A definition of inclusive education has not been found.
Special education needs
Students with special education needs refer mainly to learners with disabilities. The Education Act of 1987 states that every child shall have the right to school education. It defines children with special needs as those who cannot be expected to benefit from schooling without the provision of either special equipment or special teaching, or a combination of these.
Most schools in Zimbabwe have created special units and classrooms in larger schools that provide regular education for children with specific behavioural, physiological, neurological or psychological problems. In 1990, the Ministry of Education made integration operational through specialized classes for students with mild or severe special needs. Secretary’s Circular No P36 of 1990 established special education provision in regular schools ‘intended for children with varying degrees of disabilities and special education placement and procedures for special classes, resource units and special education schools.’
The government adopted a more inclusive approach when approaches such as integration and institutionalization ‘did not reap expected results’. Currently, ‘places available in special schools are declining as more students with special educational needs and disabilities are educated in mainstream schools’. However, inclusion has not been fully embraced and very few children with special education needs have been included in regular schools.
The 2013 Constitution Amendment Act recognizes the right to education of ethnic, racial, cultural, linguistic and religious groups, persons with disabilities, and women, youth and children and claims that a person is treated in a discriminatory manner if he or she is subjected directly or indirectly to a condition, restriction or disability to which other people are not subjected (Article 56).
There is no specific legislation or policy for inclusive education in Zimbabwe. The Education Act of 1987, as amended in 1996 and 2006, states that every child has the right to access education at the nearest school and should not be discriminated against by the imposition of onerous terms and conditions in regard to admission to any school on the ground of race, tribe, place of origin, national origin, political opinion, colour, creed or gender. It also provides for access for all to basic education up to grade 7.
Secretary’s Circular No P36 of 1990 is the primary policy instrument for the regulation of inclusive education for children with disabilities. It makes special education provisions in ordinary schools for children with varying degrees of disabilities and special education placement and procedures for special classes, resource units and special education schools. The same circular set age limits for children with disabilities in special needs programmes.
In the 2016–20 education sector strategic plan, the Ministry of Education commits to developing an inclusive education policy that will also address the issues of early identification of needs, infrastructure requirements, teacher training, financing and monitoring.
Article 22 of the Constitution states that all institutions and agencies of government at every level must recognize the rights (to education) of persons with physical or mental disabilities and assist them to achieve their full potential to minimize the disadvantages they suffer. Zimbabwe was one of the first African countries to adopt disability legislation, in 1996. The 1996 Disabled Persons Act provides for the welfare and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. Based on this act, criminal proceedings can be instituted against schools that refuse to enrol a child on grounds of disability. They would also face disciplinary action from the district education office. In this regard, Zimbabwe's amended Education Act, dating to 2019, also requires government authorities to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are protected in all schools in the country. Furthermore, the Secretary for Education's directive for inclusive education ‘requires schools to provide equal access to education for learners with disabilities, routinely screen for any form of disability, and admit any school-age child, regardless of ability’.
Article 56 of the Constitution provides that women and men have the right to equal education opportunities. The 2013–17 National Gender Policy, underpinned by principles of integration and inclusiveness, seeks to eradicate gender discrimination and inequalities in all spheres of life and development, including in education and training. As such, the government is committed to ensuring equal access to education for boys and girls and their retention at all levels of education and to ensuring access to training opportunities for men and women to facilitate their equal participation in the workplace, the marketplace and governance structures. To do so, the State is to conduct training and capacity needs surveys and support the implementation of capacity building programmes. It has planned to establish mechanisms to encourage girls to study science subjects and take up training in technical courses as well as mechanisms to encourage enrolment and retention of females in vocational training institutions in male domains through affirmative action. The 2019 amended Education Act prohibits the exclusion of pregnant girls from school in accordance with the Constitution, which guarantees the right to education.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
Zimbabwe comprises eight major cultural–linguistic communities: Asians, Kalanga, Ndebeles, Shangani, Shona, Tonga, Venda and Whites. The Shonas and Ndebeles constitute the majority of the population. The Ministry of Education provides that English, Shona and Ndebele should be taught in all schools on an equal basis. In addition, children can be taught in their mother tongue from grade 1 to grade 3. Finally, syllabi and books for minority languages were developed by the ministry for levels O and A.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe recognizes 16 official languages, namely Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa. According to the Constitution, these languages should be taught in schools, while the Education Amendment Bill is pushing for these languages to be used as languages of instruction in schools.
People living in rural or remote areas
The Ministry of Education (Director’s Circular No 5 of 2011) attaches importance to the right to education for children who live more than five kilometres from the nearest registered primary school and children who live in scattered and isolated communities. In this spirit, the numerous primary correspondence schools use distance teaching and learning materials, radio programmes and any approved means available. Children from these schools can easily transfer to the formal system when their circumstances change.
The National Action Plan promotes access and participation in education for poor and vulnerable children through the Child Protection Fund and the Cadetship Scheme. This initiative helped 32,857 students access higher and tertiary education in 2011. The government also has school feeding programmes. A policy on school feeding was planned to be implemented in 2016. Since 2000, the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) of the Enhanced Social Protection Programme, in response to worsening household poverty, has aimed to prevent households from withdrawing children from school. BEAM provides for payment of a basic education package that includes levies and school and examination fees. It covers primary and secondary institutions and special schools. As recently amended, Zimbabwe’s legislation prohibits expulsion from schools because of non-compliance with fee payment.
