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ORIGINAL RESEARCH article

Front. Educ., 12 May 2020 | https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2020.00047

Compounded Exclusion: Education for Disabled Refugees in Sub-Saharan Africa

Elizabeth Walton1,2*, Joanna McIntyre1, Salome Joy Awidi3, Nicole De Wet-Billings4, Kerryn Dixon5, Roda Madziva6, David Monk7, Chamunogwa Nyoni8, Juliet Thondhlana1 and Volker Wedekind1,2
  • 1School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • 2School of Education, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 3School of Education, Department of Adult Basic Education and Training, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
  • 4School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 5School of Education, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia
  • 6School of Sociology and Social Policy, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • 7Department of Curriculum Development, Faculty of Education and Humanities, Gulu University, Gulu, Uganda
  • 8Department of Social Work, Bindura University of Science Education, Bindura, Zimbabwe

International conventions acknowledge the right of refugees and of disabled people to access quality inclusive education. Both groups struggle to assert this right, particularly in the Global South, where educational access may be hindered by system constraints, resource limitations and negative attitudes. Our concern is the intersectional and compounding effect of being a disabled refugee in Sub-Saharan Africa. Disabled refugees have been invisible in policy and service provision, reliable data is very limited, and there has been little research into their experiences of educational inclusion and exclusion. This article makes the case for research to address this gap. Three country contexts (South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Uganda) are presented to illustrate the multi-layered barriers and challenges to realizing the rights for disabled refugees in educational policy and practice. These three countries host refugees who have fled civil unrest and military conflict, economic collapse and natural disaster, and all have signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. None has available and reliable data about the numbers of disabled refugees, and there is no published research about their access to education. Arguing for an inclusive and intersectional approach and for the importance of place and history, we illustrate the complexity of the challenge. This complexity demands conceptual resources that account for several iterative and mutually constituting factors that may enable or constrain access to education. These include legislation and policy, bureaucracy and resource capacity, schools and educational institutions, and community beliefs and attitudes. We conclude with a call for accurate data to inform policy and enable monitoring and evaluation. We advocate for the realization of the right to education for disabled refugee students and progress toward the realization of quality inclusive education for all.

Introduction

The African Union (AU) made 2019 the year of “Refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons” in recognition of the fact that over a third of the world’s displaced persons are in Africa (African Union [AU], 2019). Crises, including natural disasters, climate breakdown, economic uncertainty or political turmoil, lead people to leave their homes and migrate across borders where, as refugees, they hope to find safety and security, and sometimes permanent settlement. The settlement country may itself be characterized by fragility, conflict and violence, and refugees may face ongoing crisis as a result of living conditions, crime and corruption, xenophobia and lack of access to services. Host countries in Africa may experience hardship as a result of their taking responsibility for refugees, with the African Union [AU] (2019, p. 2) noting that efforts may have “degraded the resources and resilience opportunities for host communities.” Despite this risk, countries receiving refugees are obliged by international law to provide humanitarian and social services, including realizing refugees’ right to education.

The right to education for refugees is secured in the 1951 United Nations (UN) Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (United Nations [UN], 1951). This has been affirmed in subsequent initiatives, including the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (United Nations [UN], 2015). Despite this, research shows that the educational experiences of refugees vary considerably depending on host country (Dryden-Peterson, 2016; Cardarelli, 2018; Dryden-Peterson et al., 2019; UNESCO [GEMR], 2019). Refugee children are nominally included in many national educational policies but are practically excluded for a number of reasons. These include a lack of material and human resources, system capacity and structural organization (mainstream, segregation, or partial inclusion), immigration legislation, and other barriers to providing access including poverty, language, and culture (Wedekind et al., 2019).

A refugee identity intersects with other identities, and some refugee children and young people experience multiple and intersecting axes of oppression as a result of structural inequalities. Female refugees, for example, face compounding challenges in that they are particularly at risk of sexual and gender-based violence (African Union [AU], 2019). Other axes of oppression relate to class, race, ethnicity, nationality, or religious affiliation and these vary across space and time contexts (Fruja Amthor, 2017). In this article we focus on disabled refugees, but are mindful that this intersection does not preclude further intersections along other axes of power and oppression.

There is a lack of official data that records disability among refugee groups at national and international levels, but it is estimated that 10 of the 65 million forcibly displaced people are disabled, and that 1.9 million of these people are living with a “severe disability” (Burns, 2019, p. 307). Disability may precede the crisis event that precipitated migration, but may also be caused by the crisis event, including violence, illness or accident. The migration journey itself might cause or exacerbate physical or mental disabilities. Known as the ‘forgotten refugees’ (Smith-Khan et al., 2014, p. 39), disabled refugees struggle to access health, educational, and welfare services.

This article makes the case for much needed research into the education of disabled refugees in Sub-Saharan Africa. After a brief word about definitions and terminology, we provide an overview of education for refugees and for disabled students, showing that constraints to realizing the right to education are similar across both groups. We then review the findings from the (limited) body of international literature on education for disabled refugees, showing the lacuna in work about Africa, and make the case for inclusive education to be used to frame this issue. Three country cases are then presented which give an indication of the complexity of the challenge in Africa, particularly as different settlement arrangements enable and constrain access to education in different ways. We use these country cases as a basis from which to offer a conceptual framework for research into education for disabled refugees. We conclude by arguing that this issue requires: engagement with the complexity and multi-level nature of the problem, acknowledgment of the influence of place and history, and attention to the ways in which disability and refugee identities intersect.

Definitions and Terminology

Definitions and terminology are not neutral, and the language used to describe people encodes prejudices, attitudes and stereotypes (Walton, 2016). This is particularly relevant in writing about refugees and about disabled people, with both identities negatively portrayed in popular culture and media (Ryan, 2019; UNESCO [GEMR], 2019). Beyond this, definitions are complex and contested, and these contestations have legal and resource implications.

A refugee is defined by the 1951 Refugee Convention as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion” (United Nations [UN], 1951). In most states the term refugee is linked to legal status but has often been used for people who are asylum-seeking and those who are stateless. Internally displaced people and migrants are not included in the term refugee, but they may experience similar challenges in accessing education (UNESCO [GEMR], 2019). Some of the challenges in researching refugee education include the imprecision of definition within and across contexts, making it difficult accurately to assess numbers (Wedekind et al., 2019). The terms ‘re/settlement’ or ‘host’ country/context are commonly used to designate the country to which refugees flee and we use these interchangeably in this article. McIntyre and Abrams (forthcoming) note that many refugees are unlikely to return to their original home and aim to live permanently in what should rightly be called ‘re/settlement’ countries. The idea of a ‘host country’ is potentially problematic because of its connotations of short-term benevolence with the refugee positioned as temporary guest.

