Document_case studies

Case study

Studies on the right to education for children with disabilities

Southern and Eastern Africa

Disability continues to be one of the primary causes of educational disadvantage and exclusion within Southern and Eastern Africa. Education Development Trust and UNICEF jointly funded a study into the educational rights of children with disabilities.

During 2015, UNICEF and Education Development Trust jointly funded a study on the right to education for children with disabilities in Southern and Eastern Africa with the aim of examining the degree to which children with disabilities are able to access their right to education.



Despite the commitment to many countries in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the combined effort of Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals, children with disabilities form the largest single group of girls and boys who remain out of school, and frequently face severe discrimination and marginalisation. Disability intersects with other dimensions of marginalisation such as social status, gender, security, economic and health conditions which serve to compound the barriers faced.

The aim of the study was to examine the degree to which children with disabilities are able to access their right to education, to highlight good practice and the challenges that prevail.

The study involved a desk-based review of 21 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa, supplemented by more in-depth studies in the field in Madagascar, Comoros and Rwanda.

Our Solution


Each in-country study required qualitative research in order to identify the situation for children with disabilities in these countries.  Education Development Trust recruited a local researcher and interpreter to work with one of our in-house principal advisers as the team leader across each country. They were there to conduct research through interviews, focus group discussions, and observe the situation in both schools and classrooms. Once the relevant literature was available and reviewed, and specific tools were developed to guide the interviews and discussions, the teams were ready to start the in-country work.

The UNICEF country offices provided support for the research and set the schedules for meetings with a wide range of people including national, regional and district government officials, representatives of national and international organisations, civil society organisations, as well as head teachers, teachers, parents and the children. The children were a mixture of those who were already attending and those who were not attending school.

Jacqui Mattingly, Principal Adviser, comments: "Madagascar was my first destination and despite a hurricane heading there at the same time as my plane, I arrived safely and early enough not to get snarled up in the heavy traffic jams that grid-lock the roads in the capital, Tana, every day. My schedule was hectic: visiting schools and institutions inside and outside of the capital. From here, I went directly to Comoros, visiting all three of the islands which make up the Union of Comoros. The islands themselves were very different to anything I had seen before; even when compared to their nearby neighbour, Madagascar.

"After visiting the countries, I returned home to work remotely with each local researcher, analysing the results and completing the write up before heading to the last country: Rwanda. It felt like every school we visited in Rwanda was perched on a hilltop with the most stunning views (but I guess that’s why they call it the 'country of 1000 hills'). The schedule demanded longs days and some overnight stays, which left me and the team little free time for anything other than the study. The team in each country provided me not only with invaluable local knowledge, but also friendship, support and determination making the job a lot easier."

The results


All three countries were visited at different stages in their development and varied widely in their provision of education for children with disabilities. There were many challenges found whilst conducting the research, although there was also evidence of good practice often in the most difficult circumstances.

"Individual teachers, parents and the children themselves all demonstrated a strong will and persistence to overcome the difficulties faced", Jacqui recalls.

The results of the study where published on 21 September and can be found here [this will open in a new window]. The hope is that the study will contribute to and promote the inclusion of children with disabilities in education as a continual long-term process of system development, and an integral part of quality improvement in teaching and learning.