Inclusive Education, Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Policy: Mainstreaming PWDs at Africa University in Zimbabwe


The papers contained herein are the final papers from the 2017 National Symposium on the  Promise of the Declaration of Rights under the Constitution of Zimbabwe, held at Cresta Lodge,  Harare, Zimbabwe, on 8 and 9 November 2017, under the Zimbabwe Human Rights Capacity  Development Programme  (hereinafter ‘Zimbabwe Programme’). As to their substantive content,  they analyse and expand upon the following topics: inclusive education and the rights of persons  with disabilities; corporal punishment; litigating elections petitions; intellectual property rights and traditional knowledge; and foreign investment and the constitutional protection of property rights. 

The overall objective of the Zimbabwe Programme is: to contribute to enhanced enjoyment of constitutional rights in Zimbabwe, through legislation, policies, practices and decision-making being increasingly informed by international human rights standards and principles. Its main implementing partners at the time of writing  are: Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (hereinafter ‘RWI’) at  Lund University, Sweden; Centre for Applied Legal Research (hereinafter ‘CALR’) in Harare,  Zimbabwe; College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance at Africa University in Mutare,  Zimbabwe; Faculty of Law at Midlands State University in Gweru, Zimbabwe; Herbert Chitepo  School of Law at Great Zimbabwe University in Masvingo, Zimbabwe; Faculty of Law at  University of Zimbabwe in Harare, Zimbabwe; Faculty of Law at Ezekiel Guti University in  Bindura, Zimbabwe; and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. The Zimbabwe Programme is  supported by Swedish development cooperation. 

The national symposium is an annual event under the Zimbabwe Programme. It is co-organised  by RWI together with the academic partner institutions and CALR, and is a forum where research  funded and conducted during the year is packaged and presented before an audience representing  diverse sectors of Zimbabwean society, thereby allowing the presenters and participants to in  plenary engage in vibrant discussions around the topics at hand and together deliberate on the way  forward with regard to critical human rights reform issues. The feedback and experiences shared during the national symposium also aid and feed into the preparation of final papers for publication  and dissemination. In addition to the just said, the papers contained herein have undergone a peer  review process with the reviewer’s feedback taken into account so as to improve their overall  quality. 

With that said, RWI would like to conclude by thanking the researchers for their hard work and determination, which resulted in these final papers that make up this collection. RWI would also  like to thank Swedish development cooperation for supporting the research and thereby ensuring it saw the light of day. Finally, it is RWI’s sincere wish that you, the reader, find these papers thought-provoking and informative as well as an eventual source of inspiration and guidance in your own potential efforts towards furthering the provisions contained in the 2013 Constitution of  Zimbabwe and its comprehensive Declaration of Rights. 

About the Raoul Wallenberg Institute: 

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute, based in Lund, Sweden, is a research and academic institution with offices, programmes and convening power covering 40 countries. RWI  combines evidence-based human rights research with direct engagement in close collaboration with its partners to bring about human rights change for all. The Institute is  named after Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews and other people at risk in Hungary at the end of World War II.   

For more information on RWI, please visit: 


Inclusive Education, Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Policy:  Mainstreaming PWDs at Africa University in Zimbabwe 

Chupicai Manuel,* Pamela Machakanja** and Deliah Jeranyama*** 


1 Background  

Rising global inequalities and marginalisation are proving difficult to solve using a single lens of  analysis. And education as a possible panacea for dealing with these inequalities has not been accessed  by all people in society. Such a skewed distribution, access and availability of education have caused  marginalisation of certain segments of society based on gender, sexuality, race, disability and class.  Thus, a call for rethinking inclusive education with the view of transforming the educational systems,  processes, institutions and infrastructure that promote the rights of people with disabilities is  paramount in the 21st century. However, the political economy of inclusive education and policies  around which to achieve the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs) are rather elusive and  uncoordinated given the complexity and contested nature of the factors that surround the realisation  and implementation of inclusive education in Zimbabwe. Historically, all education systems were  established under the elitist models of development which discriminated against the minority based on  power, sex, gender, disability, language, sexuality, race, class and geography among other factors.  Zimbabwe’s education system followed the same model under the colonial rule, and the post-colonial  education system took a similar fashion despite significant changes and affirmative action the  government adopted to bring on board those who were historically and systematically marginalised. 

In view of this, the education system that Zimbabwe inherited had its fault lines and has limited  inclusivity and the pedagogy that was not inclusive to those viewed as the ‘other’ in society such as  PWDs. The infrastructure, teaching materials and educational facilities and many other amenities for  special needs education remain inaccessible in many universities in Zimbabwe. In addition, the  recognition of PWDs in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  (CRPD) in 2006 has not scored much in Zimbabwe due to a myriad of challenges including  governance, as well as socio-economic difficulties facing the country for the past decade. Relevant to  these is the spatial progress realised in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially the  universal access to primary education, where greater emphasis was placed on access and less on equity  and inclusivity. The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations Development Programme  (UNDP, 2015) through SDG Goal #4 now emphasise inclusive and equitable quality education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all.1 However, since 2000, despite remarkable  progress on the goal in reaching 91 per cent in primary school enrolment rate in developing regions,  access to quality higher education remains a challenges especially to students with disabilities. Given  this background, many tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe remain unfriendly to PWDs and there are  limited facilities and human resources to expedite the provision of inclusive education. Therefore, this  study seeks to explore the prospects, challenges and opportunities of inclusive education in institutions  of higher learning with the aim of mainstreaming PWDs in the learning process and education  outcomes and advance the rights of PWDs. This study is expected to establish and propose policy  options to accelerate inclusive education in institutions of higher education in Zimbabwe through  curriculum development and affirmative action. 


