Leaners with disabilities most disadvantaged in Malawi – ActionAid study

A study conducted by ActionAid and its partners has found that children with disabilities are among the most disadvantaged in the education sector in Malawi, prompting stakeholders to ask government to act by investing in the education workforce needed to deliver quality education for all children–including those with disabilities.

CSEC program manager Kisa Kumwenda (left) and director of inclusive education, Noel Mwango (right) at the launch of the report
Stakeholders posing for a group photo during the launch

Titled; Bedrock of Inclusion: Why Investing in the Education Workforce is Critical to the Delivery of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4–the study was also done in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania to establish the extent to which current levels of investment in teachers and education workforce development allow for the provision of quality, free, disability inclusive education.

The Malawi report was launched Thursday in the Capital, Lilongwe–an event which coincided with the commemoration of the International Day of Persons With Disabilities, which falls on 3 December.

According to the report, out of the 612, 749 children with disabilities in Malawi, only 3.3 percent and 2.5 percent make up enrollments in primary and secondary school, respectively–meaning that 70 percent of all children with disabilities remain out of school in the country.

The report says this is retrogressive in efforts towards achieving SDG 4 which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

And speaking in an interview with Nyasa Times after the launch of the report, Head of Programs and Policy at ActionAid Malawi, Clement Banda, said proposals and strategies raised in the report must be escalated to even higher levels in order to engage with other key people in government.

“We need to look at how we can get our tax systems reformed so that government is able to collect as much resources as possible through tax revenue and invest in inclusive education.

“We also need quotas in terms of budgetary allocation towards inclusive education which must be done to facilitate investment in inclusive education so that we are able to contribute to achieving SDG 4,” said Banda.

Banda added that infrastructure must be accessible, acceptable, adaptable and usable to different groups of people–something–he said, is a key factor to facilitating inclusive education.

“We need to develop a code of practice in construction so that the structures we erect are user friendly to everyone. And, as ActionAid, we will conduct more engagements with policy makers so that the report is taken further and the proposed actions are implemented,” he said.

The report itself has, among other things, also recommended addressing of the high pupil-teacher ratio which, it says, prevents teachers from practicing inclusion in the classroom.

It has further decried what it describes as undesirable variations in attainment of quality education between the rich and the poor and in per capita allocations to district councils.

Reacting to the report, Program Manager for Civil Society Education Coalition, Kisa Kumwenda, commended the study, saying it has highlighted pertinent issues really affecting the progression of inclusive education in Malawi.

“The report has touched on the need to train more specialist teachers in order to handle learners with diverse disabilities. Well trained education practitioners and administrators are key to the development of inclusive education. We also need long-term investment in inclusive education. As a country, we need to be forward looking when investing in this sector,” said Kumwenda.

He added that it is high time duty bearers in Malawi are taken to task to provide the right to quality education to every citizen including learners with disabilities.

Taking his turn, the Director of Inclusive Education in the Ministry of Education, Noel Mwango, expressed government’s commitment to addressing the concerns raised in the report, adding that government is also contemplating to formulate an inclusive education policy and establish an inclusive education institute.

ActionAid conducted the study in the five African countries in partnership with Education International, Light for the World and the International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation (ICDR) at the University of Toronto, Canada.

The study was done under a multicounty project called Breaking Barriers: Tax Justice for Gender Responsive Public Services project, which ActionAid Federation is implementing with support from Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

The project aims at realizing that all children, especially girls and marginalized children have access to free, quality, publicly funded, inclusive public education.

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