Conceptions of disability are in flux and range from medicalized approaches that see disability as the limitations that result from impairments, to social approaches that see disability as the limitations society imposes on people who have impairments. Here too, imprecision about definition makes it very difficult to obtain reliable and comparable data (Croft, 2013; UNESCO, 2017, 2018b) for monitoring and accountability purposes. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) offers a framework for “describing and organizing information on functioning and disability,” providing “a standard language and a conceptual basis for the definition and measurement of health and disability” (World Health Organisation [WHO], n.d.). The ICF has been approved by the World Health Organization and is regarded as a valuable tool, particularly in developing contexts where measurements of functioning may be a more useful indicator of disability than diagnoses (Singal, 2010). The ICF sees disability as multidimensional and interactive, and “conceptualizes a person’s level of functioning as a dynamic interaction between her or his health conditions, environmental factors, and personal factors” (World Health Organisation [WHO], n.d.). A further consideration in research about disability and refugee status is whether to use person-first language (people/students with refugee status/disability) or identity first language (disabled people/refugee students). There are convincing arguments for each approach, but for the purpose of this article we are using identity first language, and write about disabled refugee students.

Article 31(1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) (United Nations [UN], 2006), states that in order to give effect to the provisions of the Convention, State Parties must “undertake to collect appropriate information, including statistical and research data, to enable them to formulate and implement policies.” Despite this, data is lacking. The 2011 World Report on Disability (World Health Organisation [WHO], 2011) acknowledges that all aspects of disability and contextual factors are important for constructing a complete picture of disability and functioning. We maintain that an important omission in the report is country data on disabled refugees. We take the view that both disabled and refugee identities are marginalized in societies that valorize hegemonic norms about the ideal (able-bodied) citizen. While recognizing this marginalization, we refuse deficit conceptions of either refugees or disabled people and will show that any conceptual framework invoked to address educational exclusion must recognize intersectional personhood and relational agency. We are leading toward a discussion of the challenges faced by disabled refugees in accessing education, but first offer an overview of current developments relevant to refugee students and disabled students separately, with a particular focus on Africa.

Access to Education by Refugee Students and Disabled Students

A substantial and growing body of international literature exists on the topics of education for refugee students and education for disabled students, and each can be regarded as a sub-field of education. A number of studies focus on policy and practice in refugee education, with a focus on the challenges of educating refugees in national systems alongside their peers in the host society. The education of disabled students has been captured in the literature of special education, inclusive education, and disability studies in education, all of which offer different, sometimes competing, visions of where and how disabled students should be educated.

Education for Refugee Students

The international community recognized a collective responsibility for the education of refugee children following the outbreak of the Second World War through Article 22 of the 1951 Convention. Following this, there have been a series of international agreements as to the rights of refugees to education and nation states’ responsibilities in realizing these. Predating all of this, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) was foundational to establishing education for refugees as a fundamental human right. Refugee education is included in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In addition, there are several international agreements about how best to ensure these rights are met so whilst ICESCR and CRC are legally binding, these agreements are commitments of intent and interpreted variously at the national and local level (McGrath, 2018). The Incheon Declaration (2015) and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda reaffirmed a universal commitment to the right to education for all, with UNESCO having a monitoring role in ensuring that normative frameworks are established to support nation states to deliver on these commitments. The UNHCR also has a monitoring role and pays specific attention to the ways in which refugees are included in education systems in host societies. A recent report of progress toward these found that different normative frameworks existed in different nation states and that the right to education as articulated in SDG4 was some way from being fully realized (Santini, 2017). Similarly, the UNHCR report on progress toward the education goals within the Global Compact for Refugees (2018) indicates that there is much work still to be done (UNHCR, 2019a). Throughout this period, the shift has been from fairly exclusive practices for separate, temporary provision for education for refugees, toward a growing recognition and acknowledgment that forced migrants experience protracted periods of exile with the majority not returning to their country of origin. This is despite over 80% of the world’s refugees living in neighboring countries (UNHCR, 2019b). UNHCR and UNESCO policy has shifted toward support for policies and practices which include refugees in the host education systems.

In many contexts, the response is dependent upon wider national policies around immigration and the extent to which these lead to exclusionary practices. This has a concomitant impact on educational policies and the extent to which refugees are included in national systems (Watters, 2007; O’Turner and Mangual Figueroa, 2019). The Education for All agenda is not the only globalized movement within education. An added dimension to this is how far nation states operate within the global standards agenda for education, typified by attention to their position in international measures such as PISA. In such contexts, there is greater inflexibility to accommodate non-standard new arrivals who are positioned as outliers in economic measures of school performance. Countries in the Global North whose education systems are characterized by these economic models are more likely to prioritize measurement and accountability in their models of schooling. The realization of human rights through education is more prominent in models of education in the Global South (Lingard, 2020), though other factors might mitigate against full inclusion of refugees in such contexts. For example, Gordon (2016) notes that in the Global South, areas that host refugees are themselves characterized by poverty, lack of resources and infrastructure for social services and corresponding difficulties in accessing economic markets.

Limitations in the literature on refugee education include insufficient recognition of the diverse backgrounds, skills and experiences of refugee children (Rutter, 2006; Leo, 2019) and disability is seldom considered. Furthermore, while there have been efforts to address access to schooling for refugee children, there is very little provision for young adults with vocational or adult education requirements. This is significant given that forms of vocational education are often targeted at disabled young adults (Wedekind et al., 2019).

Education for Disabled Students

Disabled students have historically been excluded from education, offered segregated education, or have been marginalized within regular education. The past 50 years has seen this challenged at local, national, and international levels and the educational rights of disabled people have increasingly become a focus. The most recent and significant international convention is the UNCRPD, signed by 163 countries (United Nations [UN], 2020). Two articles are relevant to our concerns. First, Article 11 requires State Parties to take:

All necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.

