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Presented at ISEC 2000

Echoing the Voices of the Marginalised/or Excluded in Developing African Countries

Emmanuel O. Ojile - University of Jos, Nigeria


The paper highlights the problem of the marginalized / excluded handicapped in developing countries of Africa. These include poverty, high illiteracy rate, corruption, manipulation and lack of reliable disability statistics. It was observed also that several of the international donors failed to identify with this raille ized / excluded handicapped group as they chose to work directly with the corrupt Government of the day. For the voices of the raille ized / excluded handicapped to be heard, it is being suggested that a tripartite model of program development and implementation be worked out. Such model will include input from authentic organization of the raille ized / excluded, the Government of the day and international donors. Lists of such organizations existing in African countries will be presented to assist international donor / agency.

Excluding the Handicapped: The pre-colonial period

Fanfunwa & Aisiku (1982) observed that the vast exploration of Africa in the early nineteenth century and the evangelistic trading activities that followed soon lead to the "scramble for Africa" in the 1880's and the eventual establishment of colonial rule over large portions of the continent. Because the missionaries and colonial administrators worked hand in hand, education of the indigent was the greatest weapon for full indoctrination to the Christian faith. Education combined with religion prepares educated Africans to provide cheap labors for colonial administrators. The initial curriculum of instruction was geared towards the 3R's (reading, writing and arithmetic) and directed only at the productive non-handicapped persons. Even though there was no recorded history of education for the handicapped within the early colonization years, yet the traditional roles of the various missionaries were to provide shelter for such group of persons. Mutua (1975) noted that in Kenya when the missionaries established themselves in an area, it was the social outcasts, the slaves and victims of famine and other maladies that were initially attracted to the mission stations. It was not until 1930's that the various missionaries' domination began to show more interest in the opening of formal education for handicapped children. This time around it was systematically planned and a well executed project that would produce a lasting effect in education of the handicapped across Africa.

Early Attempt of Inclusion

In Nigeria for example, the Sudan United Mission, America Branch opened a school for the blind in Faliya, Bauchi State in 1935 while in 1953, the Sudan United mission, British branch (S.U.M (B) opened the Gindiri School for the Blind, Gindiri located in Plateau State. Other handicapped Schools started by the missionaries in Nigeria include the Oji River School for the handicapped opened in 1960 by the Anglican Mission. It was to serve as a Rehabilitative Center. The Pacelli School for the Blind and the Wesley School for the Deaf were opened in Lagos in 1962 through the activities of the Roman Catholic and protestant church missionaries respectively.

In Ghana, Aidoo (1982) & Aryee (1973) observed that the first special education facility for the blind was opened at Akropong-Akwapim through the initiative of the Presbyterian missionaries in 1946, while the now Ghana state School for the Deaf was an initial venture of late Rev (Dr.) Andrew Forster.

In Tanzania the education of the handicapped children particularly the deaf and blind was purely an effort of missionaries (see Kalugula, Mbise, Kisanji, Senkoro, Tungaraza, Msengi & Kisanji, 1984}. The Anglican Church managed institution such as the Wilson Carlie School for the blind Boys located in Buigiri-Dodoma, which was opened in 1962. The Swedish free mission managed the mission Blind School at Tabora opened in 1962. The Lutheran Church opened the Trente School for the Blind Girls in Lushoto, Tanga in 1963 while the Roman Catholic Mission opened the Tabora Deaf-Mute institute in 1963.

In addition to early missionaries' interest in opening handicapped schools in Africa countries, the 1960's witnessed further expansion of handicapped schools in these regions. The probable reason would be that it was during the 1960's that most African countries began to regain their independence and so most educational development put special education as one of their priorities. In Nigeria Amwe & Ojile (1986) observed that out of the over fifty handicapped schools existing in Nigeria only four were opened prior to independence in 1960 and a few years after independence. In Ghana Walker, Marfo, Danquah & Aidoo (1986) noted that between 1965 to 1978, there were rapid expansion of educational services for handicapped while statistics released by the ministry of education in 1972 indicated a total number of 669 handicapped children (blind, deaf, orthorpedically handicapped and mentally retarded) were receiving educational services in eight schools for the deaf, two schools for the blind, two hospital schools for children with health and orthopedic problems and one school for Mentally Retarded.

