CHALLENGES FACED BY PUPILS WITH DISABILITIES IN ACCESSING EDUCATION IN INCLUSIVE SCHOOLS IN ZAMBIA
Daniel Ndhlovu. University of Zambia @2008
Mr Ndhlovu is a lecturer in the Department of Educational Psychology, Sociology and Special Education, School of Education. He is a Ph D. student in Special Education with the University of Zambia, and holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Special Education from the University of Zambia. He teaches Introduction to Research Methods in Special Education and Counselling in Child Disability. His areas of interest in research are Counselling, Special Education, Gender issues and Early Childhood, Development and Education. He is also a member of the Zambia Counselling Council.
This paper reports a study undertaken in 2007 to determine challenges faced by pupils with disabilities in accessing inclusive education in selected schools of Chongwe District in Lusaka Province of Zambia. Data was collected from 424 respondents and informants. Qualitative and quantitative methodology was used in the study. The qualitative method used focus group discussion. Quantitative method mainly relied on questionnaires. The data revealed the following challenges: inadequate funding to schools, long distance to schools, non user friendly infrastructure, inadequate appropriate teaching and learning materials and lack of skills in sign language and braille by teachers for communicating to pupils with disabilities especially those with hearing and visual impairments. In order to address the above stated challenges, the respondents and informant suggested that Ministry of Education should ensure that infrastructure is modified so that it is accessible by all pupils. In addition, all teachers should be trained in sign language and braille and all teacher training institutions should include sign language and braille in their curriculum.
Using the International Classification of Functioning definition, the World Health Organisation (WHO 2006) defines disability as a generic term that includes impairments in body functions and structures, activity limitation and participation restrictions. This definition indicates the negative aspects of the inter-action between an individual with a health condition and his/her environmental and personal factors. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure such as deviation or loss. Impairment therefore, refers to physical, sensory and mental problems, including illness and lack of emotional well-being.
Inclusive education is a concept that has brought about a lot of debate due to misunderstanding of what it means and the way it was implemented in Zambia. For instance, a general understanding of the concept is that, inclusive education is a practice of including children with disabilities in the regular educational programme. However, this definition is limiting. For example, one can ask, to what benefit is inclusion to a deaf pupil in an ordinary class and taught by a teacher who does not use sign language to communicate what is being taught? So what is inclusive education? Savolainen et al (2000) point out that inclusive education does not mean just the integration of children and young people with physical, sensory or intellectual disability into regular schools or just the access to education of excluded learners. Inclusion is to be understood as a two way process; firstly of increasing participation in learning and secondly of identifying and reducing or removing barriers that inhibit the learning and participation of all learners. An inclusive school is therefore, a place where every pupil belongs, is accepted, supports and is supported by his/her peers and other members of the school community in the course of having his/her educational needs met. In addition, all pupils are provided with appropriate educational opportunities and resources within the school or class. Care must be taken to avoid indiscriminate inclusion even of pupils with severe disabilities. This view is in line with Ministry of Education (1996:69) strategy of providing education to pupils with disabilities which states that,
‘to the greatest extent possible, the Ministry will include pupils with special educational needs into mainstream institutions and will provide them with necessary facilities. However, where need is established, the Ministry will participate in the provision of new special schools for the severely impaired.’
In addition, World Action Concerning Disabled Persons of (1993), Tanya and Amerena (2007) believe that inclusion is ultimately about removing barriers, not normalisation, cure or mere integration. Removal of physical and attitudinal barriers in schools and communities to a minimal level may contribute greatly to making children with disabilities access education in Zambia.
Practicing inclusive schooling promotes access to education in schools by all learners regardless of their disabilities. Despite the efforts of the Ministry of Education through the Inclusive Schooling Programme (INSPRO) to make schools conducive for inclusive education, studies on inclusive education in Zambia by Kalabula (1991), Kasonde Ng’andu (2001) and Mandyata (2002) indicate that most schools do not have facilities or resources conducive for inclusive education thereby excluding a lot of children with disabilities from accessing education in schools.
Objectives of the study.
