Situation and Problems

Similar to other places on the world, people with disabilities face various challenges because of their disabilities. Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. Also, people with disabilities (PWD) tend to be poorer than people without disabilities. In Tanzania, there is little money available to educate children with disabilities (CWD).

Disabilities are not just health problems. Disabilities refer to impairments of body functions and structures, limitations of activities and restrictions regarding participation or a combination of these. Hence, they can affect vision, hearing, thinking, learning, movement, mental health, remembering, communicating and/or social relationships. People often with disabilities often have a combination of various disabilities.
There is a lot of unawareness and misunderstanding about disabilities. This data (from the USA) might surprise you. Measurements on disabilities differ but generally, people estimate the number of people with disabilities to be lower than they should. Common disabilities that Able Child Initiatives (ACI) deals with are hearing loss, concentration difficulties, physical movement issues, epilepsy, visual impairment, self-care difficulties, intellectual disability. Concerning intellectual disabilities, distinctions are made between mild, moderate, severe and profound disabilities. ACI uses them to base their policies on whilst acknowledging that the distinctions do not always hold. In 2008, there were between 3.2 million and 5.4 million Tanzanians older than seven with one or more disabilities. This is between 7.8 and 13.2 percent of the population. (
Mild intellectual disability IQ 50 to 70No physical visibility of the disabilitySlower with developing skillsAble to blend in sociallyContains 85% of intellectual disabilities Moderate intellectual disability IQ 35 to 49Potential physical visibility of the disabilityCan learn basic life skills and when mature, live independentlyDifficulties in social situations from time to timeContains 10% of intellectual disabilities
Severe intellectual disability IQ 20 to 34Physical visibility of the disabilityAble to learn daily routines and simple self-care but cannot live independentlyUnderstands but has difficulties in communicatingContains 3-4% of intellectual disabilities Profound intellectual disability IQ 0 to 19Obvious physical visibility of the disabilityNeeds assistance to be available at any timeResponds to physical and social activitiesContains 1-2% of intellectual disabilities

Situation of Children with Disabilities

Tanzania, known as one of the poorest countries in the world, faces the challenges of inequality. These challenges are felt more impactfully and to a greater extent to those who are affected by disabilities. Additionally, studies by UNICEF and CCBRT shows that there is a lack of financial capital and resources available that is being put forth in the education of children with disabilities (CWD). Furthermore, statistics have also portrayed that there is a wealth gap between people with disabilities (PWD) than those without disabilities. It has shown that PWD has a statistical increase in financial deficiency in comparison to the general population. Our mission as a Non-Governmental Organisation is to holistically approach and tackle the issues related to children with disabilities. However, our approach is not only to focus on CWD but also adults who have disabilities and caretakers of CWD. (

Able Child Initiatives (ACI) has identified the challenging situation as follows.

  • CWD are not as successful in school as they should be
    While 25% of Tanzanians without disabilities are illiterate, this is 48% with Tanzanians with disabilities. (CCBRT)
    As can be seen from the table below, CWD attend school less than children without disabilities in Tanzania. (UNICEF)
  • People with disabilities have little future after school.
    CCBRT argues that the Tanzania misses out on $480 million yearly, 3.8% of its GDP because people with disabilities are unable to flourish
  • Mothers of CWD have no economic independence
    This involves experiencing high levels of stress, especially for mothers without husbands. (Anna McNally and Hasheem Mannan)

Problems that Children with Disabilities face

Able Child Initiatives has identified twelve problems which cause the undesirable situation explained above:

  1. Schools with classes for children with disabilities are far away. In Mbeya, there are no primary schools designed for CWD. Mbeya has 400,000 inhabitants of which 180,000 people are aged under fifteen, and it is estimated that 13,500 have a disability. Yet, there are only six schools that provide classes for CWD.
  2. Many regular schools are physically inaccessible. Many schools have steps, stairs or other physical obstacles. Therefore, classrooms, offices and toilets are inaccessible. In Mbeya, there is only one school with a special toilet for CWD. Due to the lack of proper and accessible toilets, many girls undergoing menstruation will stay at home.
  3. There is a lack of teachers who knows how to deal with children with disabilities. In Tanzania, two out of three schools do not have teachers specialised in CWD. In Mbeya, there are approximately 1062 primary school teachers of which 32,3%, is specialised in teaching CWD. When being educated by teachers who are not specialised, CWD receives excessive corporal punishment.
  4. Many people, including parents, do not believe in the skills of people with disabilities. As a result, they are not brought to school, they are not accepted at regular schools, and they are often unemployed. In Tanzania, 15.5% of CWD are refused entry to primary schools. 22% of CWD younger than fourteen have experienced negative attitudes at home.
  5. School environments are not friendly enough for children with disabilities. Although they tend to be more friendly than other public spaces, CWD still receives excessive bullying, stigmatisation, prejudice and discrimination at school.
  6. Parents keep children with disabilities at home because they are afraid of judgements by the community.
  7. Parents of children with disabilities are not informed about disabilities. Parents of CWD have a lack of information and advice on how to deal with CWD. Additionally, most lack the knowledge of the study opportunities available for their children. 
  8. Schools have a lack of supplies to provide good-quality education. There is a lack of learning materials such as proper pens and pencils, good books, toys and paper. Thus, resulting in the use of mini chalkboards instead of the use of proper learning resources. 
  9. Schools lack the appropriate educational environment. Schools should act as a place where children do not have to think about the (hardships of their) home situation. However, due to the lack of quality in the school environment such as the lack of painted walls, proper windows, good quality benches, nice chairs, light, a proper ceiling, cupboards and sometimes even a door, this has become a challenging factor. 
  10. There is a lack of job and studying opportunities for children with disabilities after primary school. In many cases, this results in CWD ending up in the streets and becoming beggars or ending up in harmful environments and groups. Additionally, there are no secondary schools designed for CWD nor regular secondary schools with classes for CWD. Due to disabilities, but most importantly, due to the ways people look at people with disabilities, they cannot get jobs.
  11. People with severe and profound disabilities do not get the support they need.
  12. Mothers of children with disabilities have grown accustomed to staying at home to take care of their children who have not attended school.


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