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date: 26 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Africa is associated with Ubuntu values such as inclusiveness and treating others with fairness and human dignity. Such values align with human rights and social justice principles and are also integral to a social approach to inclusive education. However, there are several contextual and interconnected dynamics—environmental, cultural, and systemic—which impact on education systems and must be acknowledged when considering inclusive and special education. Several global developments have been endorsed and ratified by most African countries, such as the Education for All campaign, the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education, the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of the SDG 4 framework, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, due to an African renaissance in the building of human capital since the 19th century, education policies and practices are also transforming to address the specific needs of the African context. Human rights and social justice are sanctioned as basic principles of education by the majority of African countries. Great strides have consequently been made in the development of education policies to address the inclusive education drive. However, the emphasis in these education policies seems to be on integrating students with special needs or disabilities into public education, mainly by placing them in separate units or classes attached to mainstream schools, or in special schools. It is therefore essential that, within the Ubuntu approach of everyone belonging to a greater community, both local communities and wider society make a commitment wherein interactive political, cultural, social, environmental, and systemic dynamics influencing learning, as well as causing learning breakdown, are acknowledged and addressed. A focus on the individual child as a problem to be remediated and segregated from mainstream society and education should therefore be rejected. Consequently, The education community (including governments, education departments, local education offices, schools, teachers, parents, and learners) must regularly come together to reflect and develop in-depth understanding of the philosophy, theory, terminology, and practice of inclusive education within the African context, which should then reflect in specific developed policies and consequent practices.

Keywords: Africa, inclusive education, special education, Ubuntu, social approach

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