The Disability Inclusive Development (DID) consortium, a UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded initiative, is working together on the Pre-Primary and Primary Inclusive Education in Tanzania (PPPIET) programme whose ultimate goal is to foster quality sustainable inclusive education for all children with disabilities at scale across Tanzania in mainstream pre-primary and primary government schools. To achieve this, it aims to support collective, coordinated systems change by establishing an agreed common model of basic inclusive pre-primary and primary education in mainstream government schools, and galvanising significant progress in spreading its systematic implementation for all children with disabilities across Tanzania.
This task requires the cooperation of government, civil society and Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) to achieve real change. No single organisation or government department can achieve inclusive education on its own. Pooling the skills and resources and exchanging learnings to achieve quality inclusive education of children can help all involved. Working together will build collective commitment and action, not just amongst DID consortium members but also across government, donors, education actors and the private sector.
Part of this process was to conduct a participatory field research to gather evidence on the current provision of support services needed for inclusive education and identify gaps that need to be filled in the future. The exercise also served to identify key challenges that need addressing to facilitate the removal of legal, policy, systemic, physical, communication and language, social, financial and attitudinal barriers. The findings from the research were intended to identify the priority components that need addressing in the design of an inclusive education design model and the drivers of accountability, i.e. the agencies/stakeholders responsible for implementing the required system changes.
Summary of key findings
The Government of Tanzania has continually demonstrated its support and commitment to inclusive education evidenced by the many comprehensive policies for inclusive education, including the National Inclusive Education Strategy (NSIE) 2018 – 2021. Through these policies, it is actively working to improve the educational environment but the journey is long and requires significant system changes for the policies to be effectively implemented, which needs collaboration, cooperation, planning, and strategic resourcing across multiple ministries, NGOs, DPOs, and the private sector.
To achieve inclusive education, a rights-based approach to education needs to be adopted, focusing on identifying and removing the barriers to access and quality learning for every child, including appropriate infrastructure changes in schools, changing attitudes, and providing additional support to girls and boys with disabilities through learning support assistants. There also needs to be a fundamental shift towards child-centred pedagogy in teacher training and curriculum development to meet the needs of all learners, including having a mandatory module on inclusive education in all teacher training curricula. Over time, this will help develop teachers’ confidence and positive attitudes towards teaching children with disabilities and achieve impact at scale. Strengthening the capacities of all teachers, improving classroom management, increasing awareness about inclusive education for all stakeholders, and improving access to screening and early identification, health, rehabilitation services, and affordable assistive devices are all contributing factors to achieving inclusive education in Tanzania.
Systems change to improve learning and support for children with disabilities takes time and requires a significant investment of resources and budget allocation by government and service providers. However, inclusive education can be cost-effective compared with the cost of segregation and special schools, particularly where ministries work together to ensure a more ‘strategic allocation of existing funds, promoting universal design and co-operation agreements among multiple ministries’. Developing partnerships with the private sector to improve the physical infrastructure of schools and access to affordable assistive devices can also help reduce the cost of inclusion.
Inclusive education is a cross-cutting issue that requires the commitment and accountability of multiple stakeholders across government ministries to ensure its effective implementation. This includes the MOEST, MOHCDGEC, MOFP, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the President's Office, Regional Administration and Local Government (PORALG).
It is anticipated that to achieve successful implementation and scaling up of the model design for inclusive education, there will need to be a systematic and phased approach to implementing the recommendations in this report over the short, medium and long term. It is acknowledged that this process will take considerable time to implement and can only be successfully achieved over a period of years with the support and increased understanding of all stakeholders. There is no quick-fix solution to inclusive education. It requires changing long-established systems and adjusting services, including health and education, training, and attitudes. There is also no financial short cut.
However, while some recommendations require significant investment, others can be achieved in the current context without significant monetary investment. For example, changing the curriculum for all teacher training to ensure inclusive education is included as a standard module will help transform the approach of teachers and the inclusion of children with disabilities in learning. Raising awareness of inclusive education for all stakeholders, including policy-makers and implementers will also help increase understanding of the long-term system changes required and reduce stigma and discrimination. Inclusive education can only be achieved in an inclusive society and it needs collective effort from the government, parents, community, and all stakeholders for effective implementation.