatory, primary and secondary schools have a disability.

Currently the government has strengthened preparatory education to enable age appropriate enrollment and reduction of an over-age-school population at primary level and integrate vulnerable children in mainstream education, he stated.

The director stressed the need for the public to support government efforts in the meeting aimed at sharing information as well as challenges from different countries implementing inclusive education globally. The meeting was organized by Leonard Cheshire in collaboration with the Tanzania Cheshire Foundation.

Jidamva told the participants that the provision of special education aims at various categories of students with special needs, including those with partial or total visual or hearing impairment, along with albinism or autism.

Others are those with intellectual impairment, physical impairment, low vision, and on another side,, those with special gifts and talents, social challenges, emotional and behavioral problems plus other learning difficulties.

Tanzania has signed and ratified United Nations (UN) conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), he said.

The country has an operational Education and Training Policy of 2014 as well as the National Inclusive Education Strategy (2018-2021), which has to be implemented in all regular primary schools to ensure inclusive and equitable education, to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The chairman of the Tanzania Cheshire Foundation (TCF) Governing Board, Steven Masangia in his opening remarks said the four day meeting is important for education sector stakeholders as it informs on best practices along with challenges in the implementation of inclusive education in countries with similar programmess.

The Tanzania Cheshire Foundation, a partner organization to Leonard Cheshire collaborates with the government at all levels to address challenges that face vulnerable people and people with disabilities in particular.

He said the districts managed to enroll 605 children with disabilities in about 20 mainstream schools in Dodoma and Chamwino districts, a result of intensive community awareness at the start of the program.

The program also trained 265 primary school teachers in pedagogical skills on how to support and manage children with disabilities, he elaborated.

Marie Schoeman, leader of the technical programme for inclusive education at Leonard Cheshire International, thanked the government for strategies to broaden inclusive education in the country.