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An Investigation of School Based Challenges Facing the Implementation of Inclusive Education in the Primary Schools in Malawi: A Case Study of Four Primary Schools in Zomba District

Abstract

For a long time, Malawi has focused on providing special educational services, especially for children with visual and hearing impairments in specialized schools. Children with relatively minor learning difficulties, such as slow learners, that is children who are slow in grasping concepts and who require a bit of time before they can understand things have not been provided with special academic support. However, as a way of acceding or complying with its signing to implement the world declarations, “Education for All” and “Salamanca Statement” which emphasize the right for all individuals to access basic education and meeting the needs of children with special needs through introduction of inclusive education to which Malawi as a country became a signatory in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990 and Salamanca in Spain in 1994, the Malawi government through the Ministry of Education and the Malawi Institute of Education in the country developed ‘the Malawi National Strategy for Inclusive Education’ which would provide guidelines to mainstream schools and other education stakeholders to guide them in effective implementation of inclusive education for effective implementation of inclusive education in the mainstream schools in Malawi. This study was thus set out to investigate the challenges which schools are facing in implementing inclusive education in mainstream primary schools in Zomba district.

Four mainstream primary schools in Zomba district were involved in this study. Two of the schools were rural and the other two were urban. Qualitative research method which employed a case study design was used. Thirty-four participants were involved in this study. These were purposely sampled. The participants were four head teachers, twelve teachers from the four primary schools, two District Education Managers (rural and urban), two special needs and inclusive education coordinators (for Zomba rural and urban education districts), two coordinating Primary Education Advisors (PEAs) for Zomba rural and urban education districts, South Eastern Education Division Special Needs and Inclusive Education Coordinator, the special needs and inclusive education curriculum specialist at the Malawi Institute of Education (MIE) and the officer responsible for inclusive education responsive examinations at the Malawi National Examination Board (MANEB. Data was collected through interviews, documents review and classroom lesson observations to provide methodological triangulation.

Data was analyzed using thematic content analysis method inductively. The results of the study indicated that the implementation of inclusive education is facing a number of challenges such as ineffective orientation of head teachers and teachers to inclusive education, unavailability of teaching and learning materials for special needs learners in the mainstream schools, lack of special needs specialist teachers and lack of infrastructure suitable for the diverse special education needs learners. The study has thus made the following recommendations. Firstly, that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology officers, that is the District Education Managers and the Primary Education Advisors involved in the implementation of inclusive education need to ensure that there is effective orientation training of the head-teachers teachers and teachers on inclusive education. Secondly, the Ministry of education, Science and Technology should provide teaching and learning materials for the special education needs learners in the mainstream schools. Thirdly, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology should deploy Specialist teachers in mainstream schools and fourthly, mainstream schools’ management in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology should ensure that the mainstream schools’ infrastructure is suitable for learners with different special education needs.

Francis Lingolwe, Grames Wellington Chirwa* and Devika Naidoo

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