Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD)

Building DPOs’ Capacity in Promoting Inclusion in ECDE within CBR Programs

Building Disability People Organizations in ECDE/CBR

Project duration (total months):

12 Months (1 Years)


Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Lesotho


Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)


  1. Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD)
  2. 2. SAFOD Affiliates (FAPED, FAMOD, ZAFOD and LNFOD)


TheSAFOD is a leading Southern African disability-focused network engaged in coordination of activities of Disability Peoples Organizations (DPOs) in the Southern Africa region working in 10 countries within the region, coordinating programs and activities through its national affiliate federations of DPOs in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In many of these countries, either our affiliate federations or at least some of their member DPOs are implementing Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) programs on the ground. Yet, at the same time, there is an academic theory that there is a strong correlation between CBR and inclusive Early Childhood Development and Development (ECDE). SAFOD intend turn the theory into practice.

There is a general consensus that, on one hand, CBR aims to focus on rehabilitation, equalization of opportunities and social inclusion of all persons with disabilities and their families. On the other hand, Inclusive Education (IE) has a similar philosophy and aims to include children with disabilities in mainstream education and pre-school settings, overcoming barriers to learning and participation in community educational settings. Both approaches value diversity and promote inclusion. Both programs also aim to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the services that are available to other people in the community, such as pre-schooling. 

SAFOD therefore seeks to link the experiences in CBR that are already prevailing in some of our affiliates with ECDE programs at community levels.

SAFOD intends to strengthen this correlation that exists between BCR and Inclusive ECDE through its national federations of DPOs in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zambia through capacity-building of our national affiliate federations of DPOs some of whom their member DPOs are already involved in the CBR programs on the ground.

In addition, most ECDE Policies – at least in countries where they are available – do not come out clearly as regards to children with disabilities especially on the issue of diversity of disability.

This project, therefore, will also seek to bridge the gaps left out by the ECDE policies in addressing issues of early identification, support services as well as acquiring specific data for children with disabilities aged 0-8 years or up to entry into primary school.

Summary Description

Strategic Goal:

To strengthen the capacity of Disability Peoples Organizations (DPOs) and other community structures working in already existing Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) programs in increasing access to quality ECDE services for children with Special Needs Education (SEN).

Strategic Objectives:

  1. To enhance early identification at community level for children with special needs through inclusive CBR interventions.
  2. To build the capacity of SAFOD’s affiliate DPOs already working in CBR programs to strategically link CBR and inclusive ECDE interventions within target communities


The importance of early childhood development for all children, including those with special educational needs, was endorsed in the World Declaration on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). Specifically, the Convention on the Rights of the Child proclaims that ‘Children have the right to life and the best possible chance to develop fully’ (Article 6), and ‘Disabled children must be helped to be as independent as possible and be able to take full and active part in everyday life’ (Article 23). Furthermore, the World Conference on Special Needs Education (Salamanca, Spain, 1994) highlights early education as a priority area. 

However, despite these international instruments focused on promoting the early childhood development for all children, many children still do not reach their full human potential in the Southern Africa region because of their families’ income status, geographic location, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, and most significantly because of their disability/ies. Many children with disabilities, in particular, do not receive adequate nutrition, care and opportunities to learn.

Furthermore, parents for children with disabilities go through a lot of challenges in terms of stigma, less time for meaningful development due to efforts put to ensure their children access services as well as a process they have to go through as a result of having a child with disabilities until they reach the acceptance stage.

The situation is especially worsened in situations where there are no deliberate interventions either by Governments or non-state actors like Disability Peoples Organisations (DPOs) to advocate for inclusive early education policies as well as inclusive Early Childhood Care and Development Centres (ECCDs). It is pertinent to note that while some counties like Malawi, Zambia and Lesotho are making significant in-roads in ensuring increasing access (i.e. the number of ECCDs nationally), but when it comes to quantity versus quality, there appears to be a yawning gap as regards quality of access. A lot of children with disabilities, for example, are still left behind and where they are accessing ECDE, the centres are far from being truly “inclusive”, hence the need for more integrated approaches for quality early childhood care and development.

In order to affectively achieve the principle of inclusion and all other related holistic activities such as early identification, assessment, pre-school activities and early childhood health care, an increasing number of stakeholders in Southern Africa where SAFOD operates, including its national affiliate federations of DPOs, are beginning to strategically link Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) programs with the Early Child Development and Education (ECDE) programs at community levels.

Our approach as an organisation supports OSISA’s own commitment of deepening democracy, protecting human rights and enhancing good governance in the region. For example, by seeking to promote the principle of “inclusion” in activities such as early identification, assessment, pre-school activities and early childhood health care, the project will contribute towards strengthening the vision of OSISA of establishing vibrant and tolerant southern African democracies in which people (including children with disabilities), free from material and other deprivation, understand their rights and responsibilities and participate actively in all spheres of life.