Ephraim Lemmy Nuwagaba

Adult Education is a pathway towards social inclusion for all marginalized people. One group that suffers multiple disadvantages in most societies, and in particular in the poor countries, are persons with disabilities. It is all the more remarkable that an African institution of higher learning, the Kyambogo University in Uganda, offers a specialized bachelor career for adult educators to train them for work with handicapped persons. This is extremely appropriate in a country with an estimated 7 % of the population who are afflicted by disabilities and therefore particularly prone to poverty and exclusion. Ephraim Lemmy Nuwagaba is a lecturer at Kyambogo University and currently on study leave pursuing a PhD at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban – South Africa.

Towards Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Development: Kyambogo University’s Experiences of Preparing Adult Educators for the Task


Although Adult Education has traditionally positioned itself as an avenue through which marginalized groups of people can empower themselves, it has largely not been able to reach out to persons with disabilities (PWDs). This is despite the fact that many people with disabilities have limited opportunities in the formal education system during their childhood and could therefore become a huge target for Adult Education provision. Through Adult Education, PWDs can enhance their knowledge, attitudes and skills not only to improve their livelihoods and advocate for their rights but also to facilitate their inclusion in development processes.

This paper examines the contribution the Bachelor of Adult and Community Education (BACE) of Kyambogo University makes to the inclusion of PWDs in development processes. It examines the PWD context in Uganda and provides an overview of the BACE programme and its contribution to inclusive development.

Global and Ugandan PWD Context

According to the World Bank and United Nations, of about “600 million people with disabilities in the world, 80 percent live in developing countries, of whom the majority live in poverty” (Handicap International, 2006:vii). The World Report on Disability (2011) states that the number of PWDs is growing. The report further argues that PWDs face attitudinal, legal, physical and social barriers resulting in exclusion and marginalization from basic services such as education, skills training and employment. The report reiterates that “disability is also an important development issue because of its bidirectional link to poverty arguing that disability may increase the risk of poverty, and poverty may increase the risk of disability”.

In Uganda, about 7 percent of the population or 1.9m people have disabilities (National Development Plan 2010/11-2014/15). Uganda went through the Amin regime of the 1970s, liberation war of 1979, guerilla war of the 1980s, the LRA insurgency in Northern and parts of Eastern Uganda which could have increased the number of PWDs in the country.

Vibrancy of the PWD Movement in Uganda

The disability movement in Uganda is very vibrant and the dominant model is mainly the social model where the medical condition of a person is part of the problem, with environmental, attitudinal and institutional barriers paramount. Uganda has made much progress towards considering the needs of disabled people in development processes and including them in political decision making at both national and community levels. Articles 78 and 180 of the Ugandan constitution state that disabled people should be among those acting as parliamentary representatives and local council members (Government of Uganda, 1995). The Parliamentary Statute (Government of Uganda, 1996) makes provision for five disabled people to be elected to Parliament and sections 11 and 24 of the Local Government Act (Government of Uganda, 1997) provides for two councilors with disabilities (one female) in district councils and at the sub-county level. This representation helps to have issues of disability addressed at various levels of political policy making.

Although there is a policy framework favourable to PWDs (The Constitution of Uganda, 1995; Disability Act, 2006; The Local Government Act, 1997; The Communications Act 1997; The Uganda Primary Education Act, 1997; The UNISE Act, 1998; The Land Act 1998; The National Council for Disability Act 2003; The Persons with Disability Act 2006; Equal Opportunities Act, 2006; National Policy on Disability), there are challenges in implementation. It is in this context that the BACE programme of Kyambogo University should be understood.

Students at the Kyambogo University












Students at the Kyambogo University, Source: Ephraim Lemmy Nuwagaba

Kyambogo University: An Overview

Kyambogo University was established in 2003 when the government merged the Uganda National Institute of Special Education (UNISE), with the Uganda Polytechnic, Kyambogo (UPK) and Institute of Teacher Education, Kyambogo (ITEK). The vision of the University is “to be a centre of academic and professional excellence” and its mission is “to advance and promote the knowledge and development of skills in science, technology, education, and in such other fields having regard for quality, equity, progress and transformation of society” (http://www.kyu.ac.kyuvision. html). Kyambogo University Prospectus of 2005 provides some of the objectives of the university that are specific to PWDs and these are:

  • To provide training for teachers and personnel working in the field of special needs and rehabilitation and to cater for all kinds of PWDs and those with special learning needs;
  • To provide a resource centre for the production and dissemination of information relating to persons with disabilities and special learning needs;
  • To undertake research in disabilities and other related fields for better understanding and development of PWDs and special learning needs; and
  • To initiate outreach programmes to promote greater awareness among teachers, parents, leaders and the public about PWDs and special learning needs; and to promote partnership and collaboration among agencies involved in dealing with PWDs.