Although the Convention does not mention refugees, asylum-seekers or other displaced people, this provision acknowledges the vulnerability of disabled people in ‘situations of risk.’ The second relevant article is Article 24(2) which says that State Parties must ensure that:

Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability;

And

Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live.

Non-compliance with the UNCRPD provisions has been widespread and attributed to its “lack of interpretive guidance” (Davis et al., 2020, p. 89). In 2016 the UNCRPD Committee developed the General Comment on Article 24, which is said to be “the most comprehensive and authoritative international instrument explaining the human right to inclusive education” (ibid, p. 90) for disabled students. Among other provisions, the General Comment on Article 24 makes clear the barriers to accessing inclusive education by disabled people. These include:

• A failure to adopt a human rights model of disability which understands exclusionary barriers as located in the community and society, rather than with personal impairments.

• Discrimination, isolation, low expectations, prejudice, and fear.

• Lack of knowledge about the value of quality inclusive education and diversity.

• Lack of data and research.

• Lack of political will, technical knowledge and capacity, including inadequate teacher education.

• Inadequate funding.

• Lack of legal redress.

Despite these legislative initiatives, UNESCO (2018b, p. 1) notes that “Children and youth with disabilities are among the most marginalized, excluded people in the world.” Across different measures and in different countries, disabled children have lower attendance rates in primary and secondary school than their age peers. Disabled children also have lower completion rates (UNESCO, 2017). Disability and poverty are closely linked, and mutually constitutive in many contexts, and compounding structural factors (like gender) lead to greater levels of exclusion (UNESCO, 2014). Education is regarded as a key lever in addressing poverty and offering other benefits to disabled people that enable them to practice meaningful livelihoods (Chataika et al., 2012; Singal et al., 2019). There is evidence that many African countries are explicitly enabling access to education by disabled people through policies that ensure inclusive and specialist provision (Chataika et al., 2012; UNESCO, 2014). Despite this, Wodon et al. (2018) report that in sub-Saharan Africa, many disabled children never enroll in school, and those who do, have lower attainment levels. A lack of infrastructure is cited as a reason for early drop out, and teacher education is identified as necessary for disability inclusive provision. These authors maintain that efforts to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for all are leaving behind disabled children, and call for “Stronger policies and interventions to achieve the target of inclusive education adopted under the Sustainable Development Goals” (p. 3). Our concern is that refugee status is not addressed in policy and research on access to education by disabled people in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Intersection of Refugee and Disability Education and the Conceptual Affordances of Inclusive Education

Some toggling of search terms is needed to unearth the work that has been done on educational access for disabled refugee students in the last decade. This involves searching different combinations of the terms disability/disabled/special (educational) needs/SEN/SEND with the words refugee/(im)migrant/displaced people and with education/schooling. This search process does show that there is growing research interest in disability among refugee populations. Crock et al. (2017, p. 3–4), make the point that,

Refugees living with disabilities are often forgotten or invisible during acute crises of human displacement. They suffer multiple disadvantage. … Historically, legal frameworks have been inattentive to disability rights in general, but most particularly in relation to displaced persons.

King et al. (2010, p. 180), writing in the United States context, confirm that “Disabled refugees and asylum seekers are among the most socially and economically disadvantaged members of society” and research is variously interested in their access to healthcare and social services, and integration into the host communities. Of these services, access to education is regarded as important for the integration of refugees, by providing opportunities for social interaction, employment, and language learning. Disabled refugees are thus particularly disadvantaged where they cannot access education (Crock et al., 2017). The research focus on education is largely centered on the identification and assessment of learning difficulties/disabilities among refugee children and the provision of appropriate educational supports. The findings present a complex picture of under-enrolment and exclusion of disabled refugees (often depending on type of disability), resistance to disability assessment and referral, and overrepresentation of refugee students in specialist settings.

Globally, disabled refugees have lower enrolment and higher rates of exclusion from education. This is particularly so in host countries of the Global South. In their research in countries including Pakistan, Uganda, and Indonesia, Crock et al. (2017) attributed low enrolment of disabled refugees in education to inadequately trained or sensitized teachers, inaccessible facilities (especially toilets), transport difficulties, and poverty (where school fees are charged). In her report on research in camp-based (Yemen and Thailand) and urban settlement (Jordan and Ecuador) provision, Reilly (2010, p. 9) found mixed experiences. Across these countries evidence could be found of disabled children, including those said to have “special learning needs,” attending school. But elsewhere, low attendance and high drop-out rates prevail. The reasons for this are similar to Crock et al’s findings: inadequate training, lack of teaching aids and assistive devices, inflexible curricula and inaccessible buildings.

Under-reporting of disability by immigrant or refugee families is acknowledged as a concern in both the Global North and Global South (King et al., 2010; Ryan et al., 2010; Hurley et al., 2014; Tadesse, 2014). The reasons for this are that families may be reluctant to report a pre-existing disability for fear of losing their immigration status or that it would affect their chances of school admission. There is also fear of being stigmatized by requiring specialist support and fear of future disadvantage as a result of a disability label. Families may be unaware of disabilities recognized in host countries or may not ask for support services because they are not available in their home country. There may be different cultural beliefs about disability between school and family leading to non-reporting. A desire to assimilate and not be seen to be demanding or complaining may also be a factor. A result of this underreporting is that disabled refugee students may not get the learning support that is their right.

Difficulties with assessment of disability among refugee students is reported more in the literature from the Global North. Language barriers are seen to make it difficult accurately to assess students’ abilities, with assessment tools not being available in the languages used by refugees or validated for use in particular cultures (Ryan et al., 2010; Hurley et al., 2014). Because of their language difficulties, refugee students may be disproportionately referred for assessments of cognitive ability and may perform poorly on these assessments (Kaplan et al., 2016). Disentangling the cognitive and behavioral effects of trauma from learning and other disability is also seen as a challenge for assessment and the provision of relevant support (Sirin and Rogers-Sirin, 2015; Graham et al., 2016). As a result of these challenges, refugee children are found to be overrepresented in segregated special education settings (Bačáková and Closs, 2013; Nicolai et al., 2016), with potential negative consequences for their learning and social integration.

