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Gender, Disability and Access to Education in Tanzania

Elly Macha

The aim of this study was to gain a fuller understanding of the struggle that Tanzanian visually impaired women have faced in gaining a place in school and obtaining an education, the benefits that they perceived education to give them, the changes that they believe were necessary to improve their access and the content of the education they felt they should receive in order to ensure that they were able to realise their capabilities and contribute fully to their community and their society. It was anticipated that the way in which the identity of visually impaired women is socially constructed (drawing on both cultural understandings and other factors) served to inhibit their access to education.

Therefore the main aim of the study was to examine the obstacles encountered by Tanzanian visually impaired women in accessing and gaining an education.

Entirely this empirical study was qualitative, depending largely on primary data generated from visually impaired women in Dodoma and Tabora regions as key informants. It employed two methods of data generation, namely interviews and documentary survey.

Interviews are the most reliable instrument for data generation in qualitative research. It is described as:

"a conversation with a purpose" (Khan and Cannets, 1957:149). The reason for using interviews is to build upon the recognition that my participants are the best source for my data generation. Mason (1996: 39) argues that "... people's knowledge views, understanding interpretations, experiences, and interactions are meaningful properties of the reality..." She further goes on to suggest that a legitimate way to generate data or these ontological properties is to interact with people, to talk to them, to listen to them, and to gain access to their accounts and articulations" (p. 39-40).

The analysis of documentary sources was another major method of social research and one which many qualitative researchers see as meaningful and appropriate in the context of their research strategy" (Mason, 1996: 71). This technique enabled me to analyse educational policy documents, registers and school returns as a point of checklist for the enrolment and completion of visually impaired students at different levels of education.

Qualitative data analysis was adopted in this study whereby content analysis was used in analysing various documents and descriptive analysis was applied for data generated through interviews in which case the data was coded, reduced or summarised and displayed (Miles and Huberman, 1984).

Qualitative data analysis is a search for general statements about the relationship among categories of data; it builds grounded theory. It is the search among data to identify content for ethnographies and for participant's "truths" (Strauss and Corbin 1997: Marshall and Rossman, 1999).