Impact of the free primary education policy on the education of learners with disabilities: A survey of inclusive and special schools in Lusaka district of Zambia
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The introduction of Free Primary Education (FPE) Policy in 2002 was aimed at indiscriminately enhancing the enrollment and completion rates of all school going- age children in Zambia. However, significant concerns had been raised over the low enrollment, retention and completion rates of learners with disabilities. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to investigate the impact of FPE policy on the education of learners with disabilities. A descriptive survey research design was adopted. The sample comprised 4 head teachers, 20 teachers, 20 learners with disabilities and 12 parents, thus, having a sample size of 56 respondents drawn from 4 primary schools. The main research instruments that were used were questionnaires, interview guides and observation checklist. Purposive and simple random sampling techniques were used in selecting the respondents. Content validity was done through consulting my supervisor Dr. I.M. Mulenga who is a lecturer at the University of Zambia. A pilot study was carried out at Munali special school to establish the reliability of the instruments. The main findings of this study were that while PTA funds and other fees paid by the learners helped schools raise resources to meet some of the challenges caused by the inadequate and erratic funding, it had a negative impact on enrollment, retention and completion rates of the learners with disabilities. Additionally, the study revealed that due to inadequate funds the schools could not purchase enough and appropriate teaching and learning resources thereby compromising the quality of education that was offered. Further, schools had no funds to modify the infrastructure to make them user friendly for learners with disabilities. Therefore, it was recommended that the Government of Zambia through the Ministry of General Education should adequately fund the schools handling learners with disabilities to avoid disadvantaging the group which is already disadvantaged by the disabilities that they had.