Inclusive education is traditionally associated with the educational inclusion of disabled students. The international document that gives impetus to inclusive education, the Salamanca Statement (UNESCO, 1994) is framed in terms of ‘Special needs education.’ Section two of the Salamanca Statement proclaims that “those who have special educational needs must have access to regular schools” and that “regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all.” This focus on disability is well justified, given that globally, disabled children are the most vulnerable to exclusion from education (Singal et al., 2019). More recently, inclusive education has been defined more broadly by General Comment 4 on the UNCRPD as “The full and effective participation, accessibility, attendance and achievement of all students, especially those who, for different reasons, are excluded or at risk of being marginalized” (UNESCO, 2016). This broad definition reflects an understanding that structural inequalities make some groups vulnerable to exclusion and that, “the mechanisms of exclusion are common regardless of group” (UNESCO, 2018a, p. 4). As a result of this broadened definition, scholars have considered educational access and success for a range of groups (including race, language, and sexuality) through the lens of inclusive education. Scholars of refugee education in particular have positioned their work as an issue of inclusive education (see for example, Bačáková, 2011; Taylor and Sidhu, 2012; Macdonald, 2017).

The six elements of inclusive education, according to the Concept Note of the Global Education Monitoring Report (GEMR) for 2020 (UNESCO, 2018a), are governance and finance; legislation and policy; curricula and learning materials; teachers, school leaders and education support personnel; schools; and communities, parents and students. These elements operate at local and system-wide levels, and have reciprocal influence, and can be examined to establish how they contribute to the inclusion or exclusion of students. Other ways in which the GEMR says inclusion in education can be considered are: arenas of inclusion (the different communities where students interact with others within or outside schools); dimensions of inclusion (physical, social, psychological, and systematic); and degree of inclusion (given that experiences of inclusion and exclusion may be simultaneous in different arenas). These elements, arenas, dimensions and degrees offer a useful set of ways-in to research with disabled refugee students, but they do not constitute theory. There is, in fact, no “theory of inclusive education” (Slee, 2018, p. 11) and we need to look elsewhere for theories which enable an understanding of the processes and mechanisms that enable and constrain educational access and success of disabled refugees in sub-Saharan Africa.

The definition of inclusive education given in General Comment 4 on the UNCRPD above (UNESCO, 2016) offers four markers for inclusive education: participation, accessibility, attendance, and achievement. These are important because they signal that mere presence does not constitute inclusion. Lewin (2009, p. 154) offers an expanded definition of access for use in African contexts where enrolment might be increasing, but children may be over age, attend infrequently, and have low levels of achievement. He says that access should be defined as “admission and progression on schedule for age in grade, regular attendance, achievement related to national curricula norms, appropriate access to post-primary opportunities, and more equal opportunities to learn” (ibid.). These signal the expectation of quality education, with ‘quality’ being central to SDG4 (United Nations [UN], 2015) and also identified by Schuelka and Engsig (2020) as a key attribute of inclusive education.

Three Case Countries

There is a danger that the experiences of disabled refugee students become homogenized in efforts to understand the barriers they may face to accessing quality, inclusive education. While it is clear from the research and policies mentioned above that there are common issues and concerns, each context has its own histories and geographies of educational exclusion, and these will impact disabled refugees differently. To illustrate this, we describe three sub-Saharan African countries in terms of the particular challenges that disabled refugees might experience in accessing quality, inclusive education. These have been chosen to represent urban dispersal (South Africa) and camp/dispersal (Zimbabwe and Uganda) approaches. Civil unrest and military conflict, natural disasters, and economic collapse are the main reasons people flee their homes to seek refuge in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Uganda (Mwakikagile, 2012; Azia, 2020; UNHCR, 2020) and all three of these countries host refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. South Africa hosts Angolan refugees who fled civil war and are reluctant to return due to poor healthcare and service provision (Carciotto, 2016). There are also a number of Zimbabwean refugees who left their home country for economic reasons and have settled in South Africa (Idemudia et al., 2013). In turn, Zimbabwe hosts a number of Mozambican refugees, particularly as a result of civil unrest. Most (64.8%) of Uganda’s refugees are from South Sudan (OPM, 2019). The displacement of refugees in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa is mainly due to protracted conflict situations in countries of origin (Azia, 2020). As we show below, none of these three countries has available or reliable numbers of disabled refugees, and none has research that compares the educational experiences and outcomes of disabled refugees to their non-disabled counterparts. All three countries have signed and ratified the UNCRPD, which includes commitments for education policy and action.

South Africa

South Africa has a dispersal approach with refugees mostly settling in urban areas where students would expect to access local schools, including separate special schools if they are disabled. Accurate numbers of refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa are unavailable (Stupart, 2016) with the UNHCR reporting a total of 586,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in the region of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland (UNHCR, 2015). Refugee education is complicated by contradictory approaches in the law and in practice (Palmary, 2009). The Refugees Act (Republic of South Africa [RSA], 1998) directly addresses refugee protection. When refugees are granted asylum they can access education, health care, and social assistance. South Africa has no refugee camps, and refugees have freedom of movement and are encouraged to self-settle. Importantly Section 32 of this Act states that a child who appears to qualify as a refugee and is in circumstances that suggest she/he is in need of care as outlined by the Child Care Act must be brought before the Children’s Court. This may lead to an order that they are assisted in applying for asylum. In reality, although refugee law allows unaccompanied refugee children to be documented, many authorities refuse to do this without assistance from parents/guardians (Willie and Mfubu, 2016). Not all children migrating to South Africa qualify as refugees and there is a lack of clarity about the rights of asylum seekers. More disturbing is the contradiction between the Constitution and the Admission Policy for Ordinary Schools and the practices of the Department of Home Affairs. Only refugee children who have temporary or permanent residence permits and can prove they have applied for residency can be enrolled in school. As a result of these legislative gaps and inconsistencies, children’s right to access education is impeded and many remain outside of the education system (Ackermann, 2018). This is a reality that has long term negative consequences.

There is a lack of research in South Africa on child-refugees in education. Meda, Sookraih, and Maharaj made this claim in 2012 and the body of research remains small. The research that does exist consistently shows the extent of marginalization of refugee children and young adolescents. It emphasizes the costs of schooling (uniforms, fees, books, and subsistence), lack of documentation, lack of knowledge about rights, government corruption and ineptitude, xenophobia, sexism, and language as barriers to accessing education (Meda et al., 2012; Hlatshwayo and Vally, 2014; Vandeyar and Vandeyar, 2017). Despite these barriers Hemson (2011), Sobantu and Warria (2013), Hlatshwayo and Vally (2014), and Perumal (2015) all provide examples of resilience, solidarity and strong self-concepts of children in the education system that speak back to negative constructions of refugees. They also provide empirical examples of resilience that Perumal (2015) argues needs to be met with respect and commendation.

