Tanzania: enrolling disabled children in primary schools

03 Aug 2010

Tanzania will soon carry out a population census for persons with disabilities. The government has indicated that the current records of the number of persons living with disabilities are insufficient, affecting the provision of social services to these citizens.

The census is a step towards answering demands that disabled children should also become part of the achievements recorded in primary school enrolment in the country. The discussion came up in a recent workshop organized by UNDP, a think-tank called Research on Poverty Alleviation and the University of Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania has made commendable progress on primary school enrolment, but the situation of children with disabilities remains a challenge.

Jocelyine Mkulima, from the Public Service Management section of the President’s Office, said “The system is unfriendly to [children with disabilities] in terms of special facilities and needs. This should be addressed, and in a sex-disagregated way, because a disabled woman suffers differently from a disabled man.”

Judica Tarimo, a freelance journalist who attended the workshop, said that many factors prevent children with disabilities from attending school in Tanzania.

“For instance, most schools here in Dar es Salaam are built in sand areas. Even for the lucky ones who have wheelchairs, it is just impossible to push them through sand. To make matters worse, schools are often built on platforms to prevent the rain entering the classrooms during the rainy season, but there are no ramps so physically disabled children cannot enter the classrooms,” Tarimo said.

Anastazia Rugaba, Programme Officer in an NGO called HakiElimu,, said enrolment is not sufficient to assess progress. Instead, investing in quality education and keeping pupils enrolled, particularly in rural areas, require particular attention.