2 Problem Statement  

The historical trajectory of disability legislation in Zimbabwe can be traced back to 1992 when the  Disabled Persons Act (DPA) (Chapter 17:01) was decreed becoming one of pioneer countries to give  recognition to the plight of disabled persons. Persons with disabilities are protected under a number  legislative laws including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,  which Zimbabwe ratified on 23 September 2013 and which takes a human rights and people-centred  based approaches to the conceptualisation of disability as part of “human diversity and humanity;  equality of opportunity; accessibility; equality between men and women”,2 and the Constitution of  Zimbabwe section 83 (a–f), with sub-section (e) emphasizing provision of facilities for education and  sub-section (f) focusing on the provision of state-funded education and training where needed.3 Thus,  having embraced and internalized the international human rights practices and expectations in the  Zimbabwe Constitution, all institutions are expected to mainstream PWDs in the educational system  through policy formulation and institutional reforms. However, despite having this plethora of  legislative laws, institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe seem to be lagging behind in embracing  the concept of disability and PWDs from a human-rights based approach which calls for inclusive  policy planning and mainstreaming PWDs in all their curricula activities as an expression of responding  to and embracing inclusive education. Several scholars have concluded that inclusive education remains  at the ‘pilot project’ stage across much of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).4 Of the 30 million young people  who are out-of-school in SSA, it is estimated that one third are children with disabilities (CWDs).5 The  literature indicates historical, cultural, material and other factors which pose barriers to the  participation of CWDs and the realisation of inclusive education.   

Africa University had small numbers of PWDs accessing higher education due to problems that span  from colonial, historical and human attitudes as well as institutional weaknesses. This high level of  apathy has resulted in seemingly high levels of unpreparedness to include disabled persons within many  institutions of higher learning, as well as limited social infrastructure reforms which is evidenced by the nature of facilities, systems, physical and functional structures. Consequently, institutions of higher  learning often panic and poorly handle such students or staff members living with various disabilities  when they become part of the institution’s community. Institutions of higher learning are replete with  practices that reinforce exclusion, one of the most common being the widely accepted but largely  smoke-and-mirrors practice of psychological testing of students to determine eligibility for special  needs funding and services which are non-existent most of the time. 

3 Goal 

The study at hand seeks to assess the processes, structures and policies of higher education institutions  in Zimbabwe. The study will carry out an overall assessment of the accessibility of infrastructure by  PWDs, the availability of human resources to handle PWDs, curriculum, amenities, policies and  pedagogy at an institution of higher learning in Zimbabwe. This will be done to measure the levels of  preparedness, ability and milestones in mainstreaming PWDs in higher education institutions. The  study also seeks to examine the human rights implications of mainstreaming PWDs in higher education  as a social justice responsive to the attainment of SDG Goal #4. 

4 Research Objectives 

The study was guided by the following objectives which were to: 

1. Analyse the legal frameworks that provide for disability rights and inclusive education in Zimbabwe. 

2. Assess the policies, structures, attitudes, environment and processes available to mainstream PWDs at selected institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe 

3. Suggest strategies that can be adopted to promote inclusivity of persons with disabilities in institutions of higher learning and promote equality and equity in Zimbabwe 

5 Research Questions  

The study was guided by the following questions: 

1. In what ways does the disability legal framework provide for inclusive education in Zimbabwe? 

2. What policies, structures, processes and institutions are available at Africa University which are inclusive of persons with disabilities? 

3. What strategies can be adopted to promote inclusivity of persons with disabilities in institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe? 


6 Significance of Study 

This study is worth conducting because: 

 It will be a basis for education policy development vis-à-vis disability policy development at institutions of higher learning. 

 It also informs curriculum review and possible teaching methodologies as a step towards alignment with human rights best practices. 

 It advocates for human resources that are disability friendly (sensitive). 
 It facilitates the achievement of equality and justice as called for by the Sustainable 


Development Goals. 

 The protection and promotion of fundamental human rights needs to be reflected in the approach taken with persons with disabilities. 

 It shall further influence inclusive education at all levels of formal education in Zimbabwe. 

7 Assumptions of the study 

The study is premised on the assumptions that: 

 At every recruitment process, institutions of higher learning receive applications from PWDs.   Institutions of higher learning have not been adequately prepared to receive PWDs as both 

students and staff. 


8 Conceptual Framework 

This study will dwell on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of  2006 and the various legal frameworks available in the Zimbabwe Constitution that seek to promote  the rights of PWDs. Inclusive education falls under the human rights framework inasmuch as it also reflects good governance. A human rights-based approach will be adopted as a theoretical framework in this study as well as participation as it is reflected in good governance indicators. The study will also  draw scholarly debates on inclusive education in higher education from global and regional experiences, and compare them to the Zimbabwean context. 


9 Conceptualizing Inclusive Education 

Inclusive education is a contested multidimensional concept that can be seen as a process of strengthening the capacity of an education system to reach out to all learners. As a contested concept it is shrouded with the underlying practices and meanings varying from region to region. As highlighted by Deppeler, Loreman and Smith, “educational jurisdictions around the world have adopted the vocabulary of inclusive education and invested significant resources … into making schools more inclusive… however, exclusion remains a real and present danger.”6 UNESCO contends that it is “an  overall principle that should guide all educational policies and practices, starting from the belief that  education is a fundamental human right and the foundation for a more just society”.7 While this is a  comprehensive definition, other views from global institutions such as the UNCRPD take inclusive  education as a rights-based approach to education which appreciates diversity among learners and their  unique educational needs. Inclusive education centres its efforts on learners who are vulnerable and prone to exclusion and marginalization. 




