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date: 20 January 2020

Inclusive School Reform in Swaziland

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Inclusive school reform has been on the education agenda in many countries, including Swaziland. One of the forces that have shaped this reform agenda is the demands on transforming schools to cater to learners with special needs and disabilities. Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) is one approach to change that is currently being used with some success in general education. This approach has proved to have the potential of developing more inclusive schools. CSR provides administrators and teachers with a framework to develop successful, effective, and sustainable inclusive programs. There is a belief that sustainability of school reform is dependent on comprehensive approaches to school change. This is because they develop effective, sustainable programs that improve educational outcomes for all learners, and provide the necessary support. This in turn may result in general education classrooms being transformed to accommodate a broader range of learners. Inclusive school reform in Swaziland has also been strengthened by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) comprehensive school reform concept locally known as Schools as Centres of Care and Support strategy (SCCS) but regionally referred to as Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) and internationally known as Child-Friendly Schools (CFS). This program was initiated by Media in Education Trust (MIET) Africa in 2003, as a broader strategy of education support for vulnerable learners. SCCS provides a good framework for Swaziland; it addresses barriers to quality teaching and learning and hence even locally it is also referred to as CSTL. SCCS was adopted and launched in Swaziland in 2006. The siSwati name for the program is “Inqaba,” which means fortress—safe haven for all learners. Customizing the concept to Inqaba, through a national competition involving primary school learners, gave it a Swazi flavor and ensured ownership. The specific objective of the Inqaba is to create school environments that are friendly, safe, healthy, and conducive for inclusive quality teaching and learning. To achieve this objective, the strategy is based on seven pillars, namely, Protection and Safety; Psychosocial Support; Food Security; Health, Sanitation, Water, and Hygiene; HIV/AIDS; Life-skills; and Quality Teaching and Learning. At the heart of the program lies capacity building for school-community partnership to identify barriers to teaching and learning and provide inclusive schools that welcome every child. The inclusive school reform approach in Swaziland also involves applying principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) through provision of relevant classroom-specific tools to support in particular the pillar on quality teaching and learning. The integration of digital tools has also gained currency in the school system and is seen as an important element in reforming schools to be inclusive. Notwithstanding the challenges related to its implementation, the Inqaba concept brings a more comprehensive approach to inclusive school reform characterized by shared decision-making, collaboration, and teamwork. This approach presents a huge potential to develop successful and sustainable inclusive schools.