The University has seven faculties and a graduate school and the Faculty of Special Needs & Rehabilitation (FSN&R), formerly UNISE, is one of them. UNISE was an institution that was established by an Act of Parliament in 1994. The FSN&R is responsible for developing the human resource for special needs education and rehabilitation as well as the production of Braille materials. The ultimate aim of the faculty is to enable PWDs to lead meaningful lives and to participate in development processes. The skills provided to the PWDs can enable them develop self-reliance instead of being dependent. The faculty has three departments whose programmes focus on Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), special needs education and, adult and community education. It is the department of Adult and Community Education that offers the BACE programme.

The Bachelor of Adult and Community Education (BACE) Programme

This is one of the two programmes offered by the Department of Adult and Community Education, the other being the Certificate in Adult and Community Education (CACE). The degree programme produces middle level personnel whereas the certificate programme produces low level personnel. These programmes have integrated into Adult Education courses that are related to special needs education and can therefore train personnel capable of addressing the learning needs of persons with disabilities and other special categories of adult learners. This article focuses on the BACE programme, which was initiated in 2002 and according to graduation lists, has produced 992 graduates (380 males and 612 females) since 2006.

Objectives of the BACE Programme

The general objective of the BACE programme is to train students to become professional adult and community educators with capacity to provide appropriate educational and community development programmes for personal, community and national development. By the end of the programme, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Explain the theories of adult and community education and apply them appropriately in a wide range of situations;
  2. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the value and impact of adult and community education on the individual and society;
  3. Analyse situations and community needs, identify and implement appropriate community development interventions and evaluate them successfully;
  4. Integrate relevant aspects of special needs education into adult and community education in order to address the learning needs of persons with disabilities;
  5. Mobilise communities for sustainable development; and
  6. Demonstrate ability to research on adult and community education issues.

Admission to BACE Programme

The minimum qualification required for admission to the programme is the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) with at least two principle passes. Others are a diploma in a related discipline from a recognised institution, or having passed a mature age entry examinations set by the University.

Programme Structure and Courses that Foster Inclusive Development

The programme offers 39 courses in three years following a semester system. The following are the eight courses that aim at fostering inclusive development:

Barriers to learning and development

This course aims at developing the capacity of students to analyse different categories of barriers to learning and development that are a result of impairments and/or health challenges or environmental factors. Graduates are expected to be able to design appropriate strategies and interventions to address the intrinsic and extrinsic factors that create segregation and exclusion.

Communicating with persons with disability (Uganda Sign Language)

Sign language is a type of communication that uses movement of hands, fingers, body and facial expressions instead of sound. In Uganda, it is common practice to have Sign Language interpretation in public affairs where people with hearing impairment are expected, for example meetings in parliament and local councils, public rallies, seminars, training programmes, news on television etc. BACE students are taught Uganda sign language: its structure, principles/rules/tips for good signing, sign linguistics, comparisons between spoken language and sign language. Students engage in a lot of practical work.

Communicating with persons with disability (Braille)

Braille is a system of written communication for persons with low or no vision. It uses embossed dots to facilitate reading and writing. Students learn introduction to Braille, the history of Braille internationally and in Uganda, using Braille writing devices such as Perkins Braille machines and slates and stylus. They learn the English language, Braille numeral signs, punctuation marks, mathematical operation signs (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), fractions, abbreviations, currencies (such as dollars, francs, shillings, cents), measurement system (length, weight and volume) among others. Braille is useful in facilitating communication for blind people and for mobilizing them for development, thus reducing their marginalization.

Introduction to mobility and community based rehabilitation

This course covers the theoretical and practical skills appropriate for the rehabilitation of PWDs. The focus currently is fostering the rehabilitation of PWDs within their communities through inclusion mechanisms rather than putting the PWDs in specialised institutions or units. Students learn how to initiate new services or adjust existing services in favour of PWDs through analysis of the features and advantages of CBR, models of CBR such as a social model, community development model, medical model, comprehensive model, education model and economic model. They also study referral webs, barriers to participation of PWDs and equalisation of opportunities among others. The course also covers the theoretical and practical perspective of mobility and rehabilitation including historical background of MBR, functional perspective, traditional mobility and rehabilitation, contemporary mobility and rehabilitation as well as assistive devices. Movement of PWDs is critical for their participation in development. Uganda’s experience with PWDs regarding policy and legislation, lobbying and advocacy, employment and IGAs and how they have influenced inclusion of PWDs in development efforts is analysed.