10 Inclusive Education: Global Legal Framework 

International law recognises the rights of PWDs through the CRPD which is a global treaty that  addresses disability. It recognised formally the globalisation of disability rights under the human rights  movement in 2006.8 Historical evidence shows that disability was once approached from a social  welfare and epidemiological perspective where it carried images of sick and needy persons and not  impairment. Therefore, the CRPD’s thrust is that of a human rights based approach where issues of  social and economic justice are at the centre of disability rights, with inclusive education anchoring  social justice and equity.  PWDs are therefore entitled to their fundamental rights, and in the context  of inclusive education issues of access, affordability and distribution of services in higher education  are invaluable tools that will make Zimbabwe and other African states live to the billings of  international disability rights. The CRPD has enshrined provisions that call for equality, and Article 1  clearly states that the purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal  enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to  promote respect for their inherent dignity.9 In addition, the CPRD through Article 24 requires state  parties to recognise the right to education for disabled children and imposes the obligation to make reasonable accommodations10. Therefore, state parties have the obligation to hold universities to  account for discrimination against PWDs in higher education. 

Another right enshrined in the CPRD is the right to accommodation which is a very important aspect  of securing inclusive education. The CRPD requires 1) an immediate non-discrimination guarantee,  and 2) imposes an obligation of progressive realisation with respect to providing collective  accommodations so as to incrementally transform classrooms into inclusive learning environments.  With respect to disability-based discrimination in education, the failure to make a reasonable and  effective accommodation is an act of discrimination. In view of the above, it is important to draw from  the General Comment No. 4 on Article 24 that the CRPD places emphasis on the role of governments in terms of providing inclusive education, across all levels of the education system, for all learners.11  This entails a comprehensive analysis of disability issues, and it offers a human rights dimension,  replacing the medical model with the social model of disability.12 General Comment No. 4 on Article  24 has promoted the right to inclusive education for children with disabilities, stating that they should  be able to be included in the general education system. Therefore, there are good grounds for  progressive state parties, institutions and all stakeholders to respect and implement initiatives that will  further entrench values of disability rights in line with the CRPD. 


11 African Protocol on Persons with Disabilities and Inclusive Education 

The African Protocol on Persons with Disabilities recognises disability rights13. For example, Article  16 recognises the right to education. Article 16 states that:                                                       

1. Every person with a disability has the right to education.  

2. States Parties shall ensure to persons with disabilities the right to education on an equal basis with others.  

3. States Parties shall take, reasonable, appropriate and effective measures to ensure that inclusive quality education and skills training for persons with disabilities is realized fully, including by:  

a) Ensuring that persons with disabilities can access free, quality and compulsory basic and secondary education;  

b) Ensuring that persons with disabilities are able to access general tertiary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning without discrimination and on an equal basis with others, including by ensuring the literacy of persons with disabilities above compulsory school age;  

c) Ensuring reasonable accommodation of the individual's requirements is provided, and that persons with disabilities receive the support required to facilitate their effective education;  

d) Providing reasonable, progressive and effective individualized support measures in environments that maximise academic and social development, consistent with the goal of full inclusion;  

e) Ensuring appropriate schooling choices are available to persons with disabilities who may prefer to learn in particular environments;  

f) Ensuring that persons with disabilities learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community;  

g) Ensuring that multi-disciplinary assessments are undertaken to determine appropriate reasonable accommodation and support measures for learners with disabilities, early intervention, regular assessments and certification for learners are undertaken regardless of their disabilities; 

h) Ensuring educational institutions are equipped with the teaching aids, materials and equipment to support the education of students with disabilities and their specific needs;  

i) Training education professionals, including persons with disabilities, on how to educate and interact with children with specific learning needs; and  

j) Facilitating respect, recognition, promotion, preservation and development of sign languages.  


In the spirit of the Article 16, there are good grounds for any progressive learning environment to craft  policies that provide for an all-inclusive society and observe the rights of PWDs. 

The African Protocol for PWDs further recognizes the right to education of PWDs through Article  15 that observes the issues of accessibility such as:  

1. Every person with a disability has the right to barrier free access to the physical environment, transportation, information, including communications technologies and systems, and other facilities and services open or provided to the public. 2. States Parties shall take reasonable and progressive step measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right, and such measures shall, among others, apply to:  

a) Rural and urban settings and shall take account of population diversities;  

b) Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces;  

c) Information, communications, sign languages and tactile interpretation services, braille, audio, and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.  

Therefore, there are good grounds for institutions of higher learning to mainstream PWDs inasmuch as they are not bound by the law to implement disability rights. In any event, if these institutions are found to discriminate PWDs, there can be litigation initiated by the person being discriminated using  the available national laws.             

12 Marrakesh Treaty and Inclusive Education 

The Marrakesh Treaty is an international treaty adopted in 2013 by member states of the World  Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a specialised agency of the United Nations14. The full title is The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually  Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. It is the first copyright treaty with human rights principles at its core, with specific references to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN  Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The impetus of the Marrakesh Treaty is on its landmark provisions such as that it created an international legal framework that allows the making  and distribution of accessible format copies for people with print disabilities and the sharing of accessible books across national borders. Under the Marrakesh Treaty, people with print disabilities  include those who are blind, those who have a visual impairment or a perceptual or reading disability  and those who are unable to focus the eyes or to hold or manipulate a book. Thus, this Treaty is a  giant step towards improving the right of PWDs in learning environments to have access to print  literature by removing stringent copyright measures for PWDs. All libraries in the world have their obligations to provide for PWDs and ensure that the university is an all-inclusive learning environment for PWDs. 

13 Research Methodology 

The study adopted a qualitative research method which assisted us to explore Africa University’s  preparedness, responsiveness and policies to PWDs and aggregate data on populations of PWDs in  the University over a five-year period (2011 to 2016), level of inclusivity in the curriculum and  described experiences, perceptions, prospects and challenges faced in the promotion of inclusive  education.   