The study was guided by the following objectives; (i) to determine number of children excluded from schooling in Nyangwena, Kazemba, Mulola, Chitemalesa and Chinyunyu areas of Chongwe District. (ii) To determine views of teachers on whether inclusive schooling was effective in Nyangwena, Kazemba, Mulola, Chitemalesa and Chinyunyu basic schools. (iii) To identify challenges that children with disabilities face in accessing education in schools in Chongwe District. (iv) To determine measures that could address the identified challenges faced by pupils with disabilities in accessing inclusive education in schools in Chongwe District.
World Health Organisation (2006) reports that the prevailing situation in most schools excludes a lot of pupils with disabilities from accessing education. Such exclusion may make it difficult to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. For example, the second goal among the MDGs is to achieve universal primary education. But with 98% (588 million) of the 600 million children with disabililties world wide excluded from school, this may be unattainable.
In Zambia, the situation shows that a large number of persons with disabilities are also excluded from schools. For instance, the Central Statistics Office (2003) reported that there were 256,690 persons with disabilities in Zambia. Out of this number, 43.2% had no formal education, 39.7% had primary school education, 14.5% had secondary school education, 1.3% had A level and another 1.3% had attained tertiary education.
Moberg and Kasonde Ng’andu (2001) reported that 40% of school going children with disabilities in Western and North Western provinces of Zambia dropped out of school system because they could not afford transport to school, food or uniforms. Those in rural schools had to walk an average of 11 kilometres to school.
In regard to attitude of teachers, Mandyata (2002) reported that teachers’ positive attitudes towards inclusion in Kasama depended greatly on their teacher education and availability of support, class size and workload.
Children with disabilities could however, learn in an inclusive setting. But teachers should allow the children to progress at their own pace. The case of Mia in Lebanon that was reported by Farah in 2000 suffices for a best practice of inclusive education. Farah (2000) reported that, Mia’s parents were told that Mia would not progress in school. Contrary to what Mia’s parents were told about her, she went to school. Following her own pace she completed her school programme. She was even employed as a kindergarten teacher’s aid in a regular school.
The qualitative and quantitative methodology was used in the study. Qualitative method used focus group discussion. Quantitative method mainly relied on questionnaires. The target population was all parents or guardians of children with disabilities and all their children with disabilities in Nyangwena, Kazemba, Mulola, Chitemalesa and Chinyunyu areas of Chongwe District. In addition, all headmen in Chief Bundabunda’s chiefdom and the teachers from Nyangwena, Kazemba, Mulola, Chitemalesa and Chinyunyu basic schools.
The sample had 424 respondents and informants. It consisted of 50 children with disabilities, 200 ordinary pupils, 100 parents or guardians. In addition, there were 30 headmen or their representatives residing in the study area and 44 teachers from Nyangwena, Kazemba, Mulola, Chitemalesa and Chinyunyu basic schools. The traditional leaders were chosen because of their traditional role in guiding their communities. Parents were chosen because these are persons who know the challenges their children face as they go to schools. Teachers were chosen to provide an educationist view point on the challenges faced by children with disabilities in accessing inclusive education. Children with disabilities were chosen because they were at the centre of experiencing the challenges of inclusive schooling and ordinary pupils were chosen to determine their attitude towards their peer with disabilities in an inclusive school. Simple random sampling procedure was used to select the teachers and ordinary pupils. This procedure had been chosen because it provided each respondent in the population an equal chance to be selected as a study sample. Purposive procedure was used to select the children with disabilities and their parents.
Three separate checklists were used to collect data from village headmen, parents and their children with disabilities through focus group discussions. Focus group discussion was chosen because most parents and children were unable to read and write. The researcher used aural questions in focus groups. Questionnaires were used to collect data from teachers. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse quantitative data while content analysis was used to analyse qualitative data.
Findings and discussion
This section presents findings of the study in relation to the set objectives. The findings are followed by discussion.
Number of children excluded from schooling
The findings of the study showed that 248 children did not access schooling due to physical and socially created barriers in Nyangwena, Kazemba, Mulola, Chitemalesa and Chinyunyu basic schools.
Teachers’ views on the effectiveness of inclusive education in their schools
Teachers’ views on whether inclusive education had been effective in their schools revealed that out of 44 respondents, 78% indicated that it was not effective while 22% indicated that it was effective, see figure 1 below.