Marginalised people in the community

This course aims at bringing awareness to the students about the existing marginalisation of individuals and groups in society. The course is based on both International Declarations/Conventions and National policies. It covers the nature, causes and categories of marginalised people such as persons living in abject poverty, PWDs, single mothers, street children, the elderly, persons living with and those affected by HIV/AIDS, albinos, minority groups, refugees and internally displaced groups, homosexuals and prisoners. Students learn interventional strategies for these marginalised groups.

Entrepreneurship skills development

The students acquire skills of how to identify business potentials, develop and nurture them into viable and successful business enterprises. The course also covers entrepreneurship for marginalised groups. As jobs increasingly become very scarce, entrepreneurial skills may enable students to create jobs rather than seek employment.

Research project

After covering research methodology, students get an opportunity to practically apply the research skills and methods which they have learnt. This involves identifying a research problem, developing it into a research proposal, collecting and analysing the relevant data and writing a report of the findings of between 10,000 – 15,000 words. This process is supervised at all stages by an academic member of staff of the department.

Students at the Kyambogo University















Students at the Kyambogo University, Source: Ephraim Lemmy Nuwagaba

Practical placements

Students on the BACE programme carry out fieldwork/practical placement twice: at the end of semester II of the second and third years. The students are attached to CSOs, community development groups, the private sector, local or central governments engaged in adult and community education and development work. The practical placement provides students with opportunities to practice the skills developed in the lecture rooms under real life conditions under which they are expected to work after graduation. During this period, each student is under the guidance of an agency supervisor and an academic staff. The agency supervisors assign work and monitor performance to ensure work related outputs. The academic staff, focus on monitoring the outputs related to theories and practices. At the end of practical placement, each student writes a fieldwork report and submits it to the academic supervisor for assessment. This process of fieldwork is monitored by the Dean of the FSN&R and the Academic Registrar or Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs.

Mode of Delivery of the Programme

The students are taught through lectures, group work, focus group discussions, assigned and non-assigned reading, and are also encouraged to do individual research. Group work instills a culture of collective action as well sensitivity to the concerns of all – qualities that are critical in inclusion. Group work also provides opportunities for interaction between PWDs and other students. Each semester, students take up to six course units and there are electives to choose from in the second and third year. In accordance with Kyambogo University policy, there is sign language interpretation for deaf students and large print for those with low vision.


Assessment involves progressive assessment (40 %) during each semester and examinations at the end of each semester (60 %). Progressive assessment involves lecturers noting contributions of students in class, students’ answers to questions asked, concentration and assistance given to fellow students, tests, individual and group course works. Students who attain 50 % from a combination of progressive assessment and examinations are allowed to continue on normal progress while those below 50 % have to retake the failed course when it is next offered. While research is marked out of 100 %, fieldwork activities are marked by an agency supervisor out of 20 marks and by academic staff out of 30 %. The field work report is marked by an academic staff out of 60 %. Both fieldwork activities’ and fieldwork report assessments total to 100 %. All methods of assessment are complemented by external examiners who are responsible for cross assessing and advising on the quality of assessment. Depending on the severity of impairment, PWDs are allowed extra time during examinations.


The BACE programmes utilise the library of the FSN&R Library and Kyambogo University Main Library; workshops for the production of educational materials for PWDs such as a Braille production unit; a Low Vision practical laboratory; a Sign Language laboratory, and, an Audio-visual production unit. The University provides tricycles that facilitate mobility to PWDs.

Contribution of BACE to Inclusive Development

Ndeezi argues that the first step in breaking out of marginalisation and denial of opportunities is to acquire relevant education and be in a position to compete in the world of scarce opportunities. He asserts that denying people education is the easiest and most systematic way of keeping people marginalised and denied all other opportunities (New Vision, Saturday, December 10th, 2005). It is important that adults with disabilities be assisted in order to develop their full capacities and potential, to live and work in dignity by fully participating in their communities and making informed decisions through their contact with mobility and rehabilitation trainers and other service providers or workers. Improved access to education including communication through use of Sign Language and Braille helps reduce discrimination, a human rights violation which threatens the survival of PWDs and makes their participation in the development of their community and society almost impossible.

The BACE programme responded to concerns that special learning needs of youth and adults in Uganda were being given minimal emphasis. PWDs were not benefitting from Adult Education programmes to prepare them for roles as parents and members of society as there were hardly any facilitators capable of handling their needs. Traditionally, viewed as outcasts, PWDs were condemned and only left to receive handouts from charity and a few sympathisers. The programme trains Adult Education professionals to be able to help all adults, especially, those with special learning needs, to learn and participate in development processes.