14 Population 

The population of the study was Africa University with an average student body of 2100 students for both conventional and continuing education. The population of this study was drawn from key position holders in the University. This study conducted key informant interviews mainly with the  deans of three colleges namely the College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance, College of Social Sciences, Theology, Humanities and Education and the College of Health, Agriculture and  Natural Sciences. In addition, the Director of Continuing Education Office, the library staff, warden,  the Student Representative Council, the Student Affairs Department, the lecturers (mainly HODs) and the Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor as well as the Registrar’s offices were consulted during thus study. 

15 Scope of the Study 

The study focused on: 

 Four forms of disabilities which are visual impairments, hearing impairment, speech dysfunctions and physical disabilities  

 Infrastructure which is limited to systems and structures 

 A private institution of higher learning   Curriculum 

 Pedagogy 

 Human resources 

 Culture of inclusivity 

 Policy and governance  

 Population of PWDs 

16 Sample Size and Sampling Methods 

A sample for this study comprised students, academic and support staff of the selected institution of  higher learning. The targeted sample size was composed of four (enrolled or former) male and female students living with either visual impairments, hearing impairment, speech dysfunctions or any other physical disabilities from the institution. Sixteen key informants shall also be identified from among the transport departments, Student Representative Council, human resources offices, dean of students’  offices, resource centres/libraries, sports departments, hostel wardens, registry departments and the  ICT/web management departments. Both students and key informants were selected using purposive sampling.  

17 Data Collection Methods 

Data for this study was collected using semi-structured questionnaires and key informant interviews and observations. Students participated through questionnaires while key informant interviews were  conducted with key informants from deans of colleges, librarian, ICT department, student body, Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor and other relevant officers. Observations were made around the halls of residence, dining halls/canteens, bathrooms/restrooms, classrooms, library facilities/resource centres, playgrounds, and the common rooms. While observing, attention was given to available special facilities that are needed by PWDs.   

18 Data analysis 

Thematic data analysis was used to group responses and analyse data using a narrative approach. This allowed us to interpret how Africa University upholds the rights of PWDs, describe the perceptions of the University towards inclusive education and analyze the processes and initiative underway to  improve inclusive education. 

19 Ethical considerations  

The nature of this study required strong observance of ethical issues. Since there was engagement of  persons with disabilities, the wording of the questionnaires and interview questions were very disability friendly and sensitive. Again, other critical issues such as consent, confidentiality, voluntary  participation and withdrawal were observed.   


20 Findings  

20.1 Introduction 

This study administered key informant interviews which constituted the bulk of the data which we  analysed. The Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor, the Dean of Students, the registrar and lecturers  among others were part of the sample which contributed to data sources. 

20.2 Provisions of the Zimbabwe Disabled Persons Act and the 2013 Constitution 

The Zimbabwe Disabled Persons Act (Chapter 17:01) was promulgated in 1992, making the  Zimbabwe one of the first states to adopt a disability-related legislation.15 Having taken this step, it  would have been assumed that Zimbabwe would ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with  Disabilities when it came into force in 2007. The Convention places obligation on states to ensure that  persons with disabilities realize their rights and fundamental freedoms without any form of  discrimination. However, it took Zimbabwe more than five years to ratify the convention in September  2013. 

This international instrument was domesticated through the Constitution of 2013, which recognizes the rights of persons with both physical and mental disabilities. Section 22(2) of the Zimbabwe  Constitution clearly indicate the state’s obligation to, “within the limits of the resources … assist persons with physical or mental disabilities to achieve their full potential and to minimize the disadvantages faced by them”. The  Constitution further prescribes in section 3 that all institutions and government agencies ‘must’: 

a) Develop programmes for the welfare of persons with physical or mental disabilities, especially work programmes consistent with their capabilities and acceptable to them or their legal representatives.  

b) Consider the specific requirements of persons with all forms of disability as one of the priorities in development plans 

c) Encourage the use and development of forms of communication suitable for persons with physical or mental disability 

However, critical analysis of this constitutional commitment has revealed the implications of a claw  back clause in section 22(2) which continues to dilute and undermine the rights of PWDs. Despite  this, the Constitution remains a confirmation of how much the state is committed to promote and  protect the rights of PWDs. Section 83 shows further dedication towards alleviation of the predicament  faced by PWDs in Zimbabwe. This has demonstrated how much Zimbabwe has embraced the human  rights based approach in a bid to internalise the framework into its legislation. Whilst this section is  dedicated to ensure that the rights of PWDs are observed and respected, there seems to be no  guarantee that the state shall fulfil the obligation since full realisation of the rights remains subject to  availability of resources. In that regard, Mandipa submits that section 83 should have stated that the  state has a duty to progressively realize the rights of PWDs.16 

These shortcomings have failed to cover up for the gaps observed in the Disabled Persons Act which  has also been criticised for inadequately addressing the human rights of PWDs. The major drawback  of this Act is that it follows an outdated medical model of disability which locates disability within the  person and views PWDs not as rights holders but as objects for clinical intervention.17 This has  contributed to PWDs losing confidence in themselves as influential agents of positive change.  

Having realised the implication of this shortfall, government ministries have made efforts to embrace  human rights concepts so as to improve inclusiveness of PWDs in all programming. This has also seen  the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education urging disability friendly pedagogy and infrastructure  as a means towards achieving its goal to ensure that education is received by all who have the capacity  despite physical makeup.    


20.3 Disability-Friendly Policies and Infrastructure   

Having been established 25 years ago, Africa University has no disability policy that is specifically  designed to ensure inclusivity of both students and staff with disabilities. This is a gap that has been  overlooked and thus continues to cause panic when a PWD shows up after being admitted on campus.  An informal chat with one of the student alumnus with physical disability revealed the seemingly panic  and discomfort expressed by both staff and students upon realising that the student was physically  disabled.  