Teachers’ views on the effectiveness of inclusive education in their schools
Teachers indicated several factors that contributed to excluding pupils with disabilities from accessing inclusive education. The following factors were indicated by respondents; inadequate funding to schools, long distance to schools, infrastructure not being user friendly, inadequate appropriate teaching and learning materials and most teachers did not have skills to communicate with pupils with disabilities especially in sign language and braille. These findings were consistent with those those of Kalabula (1991) who reported that, implementation of inclusive education in Zambian schools had faced many challenges such as lack of appropriate teaching and learning materials and inadequate funds.
Inadequate funding to schools
The issue of inadequate funding to schools to a great extent hinders implementation of inclusive education in Zambia. For instance, unsuitable infrastructure, inadequate learning resources, inadequate trained teachers in special education could all be attributed to inadequate funding by the government. Similarly, Kelly (1991) reported that the amount of money spent on education had been declining substantially in real terms to the point that education could account about 2.5% of the Gross Product (GDP) compared to 5 to 6% in the mid 1980s. UNESCO (1994) suggested that government should increase resources such as funding, teaching and learning materials in the mainstream when learners with special educational needs are included.
In addition, Ministry of Education (2006) states that non governmental organisations and the community should also supplement the efforts of the government in supporting the implementation of inclusive schooling programme. Such support would minimise the problem of inadequate funding by government to schools. In turn more children with disabilities may access education.
Inadequate teaching and learning resources in schools
Through out the study teachers, parents and pupils indicated that lack of or inadequate teaching and learning resources in schools contributed to hindering schools from practicing effective inclusive education. Simialrly, Mandyata (2002), found out that, inadequate provision of specialised training and resources to equip teachers in handling children with special educational needs in ordinary classes contributed to many pupils dropping out of school.
Parents, teachers and traditional leaders indicated that economic factors such as poverty and unemployment contributed greatly to exclusion of children from accessing education. Most parents of children with disabilities were unemployed and poor. Similarly, Kelly (1991) reported that children with disabilities especially girls were victims of poverty. Their parents in most cases were poor and had to struggle to feed and clothe them. Paying school fees was a luxury for such parents. As a measure to economic barriers, especially the issue of school fees, the Government of the Republic of Zambia abolished payment of school fees from grades 1 to 7. In addition, some vulnerable children from basic to tertiary level of education were even benefiting from bursary scheme by the government. Such a practice was consistent with the government policy on education. For instance, MOE (1996) stated that government would disperse all direct educational costs for children with special educational needs and would provide bursaries for such individuals at all levels of education. Sensitisation campaign is therefore, required to parents, children and teachers for them to know that basic education especially grades 1-7 was free in Zambia. There was also need to empower parents of children with disabilities so that they could meet the educational needs of their children since those in grades 8 – 12 and tertiary level of education pay school fees. Non Governmental Organisations could also supplement government efforts by providing bursaries to vulnerable children and those with disabilities.
Long distance to schools
Children, parents and teachers indicated that long distance to school hindered most children with disabilities from accessing education. For instance, in Chinyunyu, children had to walk 12 kilometres to reach school. Such findings were also reported by Moberg and Kasonde-Ng’andu (2001). They reported that 40% of school children with disabilities in Western and North Western provinces of Zambia dropped out of school system because they could not afford transport to school, food or uniforms. Those in rural schools had to walk an average of 11 kilometres to school. The situation became almost impossible for children on wheel chairs or crutches.
Large or overcrowded classes
The researcher observed that some classes were large and overcrowded making it un conducive for pupils with disabilities. For instance, at Chitemalesa basic school, there were 120 pupils in one grade six class. Such overcrowding of classes is what Mandyata (2002) also reported to have caused some teachers in Kasama to refuse accepting children with special educational needs in their classes. It is hoped that if class sizes were minimal to acceptable standards, teachers would accept children with special educational needs in their classes.
