The discrepancy between policy and practice in primary education for children with disabilities in Kabarole district, Uganda. The implementation gap explored through the lens of the capability approach


Publication date



OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University

Document type


Master i International Social Welfare and Health Policy


World-wide 57 children of primary school going age remain out of school, and more than half of these children live in sub-Sahara Africa. According to the Ugandan legal framework, all children should be given free, accessible education however, there appears to be a discrepancy between the policy and practice. Especially children with disabilities (CwDs) are likely to be excluded from education. The discrepancy is evident by the percentage of 82.4% of CwDs that are out of school in the Kabarole district in Uganda, where this research was accomplished. To explore possible explanatory factors behind this discrepancy, I researched the situation of CwDs who are enrolled in primary schools in the Kabarole district in Uganda using participant observations of special needs classes in two different schools that provide education for CwDs. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight teachers and the headmaster/mistress of the two schools, as well as the special needs education officer of the local government. The discrepancy between education policy and reality is in this research presented as the implementation gap. The reasons for the implementation gap lays at different levels. The lack of demographic data and lack of funding, the unclear and inconsistent definition of CwDs, and the undefined duty bearers makes it difficult for targeted policies. These are political barriers that influence the enrolment in education. The term ‘Special Needs Children’ and ‘CwDs’ are mixed, both in policy and in schools. With varying formulations, these terms describe the same large, complex group of children. Children with a wide range of physical and mental impairments are defined by these terms, as well children from low-income households, orphaned children, children with illnesses like HIV/AIDS and ‘slow learners’. The causes for the special needs are interrelated and poverty appeared to be an underlaying economic implementation barrier. Physical barriers are found in the educational infrastructure: there are is a lack of resources (books, pencils, desks), lack of assistive devices (glasses, hearing devices, wheelchairs), few special needs education teachers and the regular classrooms are overcrowded (up to 120 children per teacher). A social barrier to education appears because people in the community and parents have a negative attitude towards CwDs. CwDs face many obstacles enrolling in education. It is the environment rather than the impairments itself that disable the children.




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