This supposed confusion stands as a clear sign of unpreparedness to receive and render services to  PWDs in general. To confirm this assumption, the study went further to assess the nature of buildings  on campus to verify whether they were designed with PWDs in mind. Twelve buildings that are critical  to students and staff were assessed to see how accessible they are to PWDs. All college buildings, the  library, ICT building, one hall of residence (because the stet-up of all hostels is the same), the student  union building, chapel, dining hall and the administrative building were assessed.  


20.4 Public Buildings Accessibility  

Of the 12 buildings, none of them has a clearly designated parking space for disabled badge holders.  All buildings have a designated parking space, including a space specifically set aside for students to park their vehicles. However, there is no building with a specifically set-aside parking space for PWDs.  This could be understood that PWDs are not recognized as in need of some special need especially considering that they may not be able to withstand possible pressures in order to have equal access to some resources. Unavailability of a designated parking space further translates to PWDs having to walk a long distance from the parking area to the nearest building.  

The assessment also found that the main entrances of some of the buildings are either flat levelled,  ramped or have staircases. It was observed that only two of the 12 observed public buildings had both a ramp and a staircase, that is, the IPLG building and the chapel. Five buildings are flat-leveled, four  have staircases (without ramps) and only one has a ramp (and no staircase) on the main entrance.  Among the flat levelled buildings are the male and female hostels. This means wheelchair users and crutch and cane users cannot access the second floors of all halls of residence. As a measure, all  students with such disabilities have always been allocated rooms that are on the ground floor;  something which does not grant all students the same opportunity to enjoy the halls of residence in  the same manner. 


The same observation was made with the administration building in which critical offices are located.  While the main entrance is flat-levelled, the ramp is available but located on the other side of the  building. This means wheelchair and crutch and cane users can only access the second floor of the  building using a separate entrance point. It was also observed that the engineering building is completely inaccessible to wheelchair users although it may be accessible to crutch and cane users but with some difficulties. An almost similar arrangement exists in the health science building in which  one may access the ground floor through the main entrance but cannot access the second floor through the main entrance as there are no internal ramps. In this same building, a ramp is situated on the other side of the building, and it leads into the second floor such that if one wishes to get to the ground  floor, they have to move outside the building and go through the flat-leveled main entrance.    

Another critical public space that PWDs have no access to is the university dining hall. This is because the entrance has two staircases with an average of nine stairs in each staircase. There is no other way  that can be used to reach the dining hall which is on the second floor.  

It is also important to note that while some building entrances are easily accessible to PWDs, the distance travelled from the halls of residence to get to the entrance are long because they have to go around the University using the main route which is used by vehicles. This applies to the IPLG and  health science buildings which are situated furthest from most of the buildings. The distance from the  nearest hostel to these buildings can be approximated to 500 meters while one would need to travel  an extra 100 meters if they are residing in the furthest hostel.  

20.5 Public Buildings User-Friendliness  

While some buildings are accessible the facilities are not disability-friendly. For example, while all classrooms are accessible to the blind, there are no braille printers and keyboards available, neither  does the University have devices that use speech recognition and dictation software to cater for the  blind. This implies that a blind student will have to rely on his/her aide to take notes and read to them  afterwards. In the past, examinations for a student who was blind have been printed at the University,  taken to the University of Zimbabwe for translation into braille format and then the student would  write the exam. However, the University could not provide a machine for the student, and hence had  to use his personal machine. Afterwards, the answer script would be taken back to the University of  Zimbabwe for translation into word format to allow the examiners to assess the work. This kind of  arrangement has not only been time-consuming but had financial implications on the University.  Further, the absence of personnel that is skilled in both word and braille text almost implies limited  commitment towards the inclusive agenda.  

The same has been true for all front desks around campus. The administration building is designed in  a manner that a wheelchair user is not visible behind the counter. The same was observed in all offices  on campus in which no wheelchair user friendly desk is available. This was also observed in the  University library’s book circulation points which do not allow someone sitting in wheelchair to access  the attendant behind the desk because of the height of the desk. This would also imply that any person  sitting in a wheelchair will need an aide. However, this challenge also stretches even in accessing the  books on the open library stacks. All the book shelves are approximately two metres from the ground,  allowing the library user to only access books that are shelved on the first two stacks. All those materials  shelved on the rest of the stacks are not easily accessible to wheelchair users on campus.  Further, the  library has no personnel that carries the responsibility to offer both technical and physical support to  PWDs on campus.  

Another observation was that the University ICT and library facilities cannot offer adequate services  to persons who are colour-blind. This finding was made upon observing the types of keyboards available in these two public areas. The University currently can provide the usual black and white  coloured keyboards for all the public machines.  

20.6 Doors and Door Handle Types  

The research found that no single door across the University campus was automatic. All classroom,  hostel and office doors are manual, requiring one to either push or pull. A wheelchair user student is  therefore required to be in the company of someone in order to access the classroom or hostel room.  This was even complicated in instances considering that doors open inwards.                   


20.7 Separate Internal Facilities for PWDs   

The research established through observation that most of the University public buildings do have a  few separate internal facilitators for PWDs. All the buildings do have restrooms specifically set aside  for PWDs. The library is the only public building that has an internal elevator which is capable of  moving students with disabilities and staff up and down the library.   

20.8 Support Services and Attitude Towards PWDs 

It was established that some of the support service facilities are not accessible to PWDs particularly the visually impaired and wheelchair users. These include the fleet and facility services, which is  responsible for providing transport to both staff and students, and laundry services.   

