University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 12.5.2018 M.A. Said Juma (Faculty of Education and Psychology, Special Education)

Start date: May 12, 2018 12:00 PM

End date: May 12, 2018 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, Ruusupuisto, RUU D104 Helena

M.A. (Psychology) Said Juma defends his doctoral dissertation in Special Education "Developing inclusive education policy and practice in Zanzibar: Collaborative action research". Opponent Professor Lani Florian (University of Edinburgh) and Custos Docent, Senior Researcher Elina Lehtomäki (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

Said Juma, photographer Katrina Hämäläinen
The research aimed to explore the inclusive education development process in Zanzibar education system. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous archipelago in the United Republic of Tanzania. Specifically, the research examines how the concept of inclusive education is contextualised and defined in Zanzibar, the introduction of relevant legislation to support inclusive education, how key national and international stakeholders contributed to the process, how in-service teachers are supported to implement IE practices in their schools, and how pre-service teacher education is reformed towards inclusion.

The researcher draws on the social model of learning difficulties and disabilities (Booth & Ainscow, 2002) as well as Vygotsky’s social constructivism, which place the learner at the centre. The social model emphasizes that education systems need to be flexible and adapt to accommodate all learners regardless their (dis)abilities. It is about changing the education system to fit the learner and not changing the learner to fit the system.

Social constructivism as a theory of learning emphasises the social contexts of learning as well as hands-on and real-world experiences such as action research.


The research has revealed that the process of developing inclusive education in Zanzibar has been a result of initiatives from the individual activists, Non-Governmental Organisations, the government and the community.

One of the challenges in the implementation of inclusive education that has been facing education systems in the sub-Saharan African region, including Zanzibar, is teacher preparation and teacher professional development for inclusion.

Apart from the policies and regulations on inclusive education, teachers need to be well prepared and supported to improve their pedagogical practices so that all children can learn to their full potential.

Inclusive education has brought new challenges to the classroom and other sites of educational provision. It is obvious that changes are necessary not only in teacher preparation but also in the way schools develop inclusive cultures and transform themselves into learning organisations.

In this research, the author has attempted to show how collaborative action research (CAR) can help teachers learn and be supported to improve their practice and increase their pupils’ learning, participation and achievement, as they implement inclusion in their schools.

He conducted action research with 20 teachers from two primary schools. With his role as a facilitator and a critical friend, the teachers learned how to conduct collaborative action research as a professional development model for promoting inclusion.

The research has revealed that CAR is a useful tool in fostering teachers’ collaborative work culture, their pedagogical problem-solving skills and confidence in identifying and solving barriers to learning among all students.

However, the participating teachers reported challenges related to time, motivation and report writing skills in undertaking CAR projects. 

The findings have also revealed the need for school-based approach when introducing action research in schools. CAR can be a useful tool with which to support teachers in their professional development as they endeavour to improve their pedagogical approaches and support for all children.

From their action research projects, the teachers also gained insights into the development of inclusive pre-service and in-service teacher education. They recommended the integration of CAR and inclusive education in pre-service teacher education and use of the district-based teacher resource centres in fostering teacher professional development for inclusive education.   

This research has helped to change teachers’ mindsets and attitudes towards conducting research. It has shown that if they are well-supported, teachers can act as researchers, even amid teaching and the other responsibilities of their workplaces. They can bridge the gap between research and practice.

These teachers once viewed research as something conducted only by experts and felt that teachers did not have time to conduct research. The findings of this research may rejuvenate the feeling that teachers can be more productive in their workplaces if they are systematically supported.


Said Juma’s research is relevant for the context of Zanzibar and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which are still struggling with conceptualising and implementing inclusive education. It offers a contribution to teacher professional development for inclusion.


The research has shown that there are a number of important reforms which need to be made in teacher education.

These include

•    making IE as an overarching concept in both pre-service and in-service teacher education,
•    integrating CAR in pre-service teacher education curricula,
•    using teacher resource centres to foster teacher professional development for inclusion
•    using familiar language of instruction for all subjects and
•    reviewing the teaching methods and materials used in schools.

Reforms in teacher education curricula are needed to respond to increasingly diverse learning needs and educational changes. The reforms can include reviewing educational policies and redesigning teacher education curricula to accommodate principles and practices of inclusive education. 