Historically, disabled students were educated in separate special schools, and, as a result of South Africa’s apartheid policies, these special schools served mostly white disabled students. The democratically elected post-apartheid government embraced inclusive education in White Paper Six (Department of Education [DoE], 2001), which acknowledges that “the learners who are most vulnerable to barriers to learning and exclusion in South Africa are those who have historically been termed ‘learners with special education needs,’ i.e., learners with disabilities and impairments” (p. 7). According to the White Paper, the South African education system is to be reformed to be inclusive of all, with education for disabled students being provided in ordinary classes, full-service schools or special schools, depending on their support needs. A raft of policy guidelines have followed in the two decades since the publication of White Paper Six. These are intended to guide the implementation of inclusive education at district, school and classroom level. Of interest to us is the fact that although the White Paper makes no mention of refugees, the Policy on Screening, Identification, Assessment, and Support (Department of Basic Education [DBE], 2014) does. The Support Needs Assessment form lists being a refugee as a possible factor that might impact a “learner’s ability to achieve satisfactorily at school” (p. 52). A refugee student “with a study permit” (p. 73) is exempted from the additional language requirement of the curriculum.

In their 2015 report ‘Complicit in Exclusion,’ The Human Rights Watch (HRW) shows up to 500,000 disabled students excluded from schools in South Africa (Human Rights Watch [HRW], 2015). This is confirmed by the Department of Basic Education [DBE] (2015, p. 7) which concedes in its report on the implementation of White Paper Six that “25.9% children with disabilities in the 5–15 years old group … are not attending any education institution.” Neither of these sources indicate if refugees or asylum seekers are counted in these numbers. Disabled students face several barriers accessing education in South Africa. These barriers are listed by the Human Rights Watch report and are supported by other research [see, for example, Chataika et al. (2012) and McKenzie et al. (2018)]. They include: discrimination in accessing education as schools decide whether they are willing to accept students with disabilities; discriminatory physical and attitudinal barriers (including bullying), and lack of reasonable accommodations; discriminatory fees and expenses, including the costs of class assistants, transport and boarding; violence, abuse and neglect; low quality education, impacted by inadequate teacher education; and lack of preparation for life after schooling. This negative picture needs to be counterbalanced by examples of schools where disabled students are being successfully included (e.g., Walton, 2011; Engelbrecht and Muthukrishna, 2019) and reports of school completion by disabled students (Department of Basic Education [DBE], 2015). There is growing interest in the inclusion of disabled students in higher education (Mutanga, 2018; Ramaahlo et al., 2018), attesting to the small, but promising cohort of disabled students who are progressing through schooling and into universities.

There is uncertainty about the exact number of disabled refugees in South Africa. One NGO source estimates that there are more than 700 disabled refugees in the country (Disabled Refugee Project, n.d.). This organization notes that disabled refugees are marginalized and forgotten in the disability community, and overlooked or ignored by those providing services to refugees. They tend not to be identified when data is collected and needs assessments done, rendering them unable to access aid programs. Win (2007) reports that while some refugees acquire impairments as a result of conflict in their home country, others have become disabled as a result of hate crime in South Africa. There seems to be no published research on educational access for disabled refugees in South Africa. It is clear though, that the exclusionary pressures for refugee students and disabled students are similar, and would be compounded for disabled refugee students.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has seen an influx of asylum seekers and refugees especially from the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and Mozambique. A total of 18,865 verified refugees were in Zimbabwe by the end of 2018 (UNHCR, 2018a). These include child headed families and unaccompanied minors. Zimbabwe has a long history of supporting refugees, and in recent years adopted an encampment policy that restricts the refugees to designated places where they are monitored (Mufandauya, unpublished). Encampments are generally meant for temporary habitation where immediate needs like food, shelter, and safety are guaranteed (Sytnik, 2012). The educational prospects of encamped refugees are shown by Badibanga (2010) to be limited compared to those of refugees who live in countries with a free habitation policy. Overall, Zimbabwe continues to face serious economic challenges, which have impacted the country’s ability to provide access to quality education for all children and young people.

There is sparse research on refugee education in Zimbabwe. Among the existing documents on education of refugees in Zimbabwe is the UNHCR-WFP Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) study report on Tongogara Refugee Camp (World Food Programme, 2014). The aim of the study was to obtain a better understanding of the situational needs, risks capacities, and vulnerabilities of asylum seekers and refugees in relation to their food and nutrition security as well as livelihood opportunities. The findings and recommendations touch on the state of education in the camp. Among other things, the report shows that there are two pre-schools, a primary school and a secondary school in the camp. However, 10 percent of the pupils in these schools are from the host community and the number of classrooms is inadequate for the large numbers of children. The report further notes that there are no advanced level classes at the secondary school in the camp, which disadvantages children who want to pursue further formal education. The report recommends that efforts must be made to ensure that all children of school-going age have access to education. Additionally, the report recommends that classroom spaces as well as recreational facilities for children need to be expanded to meet growing needs. It also states that the learning environment in the camp should be conducive to study with the provision of reading spaces. It further states that school graduates should have access to skills training opportunities in conjunction with strengthened market linkages. The report does not examine the demographic profile of refugees by disability status.

A study by Bengtsson and Dyer (2014) assesses high quality primary education for children from mobile populations and looks at refugee children domiciled in Zimbabwe and the findings echo those of the UNHCR-WFP JAM Report. Various studies have concluded that encampment has negative effects on the quality of education (Badibanga, 2010; Mufandauya, unpublished). Badibanga (2010) examined the extent and quality of education provided at Tongogara Refugee Camp and concluded that girls customarily leave the camp and education to enter early marriages that are often abusive. Mutsvara’s (unpublished) study established that while education is offered for free to all children at the Tongogara camp, the issue is not really the availability of education but the quality of education being offered.

On attaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe committed itself to providing education for all. While there is no specific legislation on inclusive education in Zimbabwe (Mutepfa et al., 2007), there are various enabling pieces of legislation. Among them are the Zimbabwe Education Act (1996), the Disabled Persons Act (1996), Zimbabwe Constitution of 2013, and various Ministry of Education circulars that include Education Secretary Policy Circular No. P36, 1990. This circular stipulates that all children regardless of creed, race, religion, and disability should have access to education on an equal and equitable basis. According to Mutepfa et al. (2007) 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. Any school that refuses to enroll a child on grounds of disability is in violation of the Disabled Persons Act (1996) and faces disciplinary action from the District Education Office.

