Original Research

Towards interventions on school dropouts for disabled learners amidst and post-COVID-19 pandemic

Tawanda Makuyana
African Journal of Disability | Vol 11 | a1009 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v11i0.1009 | © 2022 Tawanda Makuyana | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 January 2022 | Published: 24 June 2022

About the author(s)

Tawanda Makuyana, Department of Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society (TREES), Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa; and, Department of Research and Development, National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Despite objective arguments for inclusive education, there is a dearth of mechanisms to reduce dropouts amongst disabled learners in the extant literature. Thus, this article is one of the outputs of a study, which was conducted after a consistent observation of dwindling numbers of disabled learners who succeed in basic education in South Africa. Of late, the dropout rate increased because of adherence to lock down regulations amidst the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This triggered the need for research on co-creating interventions to mitigate the rate of dropouts amongst disabled learners.

Objective: The article explores underlying obstacles that induce school dropouts for disabled learners amidst and post-COVID-19 and postulates interventions accordingly.

Methods: Descriptive-narrative research upheld reality as emerging from empirical experiences of parents and guardians of disabled children, heads of primary and secondary schools, social workers, the Department of Social Development and Basic Education, and provincial associations for disabled persons that focus on children. Lived experience-based opinions were obtained from provinces with different economic growth, namely, Limpopo and Gauteng. Forty-one in-depth one-on-one interviews and two focus group discussions used Google Meet. The collected data were analysed using Creswell’s qualitative data analysis framework (steps) and Atlas.ti.8.

Results: The findings show a consistent pattern that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the parents and guardians’ fear of exposing and risking their learners to the health crisis. Based on the parents and guardians’ narrative, mainstream school administrations discriminate and are unwilling to enrol disabled learners. Furthermore, the narrative from the school leadership shows that teachers use exclusive teaching and learning methods for the enrolled disabled learners because of ignorance, misconception, misunderstanding, misinterpretation of disability, disability inclusion, and reasonable accommodation.

Conclusion: Based on the finding, it is clear that dropouts amongst disabled learners can be alleviated by using a systematic multi-stakeholder local community-based intervention approach. This, therefore, implies that government authorities and agencies should incorporate disability into mainstream policies that guide planning, budgeting, staffing, and mobilisation of other resources. This would ideally enhance the provision of learning opportunities to disabled learners whilst supporting their diverse educational needs without dichotomies set by ‘ability and disability’, or normal and abnormal. In this manner, inclusive education can contribute to the educational success of disabled learners through developing sustainability and resilience amongst disabled learners.


inclusive education; school dropout interventions; COVID-19; underlying obstacles; dropout of disabled pupils


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