Girls with Disabilities in Zimbabwe's Inclusive Rural Schools: Challenges and Possibilities


  • Cowen Dziva Nehanda Centre for Gender and Cultural Studies Great Zimbabwe University
  • Gretchen Erika Du Plessis Department of Development Studies, University of South Africa



girls with disabilities, inclusive schools, Zimbabwean 2013 Constitution and disability rights, critical feminist disability theory


The aim of this study was to understand the social and academic experiences of girls with disabilities (GWD) in Zimbabwe’s inclusive secondary rural schools. Guided by the concepts of the critical feminist disability theory, data were collected through in-depth interviews with five purposefully selected girls with physical and sensory disabilities and five special-needs teachers. The findings reveal that, despite the presence of supportive attitudes and resource centres, these GWD’s basic right to quality, inclusive education is negated in rural schools. The research participants narrated their struggles with barriers created by negative attitudes, resource constraints and inaccessible environments. The intersection of gender, disability and rurality contour the experiences of GWD. In particular, resilient patriarchal, religious and societal norms prefigure GWD as abject beings, unworthy of investment by some parents, teachers and state officials. Thus, the notion of inclusive education as adopted in Zimbabwean official policies does not appear to be supported by the implementation or awareness raising of teachers and school leaders in the Mberengwa district of Zimbabwe’s Midlands Province.


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Author Biographies

Cowen Dziva, Nehanda Centre for Gender and Cultural Studies Great Zimbabwe University

Cowen Dziva (PhD) works at the Nehanda Centre for Gender and Cultural Studies at the Great Zimbabwe University. His research interests span women and politics, disability, human rights, democratisation and voter behaviour.

Gretchen Erika Du Plessis, Department of Development Studies, University of South Africa

Gretchen du Plessis is Professor of Development Studies at the University of South Africa. Her work centres on social policy, population and identity, gender and human security, and social research methodology. She is interested in questions relating to identity, social policy, critical social theory, and the development of new approaches to seemingly intractable social problems.




How to Cite

Dziva, Cowen, and Gretchen Erika Du Plessis. 2020. “Girls With Disabilities in Zimbabwe’s Inclusive Rural Schools: Challenges and Possibilities”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 32 (1):18 pages.



Received 2019-03-11
Accepted 2019-12-07
Published 2020-02-18