This article has been published in Enabling Education 13
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Title: Advocating for Inclusive Education in Tanzania
Author: Noussi, K
Publisher: EENET
Date: 2009

Advocating for inclusive education in Tanzania

Katharina Noussi

One-fifth of the world’s poorest people have a disability, yet they receive little attention in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and their right to education is often not realised. Here Katharina introduces Inclusive Tanzania, a pilot project to empower persons with disabilities to become stronger advocates for their right to inclusive education.

In 2005, Light for the World (a European confederation of development organisations) and the Tanzanian Information Centre on Disability started a 4-year advocacy project, Inclusive Tanzania, in rural Mwanga District and in Dar es Salaam. It aims to strengthen the country’s disability movement to hold the government accountable and raise public awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities and those they work with define the project’s priorities, develop strategies and carry out activities. Twelve local disability organisations formed the Inclusive Tanzania Consortium (MTAJU in its Kiswahili abbreviation) which ‘owns’ the project.

What is advocacy?
Inclusive education cannot be realised without changes in policies and laws. Advocacy involves participation in the policy-making process, and raising public awareness and support to shift the balance of power and bring about change. It is a long-term, cyclical process that:

  • has measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound goals
  • addresses the right audience, using appropriate information, and transmits a clear message
  • builds coalitions and raises local funds.

To realise inclusive education, different actors must be addressed, e.g. Government, district authorities, international organisations, community leaders, school boards, teachers, parents, and children. MTAJU created a steering committee, working groups and local community (ward) groups. The wards groups involve persons with disabilities, parents, teachers and children who:

  • identify children with disabilities
  • ensure sufficient teaching and learning materials and assistive teachers
  • make the learning environment welcoming
  • organise events to raise awareness
  • collect funds for physical access improvements.

Scaling up local advocacy
The ward level work is documented. Case studies are used in national and international advocacy, to fight for changes to laws, policies and development programmes relevant to inclusive education. Such work needs a large movement to be built from the bottom-up, not just activities by a few ‘experts’.

Persons with disabilities need to assert themselves as experts through their personal experiences. They need to empower themselves. Empowerment helps people control their lives and influence communities by acting on issues they define as important. Inclusive Tanzania uses training, networking and ‘learning-by-doing’ to foster empowerment. Workshops on advocacy and inclusive education skills are run regularly by local and regional facilitators.

Learning from experience is essential for effective advocacy. MTAJU encourages information exchange between rural and urban participants, and between local, national and international advocates.

Achievements so far

  • 390 children with disabilities enrolled in 11 schools.
  • MTAJU contributed to the development of Tanzania’s new inclusive education policy by raising awareness through the media, lobbying politicians, and debating at public consultations.
  • MTAJU members lobbied parliament to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which it did on 24 April 2009.
  • MTAJU helps to monitor school budget allocations at district level.
  • Project members are becoming role models in society.
  • There is improved unity and co-operation between organisations working on disability rights and inclusive education.

Katharina is project adviser for the Inclusive Tanzania project.

Light for the World Austria,
Niederhofstraße 26,
1120 Vienna,
Tel: +43 1 810 13 00