With regard to the fleet and facility services, while the buses that ferry both students and staff are available, they are not accessible to wheelchair users, cane users as well as crutch users on campus. The  entrance to the buses have a staircase, thereby limiting persons with specific disabilities. Further inquiries revealed that there is no wheelchair van available specifically designed for the transportation of wheelchairs users. From past incidences, a wheelchair user is hand lifted by a colleague and the wheelchair is folded and placed in the bus. However, the buses have no space for ferrying the wheelchairs while the user is on board. An inquiry with a former female student who used a wheelchair  revealed that this kind of arrangement did not only bring discomfort to her when every other bus users  had to stand aside so that she had to be lifted in and out of the bus but it made her feel that she had  become more of a burden to her colleagues who had taken the responsibility to provide such kind of  support to her.  

The study also found out that the University has no human resources that have the capacity to  communicate with persons with speech dysfunctions and hearing impairments. This is because none among the currently present staff members can communicate in sign language. This does not only  affect students but even staff who may want to join the University community. The current situation  is such that the University cannot provide a conducive working environment for someone who relies on sign language as the study revealed that there is no staff member with a qualification in sign language.   

Although the support services are not adequately designed to include PWDs, there is a positive attitude  towards PWDs from both staff and students. This has been evidenced by the nature and magnitude  of assistance rendered to fellow students living with physical disabilities. The study further revealed  that the attitude from administrative staff has also positively changed upon realising that PWDs only  have special needs and are very cooperative. However, it was revealed that the state of preparedness often induces shock and results in fear of uncertainties on potential challenges which in many cases do  not occur. 

20.9 Pedagogy  

Pedagogy is about how lecturers teach and how learners learn, and is a fundamental ingredient in any  successful inclusive approach. Without effective pedagogy we have no operative method of education  and, without purposeful and effective inclusive pedagogy, we have no basis for meaningful inclusion.  Research evidence revealed that Africa University uses conventional methods of teaching and the style  is rather for persons who are not disabled. Despite the existence of different patches of undocumented  policy documents as enshrined in the mission and vision of Africa University which states inclusivity  and equality, it is important to note that the preparedness of Africa University in transforming its  pedagogy to meet the needs of PWDs is limited. An interview with the director of the Department of  Continuing Education at Africa University indicated that the e-learning platform for example does not  cater for the needs of those with hearing and visual impairments. He noted that the University has a  deliberate effort to promote equality and this has been shown in other areas where gender equality was  achieved as evidenced by the 51 to 49 per cent female-to-male ratios, respectively. 

However, on disability, our teaching and mode of delivery with regards to e-learning and Moodle does  not meet the needs of PWDs.18 In addition, an interview with one of the former students from Africa  University who is now the director of the umbrella body of all disability organizations in Zimbabwe  pointed out that the teaching methods and delivery system in the University is not disability friendly.  He noted the he personally had challenges when he was a student at Africa University studying for a  Master’s in Public Policy and Governance where lecturers continued to use PowerPoint presentations,  and yet he was visually impaired.19 The former student shared an experience where he had a  misunderstanding with the lecturer when the lecturer kept on using phrases such as “as you can see in  the slide show” and he reminded the lecturer that he cannot see and appealed to him to explain. The  lecturer felt disrespected and had a bad relationship with the student which in his view affected the  learning process and co-learning. From the views shared by the former student, it reveals that the  pedagogy at Africa University is not yet fine-tuned towards embracing PWDs and their special needs.  

The Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor which is responsible for all academic issues was approached  to give its views on the pedagogy and PWDs at Africa University. The deputy vice chancellor first  reiterated the strategic direction of the University as a world-class university and all-encompassing one  that does not discriminate based on disability. The DVC further explained that as part of the  curriculum development and academic programming the University has a Master’s in Human Rights,  Peace and Development which is an anchor programme that entrenches disability rights issues.20  Therefore, the DVC expressed that the environment is ready to promote equality and equity as  evidenced by educational programmes in the University. Apart from academic programmes which exist  in the University, there is also a deliberate effort to enrol students with disabilities and offer them  scholarships which is one giant step towards inclusivity, equality and equity in higher education.21  However, the DVC also lamented the limited knowledge and skills gap in the University to propel a  full-fledged inclusive education. There are gaps in the human resources, knowledge development and  teaching techniques which suit students with disabilities and the technologies available may not fully  support their needs. In addition, pedagogy is not only related to the lecturer’s delivery model and  techniques to the students but also the medium through which students are able to co-learn with other  students with disabilities as well as the lecturer learning from across all students despite their disability.  As a way of testing the preparedness and depth of understanding of pedagogy for persons with  disabilities, we interviewed one lecturer who teaches in the Master in Public Policy and Governance.  The Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance has enrolled students with disabilities in the last  five years, and we were interested in hearing the experiences of the lecturer when he conducted his  classes with students who had disabilities. Two of the students had physical disabilities and one was  visually impaired. From the lecturer’s experience, it was easy to teach students with physical disabilities  compared to the one with visual impairment. According to the lecturer, he used PowerPoint  presentations and highlighted certain issues using pointers and that further discriminated the visually  impaired student. In an effort to deal with the matter and cater for the student, the lecturer usually  sent the student some PowerPoint presentations to be read from his computer. However, in his view  teaching persons with different needs require special training as one can easily exclude them from the  learning process.22 


21 Strategies for Mainstreaming PWDs in Higher Education: Towards Equality and Equity in  Zimbabwe 

Having found out the realities associated with localising the provisions of the Disabled Persons Act  and the Constitution, there are a number of strategies that the study recommends as a means towards  promoting inclusivity of PWDs in Zimbabwe’s institutions of higher learning with particular focus on  Africa University. These strategies include but are not limited to: 

Sensitisation trainings: Drawing from the findings, there was evidence of academic registry department staff unpreparedness when the first PWDs were enrolled on campus in 2015. There is need to hold sensitisation trainings for both students and staff at institutions of higher learning to raise the level of preparedness so that there is no panic and confusion upon reception of either staff members or students living with physical disabilities. Africa University has been facilitating workshops in partnership with others on mainstreaming the rights of PWDs in higher education. This can be up scaled and more local trainings introduced with the view of ensuring increased awareness of disability rights. 