Despite policy and legislation, disabled people in Zimbabwe experience widespread violation of their fundamental freedoms and rights (Manatsa, 2015). Indeed, limited opportunities to education were highlighted by disabled people as one of the major challenges in Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution (Mugumbate and Nyoni, 2013). The Zimbabwe National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) report of 2011 shows that disabled children often face exclusion from education, and that only 33% of children with disabilities in Zimbabwe have access to education. Choruma (2007) describes these children as a ‘forgotten tribe.’ The implementation of inclusive education in Zimbabwe has been sluggish as a result of several challenges (Mafa and Makuba, 2013). These include inadequate teacher education in inclusive practices (Jenjekwa et al., 2013); a lack of appropriate specialist skills in the system to effectively implement inclusive education (Sibanda, 2019); and limited human, financial, infrastructural, and material resources (Chimhenga, 2016). With little available research on educational access for disabled refugees in this context, it is reasonable to assume that since many disabled children are not attending schools because of resource and infrastructure limitations, this will apply to disabled refugee students too. Rugoho and Shumba (2018) confirm that disabled refugee students in this context experience double jeopardy as they face discrimination due to their disability and because of their refugee status. However, this study does not provide any statistics that relate to the number of disabled refugee students in Zimbabwe.

Uganda

The Ugandan policy on refugees is an open and integrated approach. The 2006 Refugee Act and the 2010 Refugee Regulations both indicate that refugees should have equal access to the same public services as nationals, including education. The Uganda Refugee Response Plan (URRP) 2019–2020 (Azia, 2020) was developed from an acknowledgment that there is an education crisis for refugees in Uganda. The plan aims to improve access to more inclusive quality primary education for refugee children from 58% to 73% and ensure the provision of alternative education for out of school youth through accelerated education programs. The response plan also addresses issues of infrastructure development, teacher training, and motivation as key contributors to improved access to education (Ministry of Education and Sports [MoES], 2018). This integrative approach is also evident in Uganda’s second National Development Plan (UNDP II) 2015–2020 which “aims to assist refugees and host communities by promoting socio-economic development in refugee-hosting areas” (Ministry of Education and Sports [MoES], 2018, p. 7). Although the integration of refugees is written into the Uganda national development plans, refugee social services delivery, including education is still sitting outside the national service delivery structures (ReDSS Uganda Report, 2018). The above notwithstanding, the refugee policy of Uganda has been commended by the UNHCR (2018b) for its international leadership role with refugees with special attention to education.

Most recent research addresses access to education for refugees as a component of other service delivery. The lower quality of education in this context is considered to be a consequence of overcrowded schools (e.g., Kupfer, 2016; Dryden-Peterson, 2017; Ahimbisimbwe, 2018). There is some research looking at the Ugandan integration model and the impact of refugees on schools and communities (e.g., Hicks and Maina, 2018), however, Dryden-Peterson (2017) points out that there is need for more research in this area. She suggests that most academic literature focuses on refugee education in the camps and settlements, disregarding other settings including urban refugee learning centers. According to Dryden-Peterson (2017, pp. 7–8), sites of access provide examples of “effects and consequences of different models of schooling” which are important for future policy improvements.

There is little available policy on disability education in Uganda as the first National Inclusive Education Policy (NIEP) is in the approval process and the Special Needs and Inclusive Education Policy 2011 is still in draft form and unavailable publicly. Uganda does have the Person with Disabilities Act 2006 (Republic of Uganda, 2006), which calls on the government to develop policy and programs for relevant and quality inclusive education at all levels. This includes adequate and appropriate teacher training, allocating 10% of the education budget for students with disabilities, and the prohibition of discrimination against students with disabilities. Additionally, the Act has provisions for fair and adequate vocational education and training. The second National Development Plan (National Planning Authority [NPA], 2015) contains only a minor reference to enhancing education for marginalized communities, women, and people with disabilities.

The legal and policy framework on social protection of Uganda (MGLSD, 2016), premised on the 1995 Constitution addresses issues of risks and vulnerabilities. Chapter four of the Constitution provides for the protection and promotion of the fundamental human rights and freedoms through affirmative action for marginalized groups including persons with disability. The Uganda Vision 2040 underscores the importance of a social protection system that includes social assistance to vulnerable children and persons with disability (MGLSD, 2016). There is also the National Disability-Inclusive Planning Guidelines for Uganda (National Planning Authority [NPA], 2017) which provides guidelines for the mainstreaming of disability issues in national development plans. However, the plan is not explicit on education for persons with disability. Although the disability prevalence rate was at 13.6% for Ugandan nationals (National Planning Authority [NPA], 2017), there seems to be no operational legal framework on education for persons with disabilities except in draft forms.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights evaluated disability education in Uganda according to its international commitment. The report (UNOHCHR, 2018) is generally critical of the government, citing that it is not living up to its international legal obligations. There is some research (e.g., Okot-Oyal, 2017) which investigates access to education for refugees, and negative social stigma in schools. Emong and Enron (2016) also studied inclusiveness in the university context in Uganda. In their ongoing research on vocational education and training, McGrath et al. (2019) draw attention to vulnerable people and people with disabilities, but outside of this it is difficult to find much research about people with disabilities in vocational education and training, despite it being a major part of the educating and employing youth plan in Uganda.

The Ministry of Education and Sports [MoES] (2018) indicates that there is limited participation of children with disabilities and other vulnerable children in schools. A 2017 Save the Children report notes that 60% of refugees in Uganda are of school going age and nearly 300,000 are not in school (Save the Children, 2017). Children with disability are much more likely to miss school in Ugandan refugee settlements for various reasons and the districts hosting refugees generally perform worse than the average. The Refugee Education Response Plan for Uganda (RERPU) seeks to improve learning experiences for refugees and host communities (MoES, 2017). The plan pre-supposes an improved learning and educational experience for all children including refugee children with disabilities. This perhaps best represents the treatment of refugees with disabilities in Uganda: There is no specific attention for their case, but rather they fit into a mix of “other” categories. The NGO Humanity and Inclusion works to provide psycho-social support and other forms of assistance specifically to vulnerable refugees and persons with disabilities. The Refugee Law project (Owiny and Nagujja, 2017) works in northern Uganda, and takes a holistic approach to youth refugee education in relation to their family and their community. Refugees with disability are not central to their work but do appear in limited ways.

