Disabilities on Zanzibar

Education for children with disabilities on Zanzibar
At the beginning of 2020 More Africa requested information from Unicef regarding education for children with disabilities on Zanzibar. Unicef was very kind and invited us for an interview. We also received documents with their own research (Mapping of school capacity to absorb out-of-school children in Zanzibar). It was very interesting to read this research and to translate it into our own experiences.

Actual data from Unicef (education budget letter 2018) show that on Zanzibar 3 to 4 percent of the population between 0-19 years of age suffers from a physical and/or mental disability.
According to Unicef’s data, there are 555,000 people up to the age of 18 on Zanzibar. This group covers 42.5% of the entire population on Zanzibar.

Data suggests that reasons for being out of school include a lack of interest in schooling, lower educational attainment of the household head, living in a rural area, age, illness, and poverty. In addition, disability, quality of education, physical school environments, a lack of trained teachers, physical and sexual violence in schools and some gender specific barriers also play a role.
On average, schools offer fragmented, inconsistent and inadequate support for children with special needs which includes girls, children with physical disabilities, children struggling to cope with the content of schooling (including slow learners), children that have previously dropped out of school or started school late, and children that are vulnerable due to a range of social and economic reasons.

A large share of children (sight, hearing, or motor) with disabilities are excluded from school, and such children form around one percent of total school enrolment.
The lower share of girls with disabilities in the overall enrolled female student body relative to the same for boys indicates that girls with disabilities are more likely to be excluded from school.

The provision of teaching and learning materials for special needs children is far from adequate: of schools that enroll children with disabilities, only 7.6% have material for sight impaired children, 2.5% have any material for hearing impaired children, 30% of all school entrances and in-use classrooms are accessible, and 15% of functional toilets are accessible.

Teachers lack training for special education. Less than 20% of schools have at least one teacher with some training on how to identify and teach children with disabilities, and only 8% of all schools reported having at least one teacher trained in gender responsive pedagogy.
In the Unicef report, under “key findings”, factors affecting the out of school status of children are discussed.

Almost all children of school-going age attend school at some point, even if pre-primary education is delayed for some children because of their young age and the long distance to travel to school. The key exception concerns children with disabilities, as schools are ill-equipped to cater to these children. There is also a sense of shame among parents and children, limiting their opportunities.

The recommendations of the Unicef report describe the following:
Children with disabilities remain a key group who are most likely to never attend school. The Zanzibar Government should coordinate with the National Council for People with Disabilities and the Department of Disability Affairs to first map out the location of all children with disabilities, and then provide the necessary human and material resources, training, and support to nearby schools, community leaders, parents, and community members to facilitate bringing such children to school and providing them with a supportive environment to ensure their quality education.

This is exactly the future perspective of More Africa. We want to train local people in how to deal with children with disabilities. We hope for the help of the committee of Paje, in which the most important leaders of the village have a voice. In this way we hope to make the way to school more accessible for children with disabilities. Everyone has a right to education.

Source: Mapping of school capacity to absorb out-of-school children in Zanzibar