Dr Paul Lynch, Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education at Birmingham, is investigating ways to improve the curriculum and teaching methods of early childhood volunteer carers to increase the quality of this branch of educational provision for young children with disabilities in Malawi.

Children with disabilities do not always follow the same pathways as ‘typically’ developing children and in low income settings they often face challenges, such as stigma and isolation. Dr Lynch, in collaboration with partners in Malawi and the UK, identified a lack of understanding around disability or difference, where people tend to shun or avoid children with disabilities; often leaving them neglected and ultimately not attending school when they become of age.

Development plans

Dr Lynch’s research project seeks to promote inclusion. He has developed and tested a set of tools, including a training programme for pre-school carers, assessment checklists sensitive to different skill areas, guidelines for developing individual developmental plans and monitoring and evaluation tools for early childhood development and education providers. The project is providing materials for children with disabilities aged three to five in the areas of stimulation, development, social and emotional skills in low income settings in Malawi. 

The research is already having an impact on national policy through the adaptation of caregiver training materials. Final outcomes will be shared with the Malawian Government and its partners in education to enhance their understanding of the different dynamics that can enable or inhibit quality early childhood development and education for children with disabilities in low resource settings.

Useful evidence

Dr Lynch commented: ‘This research is already producing useful evidence about the barriers and enablers to educating children with disabilities in early childhood centres in resource-constrained settings in Malawi, which can be shared with different stakeholders including the Malawi Government.’