Institutional Reform and Structuring: Africa University needs a disability resource centre  and disability desk which will champion development of policies and academic programmes as  well as outreach with particular emphasis on pedagogy, extracurricular activities, infrastructure  and other support mechanisms. This can be done in partnership with the Office of the Deputy  Vice Chancellor, the Director of Continuing Education, the registrar and Dean of Students  who are there to oversee academic programming and the welfare of the students. 

Basic training on sign language: Having found out that there is lack of basic knowledge on  sign language among University staff, the study recommends basic training for staff and  students. This will not only be a sign of inclusivity but a mechanism for the domestication and  implementation of the provisions of the Zimbabwe 2013 Constitution. 

Infrastructure development: All the buildings at Africa University must be accessible by  persons with disabilities and the research established that very few buildings actually are  accessible. Therefore, we recommend that the buildings be restructured to be accessible by  PWDs. Furthermore, all new buildings must pass the test of disability friendliness at the planning stage. 

Pedagogy review: The research findings highlighted that inclusive pedagogy for PWDs draws  attention to the idea that a single “one size fits all”23 pedagogy is not helpful when trying to meet the needs of a diverse range of learners, and that attention needs to be paid to individuals as opposed to a purely theoretical class of learners in which no form of significant diversity exists. In this respect, institutions of higher education in Zimbabwe including Africa University need to take the issue of pedagogical review seriously. In recognition of this, pedagogies aimed  at addressing the needs of all learners that minimise or eliminate the singling out of individuals  for special teaching have been developed.24 The most familiar of these approaches include: 
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) which is based on three principles that include: (a)  multiple means of engagement, (b) multiple means of representation, and (c) multiple means  of action and expression; Differentiated Instruction (DI) which refers to “pedagogical  techniques used in the classroom to deliver the appropriately designed curriculum to a wide  range of learners”;25 and the Inclusive Pedagogical Approach in Action (IPAA) popularised by Florian and Spratt,26 whose goal is to promote the full participation of all students in the  classroom by acknowledging individual differences as an essential aspect of human  development in any conceptualisation of learning. Of significance, IPAA rejects deterministic  views of ability and the idea that the presence of some children will impede the progress of  other children, and teachers are encouraged to continually develop creative and novel ways of  working with children with different abilities.  

What these approaches have in common is that they are not prescriptive but are based on principles and strategies that the teacher must adopt and adapt to the situation. Pedagogical review also requires a critical lens which ensures that approaches that perpetuate segregation  do not find their way in settings by focusing on inclusive teaching and learning. Such  pedagogical approaches can be deconstructed through a process of critical discourse analysis  whose central aim is to examine how different texts reproduce power and inequalities in  society. Using critical analysis to examine inclusive pedagogy helps in finding answers to the  following questions:

a) What is being taken for granted in the pedagogical approach under consideration? 

b) What is missing from the approach? 

c) What assumptions and beliefs form the basis of any pedagogical approach?  

d)  In what ways is the pedagogical approach influenced by the traditional classroom of teaching and learning?  

e) What are the roles of the teachers and learners?  

f) Does the approach adequately respect culture, religion and other areas of diversity and allow children to express their particular orientation?  

g) What impact might each approach have on the identity of the disabled learner?27 

It can be argued that asking these and similar questions with respect to inclusive pedagogy can  assist educators to evaluate the merits and suitability of an approach with respect to their  context and personal views. This can also be effective if done in collaboration with teaching  colleagues so that the various issues can be explored from a range of viewpoints through  dialogical process. 

Improve support services: With regards to improving support services aimed at enhancing  inclusive education this study can be informed by McGhie-Richmond and de Bruin28 who highlighted the links between technology-assisted pedagogy and the IPPA through which the  processes of multiple means of engagement, representation and action and expression can be  mediated. McGhie-Richmond and de Bruin highlight the value of technology in mediating and  supporting self-directed learning with research evidence that demonstrates that students use  their various devices and web-based applications in very different and individualised ways and  that the inherent flexibility in terms of the pacing, content and “on-demand” nature of web-based learning environments can result in a rich, personalized learning experiences.29 As such, Africa University needs to come to realisation that digital technologies afford students  opportunities to collaborate in conceptualising problems, designing solutions and co-constructing artefacts or narratives collaboratively with others as well as foster individual learning as part of broader inclusive education policy agenda. 

22 Conclusion 

The research findings revealed that inclusive pedagogy is about providing for meaningful participation  of all learners where diversity is taken as a human rights issue and must be accounted for so as to  ensure an elimination of learners on the margins. This then requires that Africa University takes serious  the idea of developing a comprehensive policy on inclusive education with clear strategies for its  operationalisation. The study explored some inclusive pedagogical approaches that may be useful and  that have been shown to be adaptable regardless of context. The study showed that the underlying  fundamentals of good teaching are the basis of inclusive education pedagogy. Hence all elements of  what are currently acknowledged as being important to good teaching should be visible in each of the  inclusive pedagogical models adopted by Africa University. Of significance, the study revealed that the adoption of inclusive pedagogy requires humility: a recognition that if a student is not learning it may  be the teaching that is the problem rather than the learner.  