Unsuitable infrastructure in schools
Throughout the study, the researcher observed that, despite efforts by Ministry of Education to introduce inclusive education in Zambia, infrastructure was not yet modified to accommodate children with disabilities. For example, there were no ramps, no rails along the corridors and no acoustic materials in most schools. Doors in most school buildings did not allow wheel chairs to pass. This situation made the learning environment somewhat hostile to pupils with disabilities. This observation was consistent with that of Savolainen, (2000) who pointed that in Finland infrastructure was unsuitable to children with disabilities but non Governmental Organisations built new schools, made school infrastructure accessible to children with special educational needs at all levels of education, provided bursaries to vulnerable children and worked with professionals in public awareness on inclusion.
Lack of training in special education by most teachers
Most teachers (34 out of 44) indicated that they lacked training in special education and felt it contributed greatly to exclusion of pupils especially those with hearing and visual impairment. Similarly, Kalabula (1991) pointed out that most children with disabilities placed in ordinary classes in Zambian schools did not have adequate human and material support. In addition, Mandyata (2002) reported that non acceptance of children with disabilities by ordinary teachers in Kasama was mostly due to lack of training and resources to equip teachers in handling children with special needs in ordinary classes. An analysis of the observations by Mandyata (2002) implies that if support services were available in schools teachers would accept children with disabilities. Training in special education for all teachers is therefore, critical to the success of inclusive education in Zambia. Bunch (1997) also suggested that, the Ministry of Education should ensure that in-service training was conducted to teachers and capacity building was done to school managers. Curriculum for all teacher training institutions, should include the teaching methodologies of an inclusive class.
Lack of commitment towards inclusive schooling
Throughout the study, it was established by the researcher that it was not the disability of children that were hindrances to inclusive education but social factors such as lack of commitment by some school managers, ordinary teachers, parents and to some extent the government. For instance, despite the Ministry of Education policy advocating for Education For All, schools in the study sample had a lot of barriers to inclusive education. Similar findings were reported in 2001 by Moberg and Kasonde-Ng’andu (2001). Reasons for lack of commitment included lack of laws and policies to give direction to all educationists in the education system to promote inclusive schooling. Bunch (1997) suggested that the key areas for policy and action for implementing inclusive education were in-service teacher development, student assessment and placement, parental collaboration, and involvement of the larger community. These four areas were seen as central indicators in the successful implementation of inclusive schooling programme. There was need therefore, for an inclusive policy so that educationists were guided in regard to issues of inclusive schooling in Zambia.
Lack of legal framework on inclusive schooling
Teachers indicated that there was need for a legal framework and policy on inclusive schooling in Zambia. The lack of a legal framework on inclusive education had also been identified as one of the barriers to inclusive education by Moberg and Kasonde- Ng’andu. For instance, Kasonde-Ng’andu (2001) sighted lack of laws and policies to give direction to all educationists in the education system in relation to inclusive education.
Need for empowerment of parents of children with disabilities
Parents of children with disabilities indicated that they need to be empowered so that in turn they support their children with disabilities. The concept of empowering parents was consistent with what Savolainen reported in 2000 in Philippines. Savolainen et al (2000) reported that equipped with the needed skills parents were successful to some extent in raising public awareness and support to educate their children. The Philippines government was also lobbied and made modest contributions to support inclusive education in five piloted projects. It is necessary therefore, to consider empowering parents and their children with disabilities so that they can be able to meet costs demanded by schools.
This study has determined that inadequate funding to schools, long distance to schools, infrastructure not being user friendly, inadequate appropriate teaching and learning materials and most teachers having no skills to communicate with pupils with disabilities especially in sign language and braille were challenges faced by pupils with disabilities in the process of accessing education in selected schools in Chongwe District.
In order to minimise the challenges faced by pupils in accessing education in selected inclusive schools, in Chongwe District, the following recommendation were made.
1. Ministry of Education and its partners should modify infrastructure to suit the needs of pupils with disabilities.
2. All teacher training colleges and universities should include sign language and braille in their curriculum so that the graduates are empowered with skills to communicate with pupils with hearing and visual impairments.
3. Ministry of Education should support and encourage in-service training in sign language and braille to all teachers already in service.
4. Standard Education Officers need to ensure that standards are maintained in schools to avoid overcrowded classes so that children with special educational needs have equal access to quality education.
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