Malawi: Campaigning for inclusive education

Rachel Kachaje

The challenge in Malawi is that, until very recently, we didn’t have legislation to support the issues of disabled people. Without the legislation, even if you fight for your rights, your fight will be in vain. We have been lobbying for a Disability Bill for over seven years. With the new president, Joyce Banda, there is hope – she has walked the talk, and presented a bill to parliament and it has passed. The challenge now is its implementation.

The other challenge I would single out is the issue of inclusive education. In Malawi, if you are a disabled person you are the last to be considered to go to school. And women with disabilities are even more disadvantaged – their illiteracy level is very high. If a family has two children with disabilities, a boy and a girl, they would prefer to send the boy with the disability to school because of the belief that a boy will grow up and will raise a family whereas the girl, well nobody is going to marry her and therefore she will become a liability in the home.

So now we are really pushing for inclusive education and the government is doing very well in this area. Within the Ministry of Education, we now have a Director of Special Needs Education who is blind and he is doing a lot to make sure that the national schools are inclusive of children with disabilities. It seems that the government has got the will to make change.

All the success I have had started with my own family. My parents saw me as an individual, as a human being. They would carry me to school and they made sure that I got my education and that opened doors. If I had not been educated I would not be where I am. So now I am passionate about encouraging parents to send their children to school, to support them so that they will be real independent human beings.

Education is the master key; it opens each and every door, whether big or small.

About the author:

Rachel Kachaje is Deputy Chairperson of Disabled Peoples' International


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