Therefore, when lecturers reflect and come to these conclusions, they are in a better position to move  forward and truly adopt inclusive ways of teaching which guarantee student success. From this premise,  the decision to embrace inclusive education pedagogy can serve to relieve job-related stress for  lecturers and enhance their feelings of self-efficacy along with improving job satisfaction. The negative  impact on lecturers in terms of stress and workload has been one of the objections raised to the  employment of some inclusive pedagogies, but whether or not one is sympathetic to this point of view,  it must be acknowledged that the adoption of inclusive pedagogical approach does represent new ways  of working for lecturers, and requires the adoption of different points of view. Finally, the study  revealed how technology-assisted instruction provides students with a highly flexible, accessible and  collaborative yet at the same time individualized model of delivery. Hence the need for more training  for both students and staff to sensitise them about the importance of inclusive education as a human  rights issue enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution. To achieve these digitalisation transformations  Africa University should invest in restructuring its infrastructural design of buildings and classroom  equipment and furnishings to align with the educational trends and realities of making higher education  highly flexible and accessible to all students paying special attention to students living with different  forms of disabilities. 



* Chupicai Manuel is a research fellow and lecturer in the College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance at Africa University and he teaches in the Master in Human Rights, Peace and Development Programme, Masters in Public  Policy and Governance, MSc in Migration, Citizenship and Refugee Protection and MSc in International Relations and 

** Pamela Machakanja is an associate professor and the dean of College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance  as well as the former director of the Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance. She teaches in the Masters in  Human Rights, Peace and Development at Africa University 

*** Deliah Jeranyama is a lecturer and researcher in the Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance at Africa  University. She teaches in the Master in Human Rights, Peace and Development, Master in Peace and Governance, as  well as the Master in Public Policy and Governance. 

1 UN, Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A/RES/70/1 (2015). 

2 Article 3 of the CRPD on general principles. 

3 Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act, 2013. 

4 C. J. Eleweke and M. Rodda, ‘The Challenge of Enhancing Inclusive Education in  

Developing Countries’, 6:2 International Journal of Inclusive Education (2002) pp. 113–126; L. Mariga, R. McConkey and H. 
Myezwa, Inclusive Education in Low-Income Countries: A Resource Book for Teacher Educators, Parent Trainers and Community 
Development Workers (Rondebosch, South Africa, 2014); M. Srivastava, A. de Boer and S. J. Pijl, ‘Inclusive Education in 
Developing Countries: A Closer Look at Its Implementation in The Last 10 Years’, 67:2 Educational Review (2015) pp. 

5 Mariga et al., ibid.                                       

6 J. Deppeler, T. Loreman and R. Smith, ‘Teaching and Learning for All’, in J. Deppeler, T. Loreman, R. Smith and L. 

Florian (eds.), Inclusive Pedagogy Across the Curriculum. International Perspectives on Inclusive Education (Emerald Group 
Publishing, London) vol. 7, pp. 1–10. 

7 Assessing Inclusive Education in Practice in Namibia, Challenges and opportunities in leaving no child behind, p. ii, 


8 The CRPD was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and was opened for 

signature on 30 March 2007. 

9 Under Article 1 of the CRPD, other forms of disability include mental, intellectual and sensory impairments.  

10 Article 24 of the CRPD contains the first legal enshrinement of the right to inclusive education for people with 

11 G. de Beco, ‘The Right to Inclusive Education According to Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of 

Persons with Disabilities: Background, Requirements and (Remaining) Questions’, 32 Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights  (2014) pp. 263–287. 

12 R. Kayess, and P. French, ‘Out of the Darkness into Light? Introducing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with 

Disabilities’, 8:1 Human Rights Law Review (2008) pp. 1-34. 

13 African Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

14 The Marrakesh Treaty is an international treaty adopted in 2013 by member states of the World Intellectual Property  Organization (WIPO), a specialised agency of the United Nations 

15 P. Manatsa, ‘Are Disability Laws in Zimbabwe Compatible with the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on 

the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)?’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention (2015) pp. 25– 34. 

16 See E. Mandipa, ‘New Constitution Disability Friendly’, Chronicle, 30 January 2014, available at 


17 E. Mandipa, ‘A Critical Analysis of the Legal and Institutional Frameworks for the Realisation of the Rights of Persons 

with Disabilities in Zimbabwe’, African Disability Rights Yearbook (2013) pp. 81–96. 

18 Key informant interview with the Distance Education Director at Africa University, 5 June 2017. 

19 In-depth interview with the late Mr. Tsarai Mungoni a former student in the Master in Public Policy and Governance 
and the former national director at NASCOH, 3 June 2017.  

20 Key informant interview with the Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor which is responsible for all academic 

programming in the University, 1 June 2017. 

23 P. Mittler, Overcoming Exclusion, Social Justice through Education (Routledge, Abington, UK, 2012). 

24 C. Forlin et al., Inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities: A Review of Best Evidence in Relation to Theory and Practice
Report to the Australian Government Department of Education, Canberra, 2013. 

25 T. Loreman, J. M. Deppeler and D. H.  Harvey, Inclusive Education: Supporting Diversity in the Classroom (Allen & Unwin, 

Sydney, 2010). 

26 L. Florian and J. Spratt, ‘Enacting Inclusion: A Framework for Interrogating Inclusive Practice’, 28:2 European Journal of 

Special Needs Education (2013) pp. 199–135. 

27 Deppeler et al., supra note 6.  

28 D. McGhie-Richmond and C. de Bruin, ‘Tablets, Tweets, and Taking Texts: The Role of Technology in Inclusive 
Pedagogy’, in Deppeler et al., supra note 6, vol. 7, pp. 211–234. 

29 D. Sampson and P. Zervas, ‘Context-Aware Adaptive and Personalized Mobile Learning Systems’, in D. G. Sampson et 

al. (eds), Ubiquitous and Mobile Learning in the Digital Age (pp. 3–17) (Springer, New York, 2013).