Case Reports

Uganda Executive Summary

This report is a representation of the Uganda Case Study. It is written in 5 sections. In the first section we detail the social context of Uganda, including relevant policies. In the second section, we provide an account of the research approach and methods that were used, including a timeline. In the third section, we present the data according to the perspectives of the various stakeholders and around particular themes that have emerged from the broader research questions. In the fourth section, we analyse the data according to a social ecosystem model, and in the fifth section we provide a conclusion with future directions, including dissemination and research impact.

This report is based on empirical evidence from a qualitative study in three refugee hosting districts in northern Uganda. A total of 103 participants including disabled refugee children and their families, NGOs, and education officials (including teachers and ministry officials) participated in the study. The study findings indicate significant relevant legislation on educational access for children with disability, and for refugee children, however, there are limitations in the policy implementation because of intersectional challenges. The study also highlights a lack of learning opportunities provided for parents and caregivers of children with disability. Most of these are women who are taking care of large households on their own. Narratives of stigma about families and students with disabilities requires problematization in relation to normative and essential assumptions. Education NGOs’ contribution to educational access for refugee children with disability has given opportunity for education opportunities and is appreciated by the parents and caregivers. However, there remains a need for strong public education systems with qualified teachers and small class sizes with the necessary equipment to work with the various needs of students with disabilities. There is also a need to develop pathways and transitions for secondary schools and further opportunities for students with disabilities to pursue meaningful lives. The study recommends developing stronger informal and integrated spaces and forums for children with disabilities and their families to direct policy and learning opportunities.

Zimbabwe Executive Summary

Education is one of the highest priorities including refugee communities. Zimbabwe is one of the countries that is playing host to many refugees especially from the Horn of Africa. Zimbabwe unlike other refugee destinations employs the encampment policy to refugee management. The policy has merits and demerits in as far as access to education is concerned. Refugee education is at the heart of efforts to ensure equability access to education for all irrespective of status. The current global approach to refugee education is premised on the inclusion of refugee learners in national systems. Access to education is considered a basic human right and is linked to poverty reduction. It is also regarded an “enabling right,” a right through which other rights are realised (UNHCR, 2011e, p. 18). It is well documented that the underpinnings of the provision of refugee education are articulated in Article 22 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which states that signatory states “shall accord to refugees the same treatment as is accorded to nationals with respect to elementary education…. [and] treatment as favourable as possible… with respect to education other than elementary education” (UNHCR, 2010c).  Despite the pronouncements, realisation of the right to education for refugees has depended on the laws, policies, and practices in place in each national context. In some cases, the lack of high quality and protective education for refugees stands in the way of meeting the Education for All goals. Access to education for refugees in Zimbabwe is guaranteed and this applies to both girls and boys and mostly at the three stages including pre-primary, primary and secondary levels. Refugee education is generally of a very high quality, with host and refugee children accessing the same type of education. Despite guaranteeing access to education, refugees in Zimbabwe have largely been ‘invisible’ in policy.

South Africa Executive Summary

Refugee populations include people living with disabilities who have been invisible in policy and service provision. Refugee children living with disabilities, like all children, have ambitions and dreams for the futures and they thus need quality education to develop their skills and realize their full potential. However, they are often overlooked in policymaking, limiting their access to education and their ability to participate in social, economic, and political life. In addition, they are among the most likely to be out of school and face persistent barriers to education stemming from discrimination, stigma, and the routine failure of decision makers to incorporate disability in school services. Given these circumstances, little is known about the challenges and opportunities that refugee students living with disabilities face with respect to inclusion in education, especially in the Global South, which hosts most of the world’s refugees.

Refugees living with disabilities in South Africa constitute an important part of society. South Africa developed the Refugees Act in the year 1998 which became fully operational in 2000 and afforded refugees the opportunity to enjoy access to basic services such as educational opportunities and healthcare services Despite the existence of the Refugees Act that guarantees refugee children the right to education, regardless of their nationality, the creation of inclusive learning environments, particularly for refugee children living with disabilities, is far from being realized.  Thus, our project aimed to gather evidence that will impact policy and practice, such that these students become visible and included in education. Particularly in the South African context, the aim was to understand the educational experiences of refugee children living with disabilities and factors that affect their access to educational inclusion.

Key Findings

  • Refugee children living with disabilities experience a range of educational challenges that hinder their access to inclusive educational programmes and affect their learning.
  • There is a lack of knowledge on policies that focus on the educational inclusion of children living with disabilities in South Africa, specifically education policies that are applicable to the education of refugee children. 
  • The teaching curriculum serves as a barrier with regards to the children being exposed to an inclusive educational system as most learning environments do not have the necessary tools or guides that meet the learning needs of all children with disabilities.
  • There are challenges with respect to what has been stipulated in writing and actual implementation of the policies that aim to promote inclusive education for children living with disabilities.
  • Most refugee children do not have the necessary South African documentation (e.g. Birth certificate or study permits) which enables them to qualify to register for enrolment in school.
  • Poor enrolment rates in South African primary and secondary schools for refugee children living with disabilities is the direct result of lack of funding and parental inability to cover educational costs.
  • There is a shortage of specialised support personnel in special schools and thus the children do not receive adequate or the right level of support resulting in schools not having the right level of accessibility.
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