The aspect of special needs and the all round, multi dimensional and holistic nature of BACE makes the programme unique and highly competitive as a learning package and as preparation for the job market and self employment. The programme opens up opportunities for further learning. The courses focusing on PWDs are aimed at building the capacities of students to work with PWDs to develop themselves and to change community attitudes in favour of PWDs. The entrepreneurship skills development course provides knowledge and skills for the development of small-scale businesses or self-employment which students can use to become entrepreneurs, or pass on to PWDs to become entrepreneurs. Such training improves practices in providing and managing services for PWDs. It increases on the number and quality of personnel engaged in training PWDs, their families and communities to manage support needs of PWDs.

The ACE department ensures that professional training in adult and community education includes information about disability. The department conducts research on the lives of PWDs and on barriers to participation and development. Some of this research has been done by staff in collaboration with a disability organization and an adult education NGO under the Community Action Research on Disability (CARD). This project was supported by Katutandike Trust UK.

The programme content covers development concerns at local/community, national and global levels thus providing a good mix as the community workers trained must, to different extents, promote development that is influenced by issues at local, national and global levels. Students are prepared to adapt to different work situations or environments. For formal employment, preparation is done through provision of technical skills in areas such as project planning and management, organization, community mobilization, research, entrepreneurship and other skills which can enable the students fit into the formal sector.

In regard to informal employment, including self employment, this is done by imparting skills for entrepreneurship, micro-financing, self motivation, human relations and other skills. It also trains students to be creative, self reliant and initiators of their own self empowerment projects and this provides them with opportunities for formal or self employment.

The BACE Programme is a rich programme for community development and self empowerment and is significantly contributing to the labour force of Uganda. The graduates of BACE are employed by NGOs (local and international) in all regions of Uganda. Others work for local and central government (in a variety of sectors including health, local governments, universities, government agencies etc.), the private sector (banks, micro-finance, telecommunications, publishing etc.) and others are in self employment. Some of them have been employed by primarily disability organizations such as National Union of Disabled Persons in Uganda (NUDIPU), Action on Disability and Development (ADD) and Sense International, among others, while some work for agencies that integrate disability issues among the other issues they deal with.

A DVV International supported stakeholders’ consultative workshop of departmental staff, organizations or groups that collaborate with the department was held in 2010. The stakeholders included those involved in training students during fieldwork, graduates and current students and they recognized the contribution of BACE in promoting inclusion.


There are however, some inadequacies. The lack of training in the use of computers and other information communication technology compromises effectiveness and efficiency of its graduates in work situations or the job market. The department is grossly understaffed and relies heavily on part time staff. This is despite the fact that the Kyambogo University establishment for the department proposes staffing of one professor, one associate professor, two senior lecturers, two lecturers, two Assistant Lecturers and one teaching assistant; posts that are largely not filled. Due to inadequate staffing, documentation of research and field work experiences of staff, students and graduates and achievements and best practices of the programme is not systematically done.

There seems to be agreement by all stakeholders that the courses are theoretical. This could be probably because inadequate financing has progressively reduced the period lecturers supervise students during fieldwork, although there is compelling evidence that there is a need to make the programme more practical. It could also be due to a tendency for students to expect to be spoon fed and to focus on examinations rather than developing into independent learners capable of solving problems innovatively on their own. This might also be a reflection of the entire education system that is largely tailored on preparing students to pass examinations rather than preparing them for problem solving and self directed learning.

Inadequate financing has not only affected fieldwork but also infrastructure, staff morale, and availability of teaching and learning materials. The lecture rooms, offices and resource centre space are very inadequate with very limited equipment thus making the learning environment unfavourable. Inadequate finances leads to low pay for University academic staff thus affecting motivation and it also makes it difficult to purchase up-to-date teaching and learning materials.


The above discussion seems to suggest that Kyambogo University, through the Department of Adult and Community Education of FSN&R is an example of an institution that is contributing towards social inclusion of PWDs – a group of people that have been excluded from Adult Education and development processes for a long time. Its BACE programme benefits from the synergies resulting from a vibrant disability movement although it still faces some challenges.


Handicap International and CBM (2006). Disability in development: Experiences in Inclusive Practices. Lyon Cedex & Bensheim: Handicap International and CBM. World Health Organisation (2011). World report on disability 2011. Geneva: World Health Organisation.


Adult Education and Development


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