Challenges of Disability – Learning from Tanzania

Today is the end of my first working week at Tanzania Cheshire Foundation in Dodoma.

Before beginning my assignment, I had reviewed the main data about disability in the world. Before Pulse, I was not aware of the amount of people suffering from disability.

  •  It is estimated that 15% of the global population lives with some form of disability (WHO/World Bank, 2011). 
  • Current estimates suggest that globally there are roughly 93 million children aged under 14 who have moderate or severe disabilities.   
  • They are disproportionately represented in the Global South.
  • It is recognised that the number of children with disabilities globally is probably rising (UNICEF 2008).
  • People with disabilities are among the poorest and most marginalised of all the world’s people.  It is estimated that 15% of the global population lives with some form of disability (WHO/World Bank, 2011). 

Knowing that, nobody could be indifferent to this cause. I am volunteer in France with disabled people and it changed a part of me. People with disability are citizens with a voice in their life. Introduction to the local team was really nice and I could already notice their huge knowledge in term of disability and inclusive education. They know all the challenges children can face.        

Education is quite a challenge in Tanzania. I’ve just read on UNICEF website that, in 2014, Government of Tanzania has introduced a fee-free education policy. It led to a dramatic increase in enrolment in pre-primary and early-primary education, by about 31% in 2017. But the welcome influx of students also came with a challenge. The number of students grew much faster than the schools. The children have a hard time to understand what is being taught.

Inclusive education was a really unknown concept for me before this mission. Disability is one of the most significant forms of educational marginalisation and is associated with long term poverty. UNICEF has estimated that as many as 70% of children with disabilities would be able to attend normal schools if the schools were made more accessible, were open and were willing to include children with disabilities.

Inclusion in education is recognised as a basic human right and the foundation for a more just and equal society (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2012). In Inclusive Education System, disabled and non-disabled children share the same classrooms. In Chamwino and Dodoma City, Tanzania Cheshire Foundation has identified so far 613 children with disabilities learning in different grades. Facilitated teacher training (275) to acquire new methodologies on how to support and manage CWDs, also trained community volunteers (40), Ward Education officers (20) and districts special education officers (8). All these has been done in collaboration with the respective Ministries to ensure children with disabilities enjoy the right to education in mainstream schools.

– As part of my induction process, I’m meeting all the stakeholders I will work with. I’ve first met the Regional Programme Coordinator of Moshi Cooperative University (MoCU), which Tanzanian Foundation has an agreement with.           

– I’ve met also AFNET NGO, Association for Anti Female Genital Mutilation Network, especially with the chairwoman, Sarah Mwaga. I’ve been very impressed by the scope of their activites, they work with communities to bring positive change, socially, politically, economically and culturally. They provide help especially on Female Genital Mutilation, but also economic empowerment, services and advocacy for orphans and vulnerable children.              

 – DPO’s meeting was one of the most important: Disabled People’s  Organisations/SHIVYAWATA. SHIVYAWATA is a Swahili short term for “Tanzania Federation of Disabled People’s Organisations” translated from Tanzania Federation of Disabled People’s Organisations. SHIVYAWATA is a non-governmental federation which brings together ten national Disabled People’s Organisations (PWDs) established by the DPOs in 1992.  A major goal of Tanzania Federation of Disabled People Organizations (SHIVYAWATA) is full participation of all disabled peoples in the mainstream of life, particularly those in rural areas who form the vast majority of the country’s disabled people’s population. SHIVYAWATA recognizes that poverty not only leads to disability, but also allows few concessions for the needs and aspirations of disabled people. In many rural areas, where up to 80 per cent of the general population lives, disability prevention and rehabilitation are rare.  

Meeting with Regional Programm Coordinator Of Moshi University
Meeting with AFNET NGO Staff

 I’m becoming aware that Children Protection and Inclusive Education go further than what I was thinking and many other skateholders are involved to enable Cheshire Foundation to progress in their programs.  

Next week, I will be on the field, visiting schools included in Inclusive Education Programm. Here is where my assignment really begins. So excited !