Orphans and vulnerable children
The 2011–15 National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children of Zimbabwe aimed to increase access of all orphans and vulnerable children (including those living with disabilities) and their families to basic education and other services (750,000 children for primary education, 200,000 for secondary education and 25,000 for medical support). It also aimed to facilitate access to basic services through birth registration of children.
Secretary’s Circular No 2 0f 2000 provides indications to ensure full participation in and benefit from the education system by learners with albinism, ‘outlining special needs and defining the ministry’s position on teaching and learning of students, as well as what classroom support is expected and suggesting guidelines for meaningful inclusion of the learners in co-curricular activities’.
The Learner Welfare Services, Schools Psychological Services and Special Needs Education Department (LWS, SPS & SNE) of the Ministry of Education is responsible for the integration of students with special needs in regular schools. It provides in-service training and support in the application of applied behaviour analysis and teaching of students with disabilities and organizes and coordinates the provision of special education programmes for learners ‘whose disabilities indicate additional support needs for optimal benefit from educational programmes’. In collaboration with the ministry’s Curriculum Development and Technical Services Department, the LWS, SPS & SNE also ensures the provision of Braille support services for learners with visual impairment and hearing assessments and audiological services for all schools through the National Educational Audiology Laboratory, as well as the development of sign language and Braille teaching and learning resource materials.
The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Ministry of Science and Technology Development and Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education ensure pre-service and in-service training of teachers in regular and special needs education.
Finally, donor agencies, including the Flemish Association for Development and Technical Assistance, provide financial, time, human, technological and material resources for inclusive education.
Even if the State does not have an inclusive education policy, the LWS, SPS & SNE plays an active role (with the Schools Inspectorate Division) in ensuring quality teaching and learning in special schools, resource units, special classes and inclusive settings. In parallel, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, established in 2009, investigates any organization or person where it is reasonably suspected that any rights in the Declaration of Rights have been violated. The Office of the Protector investigates any authority or individual working for an organization established under an Act of Parliament.
The 2019 amended Education Act mandates every registered school to provide suitable infrastructure for students with disabilities.
The 2016–20 education sector strategic plan aims to provide adequate infrastructure and staff (with a focus on the most disadvantaged areas) ‘to account for changes in classroom ratios, new school entrants and additional needs for new curriculum requirements, appropriate classrooms and equipment for inclusive learning’. Some indicators are set, in particular the accessibility of appropriate infrastructure (including for children with disabilities), classrooms, washing and toilet facilities, outdoor areas and furniture. The infrastructure programme, which is reviewed annually, is expected to address the needs of a new curriculum requiring access to specialist rooms for ICT.
The 2016–20 education sector strategic plan gives the highest priority to quality and relevant learning with the introduction of a flexible, relevant and cost-effective competency-based curriculum that includes ICT, STEAM/STEM, Education for Sustainable Development, HIV/AIDS, human rights, gender, climate change and disaster risk reduction. The Curriculum Development and Technical Services Department offers training programmes in the core areas of curriculum development and evaluation as well as professional development of teachers.
The Government of Zimbabwe’s national curriculum review process was launched by the minister of primary and secondary education on 14 October 2014. The purpose of the review was to ensure the school curriculum meets the needs and interests of learners, parents and the entire nation of Zimbabwe. The review was conducted as a follow-up to the recommendations of the 1999 Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training and to meet the provisions of the national economic blueprint (ZIMASSET) and the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Learning materials and ICT
The Director’s Circular minute no 24 of 2001 establishes the provision of Braille transcription and sign language interpretation for students with visual and hearing impairment. Examination centres provide Braille transcripts and interpreters with sign language during examinations. Finally, the Director’s Circular No 3 of 2001 provides guidelines on equal access to education for learners with disabilities.
A teacher quality improvement programme is described in the education sector strategic plan. Programmes will build the professional skills and competencies of teachers in specific areas of high demand, with a focus on formalizing the Teacher Professional Standards as a tool for both quality control and professional development. Teachers will receive training on the implementation of the new curriculum, while pre-service training will reflect new methodology and materials. A policy on inclusive education (then expected to be published before 2020) will address the additional training that teachers need to understand and respond to specific requirements and the mechanisms for the school to link with special learning services and psychological services.
The Department of Teacher Education of the University of Zimbabwe provides support toward pre-service and in-service training of teachers in regular and special needs education. The training in special needs education focuses mainly on intellectual and physical disabilities, gifted students, behavioural and emotional disorders and instructional strategies to support these students with special needs in regular and special education schools. Eleven teacher training colleges and six universities provide part-time and full-time pre-service and in-service training of teachers in regular and special needs education.
Finally, the LWS, SPS & SNE provides training programmes to support personnel, officers, school principals and teachers to develop essential competencies for inclusive education.
Progress in the education management information systems (EMIS) is underway and timely data were produced in 2016 and 2017. The 2016–20 education sector strategic plan identifies one indicator linked to inclusive education, which is the percentage of children with disability enrolled in early childhood education A and B. The target for 2020 was 35%.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education produces an annual Education Sector Performance Review Report that is used as a reference document during the joint sector review. The 2016–20 education sector strategic plan has a number of indicators on inclusive education, including attendance rate based on quintile measurement, enrolment rates from early childhood development to secondary level including for learners with disabilities, survival rates and completion rates. All the indicators are disaggregated by gender.
This profile has been reviewed by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE).