What social, economic and environmental factors hinder the enrollment of disabled,
primary school-aged children in the United Republic of Tanzania, and how can the government
turn the country’s existing educational system into an inclusive one that overcomes
The definition of disability has changed over the past few decades so that the root
of the cause is not an individual’s impairment but the social, environmental and attitudinal
barriers established by society. This new definition of disability, called the social
model, explains the cycle of impairment and poverty seen around the world, including
the United States. Once an individual becomes impaired, he becomes socially excluded
from society. If he is young, he is often excluded from a country’s education system
because it lacks the ability to accommodate him or because he is actively discriminated
against due to the stigma of disability. Lack of education leads to limited employment
choices, or no employment choices, which in turn leads to poverty. Poverty leads
to living in unsanitary, crowded conditions that can either lead to an exasperation
of an existing impairment or an increased chance of disability amongst those living
with the impaired person. The vicious cycle then starts all over again.
Although statistics about disability worldwide are unreliable, it is estimated that
10 percent of the world’s population is disabled; 200 million of them are children.
In the United Republic of Tanzania, 7.8 percent of the population is disabled in 2008.
Only 4 out of 10 disabled children were enrolled in primary school 2008, and according
to the country’s 2008 National Disability Survey, 16 percent were refused entry to
schools. Thus, these children are fated to continue living in poverty and potentially
transmitting poverty and disability on to their children.
The international community, along with the Government of Tanzania, have not ignored
the fact disabled children face severe barriers to school enrollment. Several conventions,
most importantly the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, have
stated that disabled children have the right to education and that countries have
the duty to ensure their educational systems include them. This new model of education
is called inclusive education, which is simply, “a process of addressing and responding
to the diversity of needs of learners through increasing participation in learning,
cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion within and from education”.
Tanzania has signed the UN Convention, established legislation that reflects this
change towards inclusive education and created a basic policy framework. However,
after nearly a decade, Tanzanian disabled, primary school-aged children are still
being excluded. The goal of this project is to determine what barriers contribute
to low rates of school enrollment amongst the disabled in Tanzania in the hopes of
discovering how to best change the educational system so that it is more inclusive.
Data and Methodology
The data for this project comes from Tanzania’s 2002 Census, which was the country’s
first census to include a module on disability. Four probit regression models were
created, two that predict the probability of childhood disability and two that predict
the probability of primary school enrollment. Each of the four models has a set of
variables referring to individual, dwelling and household head characteristics; however,
two of the models had variables referring specifically to mothers in order to analyze
the extent mothers have influence on both of the dependent variables. The goal of
these regressions is to assess the social, economic and environmental conditions in
which disabled children lived at the time Tanzania began developing its policies.
After analyzing the results of the regressions, it was discovered that the social
model is correct; disabled children in Tanzania do appear to be trapped in a cycle
of poverty that both excludes from economic advancement and social integration. In
no way does the analysis definitively establish the cause of educational exclusion
or determine exactly what mechanism drives the poverty cycle.
Knowing the barriers to educational inclusion in Tanzania is important, but it is
equally important to try to figure out how the country can overcome them. Technically,
there is no universally agreed upon definition of what qualifies as an inclusive education
system. However, after reviewing documents from UNESCO and the UN Special Rapporteur
on Rights to Education, a twenty-two point criteria was created to evaluate different
countries’ approaches to inclusive education. Three countries, South Africa, India,
the United States, were determined to be models for certain aspects of the created
inclusive education criteria that Tanzania can learn a great deal from.
The following recommendations were created based on the above case studies, Tanzania’s
existing education programs and initiatives and the social barriers identified in
1. Commission a study to assess the causes behind the low school enrollment of children
2. Develop a concrete, nationally recognized definition of inclusive education
3. Integrate inclusive education priorities into existing educational programs in
order to form one cohesive inclusive education strategy
4. Give District Councils more control and flexibility to implement inclusive education
5. Introduce greater accountability into all levels of the educational system