Juma concludes that the implementation of inclusive education does not require a blueprint for all countries but there is a need for Zanzibar and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to develop policy reforms and practices that are realistic, appropriate, sustainable, effective and relevant to their culture and context, rather than importing solutions from other cultures or contexts.

Inclusive education needs to be promoted as a cross-cutting issue rather than being a responsibility of the ministry responsible for education only. The success of IE requires a multi-sectoral approach that draws support from various sectors involving wide-ranging gradual transformations of the entire system of education. This is precisely because no single sector can bring about all the necessary changes for inclusive education development. Developing inclusive education requires a concerted approach, one in which all the educational stakeholders (e.g., the ministry of education, other key ministries, learners, teachers, curriculum developers, school inspectors, teacher education institutions, non-governmental organisations and the community) have a shared vision of, and positive attitude towards, IE and everyone plays his or her part.

Background information

Said K. Juma had his secondary school education at Benbella Secondary School in Zanzibar, Tanzania (1983-1985). He went to Lumumba Secondary School in Zanzibar in 1986 and completed Advanced Level Secondary Education in 1990 and then joined the Institute of Kiswahili and Foreign Languages, Zanzibar where he graduated with Diploma in Language Studies with Education (1991). He obtained his B.A and M.A. both from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1995 and 2006 respectively. Said Juma began his doctoral studies in the Faculty of Education (now the Faculty of Education and Psychology) of the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland in 2014 and successfully completed the studies in 2018. From 1996 to 2006 he worked as a secondary school teacher at Lumumba Secondary School and then joined the State University of Zanzibar as an assistant lecturer in the School of Education from 2007 to date.

Further information:

Said K. Juma, mobile: +358 465 23 79 00

Email: /

Publication information:

Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä, 2018. 113 p. (Jyväskylä Studies in Education, Psychology and Social Research ISSN 0075-4625; 611) ISBN 978-951-39-7423-7 (nid.) ISBN 978-951-39-7424-4 (PDF)


Developing inclusive education policy and practice in Zanzibar: Collaborative action research.

This doctoral dissertation, which consists of three interrelated sub-studies and an overarching summary, explores the inclusive education development process in Zanzibar, Tanzania. The purpose of the research is to contribute to the development of inclusive policies and practices in order to increase the presence, participation and achievement of all learners.

The overarching research question investigated in this research was as follows: How is inclusive education developed in Zanzibar, and how can it be better integrated into the education system? This question was divided into six sub-questions. Each of the three interrelated sub-studies in this dissertation focused on specific sub-questions.

The data included several documents related to inclusive education development; interviews conducted with 20 teachers from two primary schools; these teachers’ reflective diaries, which were kept during their action research projects, and the researcher’s reflective diary. The data were analysed using qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis.

The findings revealed that Zanzibar has taken several measures to make its education system more inclusive. These measures include acknowledging inclusive education in its 2006 education policy, drafting an inclusive education policy, introducing a re-entry policy for school girls who become pregnant, increasing the number of years of compulsory education from 10 to 12, removing school fees for both primary and secondary schools, providing in-service teacher training for inclusive education, recruiting inclusive education and life skills advisors and resource teachers, and introducing inclusive education courses in teacher training colleges.

It is also worth noting that the teachers in this research experienced collaborative action research as valuable in developing their inclusive practices, despite the challenges they encounter in the course of conducting their projects. Despite its advantages, collaborative action research demands additional time from the teachers beyond their teaching responsibilities. The research participants found the teacher resource centres to be key in enhancing their professional development.

This research shows the need to review the teaching methods and materials used in schools. Reforms in teacher education curricula are also needed in response to increasingly diverse learning needs and educational changes. In addition, this research emphasises the integration of inclusive education and collaborative action research into teacher education so that all teachers can teach inclusively. Both school-based organisational learning and school–community and school–university collaborations can foster collaborative school cultures and inclusive teacher education.

Keywords: inclusive education, collaborative action research, teachers, inclusive teacher education, professional development, social constructivism, scaffolding, Zanzibar, sub-Saharan Africa.


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Said Juma
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