Okot-Oyal (2017) of the Refugee Law Project in northern Uganda contends that ascertaining the exact numbers of refugees living with disability in Uganda remains a huge task. The Disability Rights Fund (n.d.), confirms that there is very limited data on specific challenges experienced by disabled refugees and Crock et al. (2017) recommend further investigation into the identification of disabled refugees in Uganda. Jamall and Sera (2018) from the National Union of Women with Disabilities in Uganda (NUWODU), an organization that works with refugees and host communities alike, explain that there are no data on numbers of women and children with disabilities who are “left behind in the camps” (n.p.), and very little data on the challenges they face. They advocate for more attention to be given to disabled refugees because they face the greatest challenges, are the most vulnerable and have generally been forgotten. Previous research by the Women’s Commision for Refugee Women Children (2008) identifies that numbers for disabled refugees are generally not available. The research ascertains that services tend to be better in refugee camps because of the systems in place. When in urban settings, it is more difficult to identify refugee populations, and those with disabilities because they are more dispersed and prefer to remain “hidden.” It is well documented that in Uganda, refugees with disability are among some of the most marginalized people. They ‘live on the risk of survival and are at risk of sexual violence and inaccessible environments’ (Disability Rights Fund, n.d., p.1).

Conceptual Resources for Research Into Educational Access for Disabled Refugees in Africa

The country cases described above show that educational access for disabled refugees in Africa operates at the confluence of legislation and policy, bureaucracy and resource capacity, schools and educational institutions, and community beliefs and attitudes. These factors can be seen to be mutually constitutive and iterative and can be compounding in effect. This suggests that educational access for disabled refugees is a complex issue, operating at a number of levels. The South African case, for example, indicates that a disabled refugee student’s access to education might be constrained by policy uncertainty about school admission for refugees, lack of disability inclusive or specialist educational facilities and resources (particularly as a result of the apartheid legacy), and xenophobia and negative attitudes to disability in the host community. These may be exacerbated by unaffordable school fees and transport costs. There may, however, be enablers of educational access and success, such as national inclusive education policies, welcoming educational institutions, and intrapersonal, interpersonal, family and community resources. Constraining and enabling factors might work concurrently, producing different experiences for students. An analysis of educational access for disabled refugees demands conceptual resources that account for this complexity in ways that acknowledge the histories and geographies of exclusion in particular contexts. In this section we offer ways of thinking about the issue with concepts from complex systems theory, decolonial theory and intersectionality. We offer these not as definitive or all-encompassing models, but as indicators of possible ways in which an understanding of the issues could be deepened (Biesta et al., 2014).

Complexity theory has been harnessed by educational researchers who recognize the unpredictable, non-linear, and multi-layered nature of education systems (Doll, 1989; Davis and Sumara, 2009). Originally derived from natural sciences (Tikly, 2020), complexity theory incorporates scholarly work from a number of fields. The theory is concerned with complex (rather than complicated) problems, and sees complex systems as being constituted by the dynamic relationship between sub-systems that have mutual and reciprocal influence. Sub-systems are, in turn, systems in their own right, constituted by further sub-systems. This means that it is difficult to understand any one particular system without understanding the other systems with which it relates and interacts. Schools, for example, are complex systems made up of “a web of social relations, interactions and micropolitics, in addition to external requirements, pressures and expectations” all of which have to be understood in relation to each other (Harris et al., 2018, p. 84). Complex systems have been found to have a number of characteristics. They are dynamic in that they develop, change, learn, and evolve over time (Mason, 2008) and can be said to be adaptive, able to self-organize and to innovate.

One of the many challenges of using complexity theory in the social sciences, including education, is to make it analytically useful. This challenge is simultaneously to capture the whole, and the parts, and the relationships between them (Davis and Sumara, 2006; Cochran-Smith et al., 2014). Schuelka and Engsig (2020, p. 6), for example, propose a useful three-dimensional “complex educational systems analysis cube” to enable education systems and processes to be analyzed. The three dimensions are micro, meso, and macro levels; various communities (like policy communities, professional communities, and children’s communities); and the educational attributes of access, quality, and utility. These authors recognize the limitations of this analysis cube, and are clear that the dimensions do not constitute a measurement tool. They do, however, want to capture the complexity of an “expanding or contracting universe in that all elements are moving in relation to each other” (p. 6). The value in this schema is that it has been developed with a view to use in the development of inclusive and equitable education systems, and the authors expect its use to advance community asset mapping and cross-case analysis.

Others find ecosystemic frameworks useful for analyzing complex systems. Hodgson and Spours (2015), for example, in understanding the complexity of skills systems, propose a social ecosystem model. This acknowledges that educational experiences are dynamically shaped by, and shape interpersonal relations, community responses, institutional provision and policy intention. The model locates activities and practices in a conceptual space that is impacted on by vertical facilitatory mechanisms such as international, national, and local policies and regulations, resource allocation etc. and the horizontal connectivities, interactions and relationships between local actors in the space. These authors argue that ecological analysis allows for the conceptualization of “stasis and change in a variety of environments, contexts and spaces of activity, which exist in linked scales or levels” (p. 215). They used this to understand educational participation, progression, and transition for 14+ young people in England. Ecosystemic thinking has been found to be useful in understanding issues of access and inclusion in education. McIntyre and Hall (2018) understand the barriers to inclusion of new arrivals in English schools constituted by interrelated systems at various levels. They capture the complexity of the global, national, local and individual as

International discourses around the conceptualization of a global refugee crisis, and international responses to control movement and labeling at this level have led to national dispersal policies affecting individual cities. At the same time, global educational reforms with strict accountability measures are also affecting individual places within national systems. (p. 13)

Ecosystemic thinking is seen by Anderson et al. (2014) as being necessary for understanding what is needed to enable reform that provides quality education for all. These authors make the argument that much attention has been given to the institutional change demanded by inclusive education, when many of the causes of marginalization and exclusion “sit beyond the boundaries of the school fence” (p. 23). They offer an ‘ecology of inclusive education’ as a series of nested systems, with the learner at the center, and micro-, meso-, exo-, and macro-systems all having reciprocal influences on each other over time. Like Hodgson and Spours (2015) and Schuelka and Engsig (2020), they attempt to capture the dynamic complexity of education systems, where individuals, communities, policies, and practices are imbricated in enabling or constraining access and success. These conceptual resources have value in understanding educational access for disabled refugees whose experiences are shaped by the interplay of factors over time and at different levels of the system, but who also exercise relational agency between individuals, families and communities to resist exclusionary pressures and create opportunities for inclusion and success.