In Tanzania, Kalutuguala et al (1984) acknowledged the fact that non-governmental bodies started all the majority of the handicapped schools. Such schools include the Uhuru Co-Educational school, located in Dares-Salaam, Tabora Girls School in Nwanhala, Rural Annex in Nzenga, Shinyanga Boys School located in Makalala, Rural Annex(Iringga),Longido, Rural Annex (Nwanza) and Nwisenge, Rural Annex (Maria).

The Role of International Agencies/Donors

The activities of International Agencies such as the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations to which the majority of African independent states are member provided additional impetus to re-awaken interest in Special Education across African countries. Since 1952 the United Nations has encouraged members states to provide services to the handicapped either through direct involvement in terms of finance and manpower supply or through indirect approach such as the declaration of the rights of disabled persons in addition to sponsoring international conferences to educate member states on the problems of handicapped. Such activities are shown below:

1. First Publication of the United Nations on Rehabilitation (1952)

2. Declaration of the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons (1971)

3. Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons (1975)

4. Proclamation of the 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Person (IYDP)(1976)

5. JOMITEN Conference Declaration (1990)

6. Equal Education for All (EFA) (1999-2000)

At the moment the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are involved in Special Education in some African countries like Zimbabwe, Kenya and many other African countries. On the part of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind and the Deaf based in London has on several occasions sent out experts to countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania respectively to advise on the establishment of Special education. The Commonwealth Association for Mental Handicaps and developmental Disabilities (AMHDD) has also undertaken a number of activities e.g. the study of Early Intervention in some developing countries.

Why Inclusion Failed

Inclusion of the Deaf, Blind, Learning Disabled (L.D), Mental retarded (M.R) and other categories of disabled conditions failed to materialized in African continent for the following reasons:

1. High level of poverty due to poor economic showing of these African countries. As a result small resources is available to assist these groups.

2. There exist high illiterate rate among the population. Few received education so the concern for handicapped education is relegated to the background.

3. Massive corruption in the Government cycle and diversion of resources meant for the handicapped to other avenue through manipulation and lack of transparency.

4. Absence of reliable statistical data to know the official number of the disabled, their distribution, categories, severity and enrollment figures which makes planning and allocation of adequate resources extremely difficult.

Future Perspective

1. Solution entails developing tripartite program model and implementation. The core groups in the tripartite model include various authentic handicapped organizations existing, the various government units(Rehabilitation, Welfare and Special Education unit) and the international donors/Agencies currently working in the field.

2. The International Agencies/Donors, which have base in their respective countries, should first define the scope and perspective of the programs they intend to initiate for the handicapped in the African countries.

3. These Agencies/Donors should avoid political coloration as well. For example are the donors aiming at pleasing the government in power or devising suitable way to improve the living status of the handicapped in these region?

4. The core handicapped organization in these countries need to be identified at the early stage of the program development so that they can provide input regarding their peculiar needs that may varies from culture to culture and from geographic regions

5. Attempt to implement and monitor the program will now include the International Agencies/Donors. Government units and the core handicapped organizations.

The process if followed will eliminate corruption, remove bureaucracy and ensure that the handicapped truly benefit from the program. It is only then that the problem of exclusion and marginalization of the handicapped in the Sub-Sahara African countries will be minimized. EFA will be a true challenge in bringing the handicapped to the fold of full inclusion in African continent.


1. Aidoo, B. J. (1982). The development of Special Education Services for the Deaf in Developing Countries : A case study and Critique. In proceedings of the International Congress on Education of the Deaf, Hamburg, 1980, Vol II. Heidelberg: Julius Groos.

2. Amwe, D. O., & Ojile, E. (1984). Programmes and Services for the Handicapped in Nigeria and Abroad. Unpublished Faculty of Education Research, University of Jos, Nigeria.

3. Fanunwa, B. A. & Aisiku, U. J. (1982). Education in Africa: A Comparative Survey. London: George Allen & UNWIN.

4. Kalugula, C., Mbise, A., Kisanji, J., Senkoro,F. , Tungaraza, F., Msengi, Z., & Kisanji, V. (1984). The Development of Special Education in Tanzania. Dares Salaam: Institute of Education

5. Mutua, W. R. (1975). Development of Education in Kenya. Kampala: East African Literature Bureau.

6. Walker, S., Marfo, K., Danquah, A. S., & Aidoo, J. B. (1986). The Development of Status of Special Education in Ghana. In K. Marfo, S. Walker & B. Charles (Eds). Childhood Disability in Developing Countries. New York: Praetor Publishers.




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