The models described above show the challenge of trying to capture the workings and interrelationship of every system and sub-system, and there is a danger that the answer to every research question is, ‘It’s complex.’ The complexity can seem overwhelming, and the impetus for reform can be lost, particularly as reform efforts in one system seem to be constrained, if not thwarted by factors in other systems (Anderson et al., 2014). But, paradoxically, the very interconnectedness of systems means that change in one system does influence other systems. A complexity approach can be harnessed to motivate for systems change, and can be a valuable tool in the quest for educational justice for marginalized groups (Ansell and Geyer, 2017; Tikly, 2020), such as disabled refugees.

Complexity and systems theory in educational research can be criticized as being limited to offering a description of what happens, or the way things are, without sufficient interrogation of the moral imperatives of education and the workings of power (Mason, 2008; Tikly, 2020). Tikly (2020, p. 35) specifically says that to make complexity theory work for “historically marginalized and dispossessed” people in Africa, it is necessary to engage “at a theoretical level with inequality and the causes of inequality.” Colonialism and coloniality are a significant cause of inequality and help to sustain it (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013). Research in African contexts must engage with workings of colonial power, ensuring that while focusing on a particular marginalized group (like disabled refugee students), attention is not averted from the global systems and events that engender and sustain oppression. This may mean, for example, recognizing that global hegemonic power, exercised through institutions like the World Bank, donor aid agencies, and economic policies maintains “the marginal position of African governments and populations” (Tikly, 2020, p. 67) and may contribute to capacity constraints in the provision of education access by host countries. It may also mean critiquing assumptions of the presumed value and affordances of knowledges about refugees, disability, and education (singly and in combination) from the Global North and engaging with the rich conceptual resources of African philosophy in thinking about educational inclusion and exclusion.

The complexity of students’ lives and experiences is not always captured in educational research that focuses on single identity issues (like either refugee status or disability) (Annamma et al., 2018). Power works in intersectional ways to produce differential outcomes for students and compounded (rather than additive) disadvantage is experienced by people living with multiple oppressed identities (Crenshaw, 1991). Understanding this disadvantage and oppression is important in the quest for social justice and the realization of educational rights, but caution is needed to guard against the production of (disabled refugee) people as pitiful, helpless, and in need of support and intervention. In Grech’s (2011, p. 90) view, a “focus on negative attitudes and oppression strips disabled people and their households of any form of agency and the ability/possibility to resist and control/change their circumstances, and influence other people’s attitudes and behaviors.” Research needs to recognize this agency and ensure that the perspectives and experiences of these groups are heard and they are recognized as experts on their own lives (Slee, 2011; Walton, 2016).

The empirical task that will enable a systemic, decolonial and intersectional analysis is faced with many methodological challenges. These challenges include the ethics and practicality of collecting much needed numerical data. Gathering disability data is fraught with difficulty, not least because of different understandings of disability (Croft, 2013). This may be compounded in refugee populations who may not disclose disability, or disabled people who may be reluctant to disclose refugee status. There would be value in using appropriate methods to generate data about the perspectives and experiences of disabled refugee students and their families who offer ‘insider knowledge’ of the realities of accessing education and succeeding in learning in different contexts. Insights gained from these experiences would potentially identify policy gaps and policy subversions, and also indicate contextually relevant practices that can be adopted and strengthened to secure educational access and success.

Conclusion

There is a dearth of research into disabled refugees’ access to, and success in quality education (at all levels) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Available literature and administrative data from the selected countries reviewed (South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe) suggest that while policies and commitments reflect a positive recognition that disabled refugees should be supported in accessing education at all levels, neither disabled citizens nor able-bodied refugees are adequately catered for within the educational systems. Therefore we can logically assume that disabled refugees are even more likely to be excluded. In order to deepen our understanding of both the extent of the problems faced by disabled refugees, and the challenges faced by resource constrained countries of the Global South in meeting their international obligations, more research is necessary. It is clear from the case studies that reliable data on disabled refugees is urgently needed, and that this needs to include information about educational experiences and outcomes. Serious engagement with this issue must grapple with the complexity and multi-level nature of the problem, must be sensitive to place and history, and must pay attention to the ways in which disability and refugee identities intersect.

Data Availability Statement

All datasets generated and analyzed for this study are included and cited in the article/supplementary material.

Author Contributions

EW contributed to the conceptualization of the article, overall editorial direction, and writing of all sections not listed by others. JM contributed to the development of theoretical framework, sections on refugee education, and editing. SA and DM contirbuted to the Ugandan sections. RM, CN, and JT contributed to the Zimbabwean sections. KD and ND contributed to the South African refugees - policy and research. VW contributed to the social ecosystemic model, conclusion, conceptual direction, and editing.

Funding

This research is funded by the British Academy’s Education and Learning in Crises Programme, supported under the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (Grant number ERICC/190044).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Keywords: education, disability, refugees, Sub-Saharan Africa, inclusive education, complexity and systems theory, decolonial theory, intersectionality

Citation: Walton E, McIntyre J, Awidi SJ, De Wet-Billings N, Dixon K, Madziva R, Monk D, Nyoni C, Thondhlana J and Wedekind V (2020) Compounded Exclusion: Education for Disabled Refugees in Sub-Saharan Africa. Front. Educ. 5:47. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2020.00047

Received: 31 January 2020; Accepted: 09 April 2020;
Published: 12 May 2020.

Edited by:

Wayne Paul Harold Veck, University of Winchester, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Jane Wilkinson, Monash University, Australia
Gottfried Biewer, University of Vienna, Austria

Copyright © 2020 Walton, McIntyre, Awidi, De Wet-Billings, Dixon, Madziva, Monk, Nyoni, Thondhlana and Wedekind. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Elizabeth Walton, elizabeth.walton@nottingham.ac.uk