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Title: Understanding experiences of vocational trainng and employment for persons with learning disabilities in Zambia : lessons for the future
Author: Koistinen, Mari Helena
ISNI:       0000 0004 2700 2540
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2006
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The World Health Organisation estimates that approximately 600 million people in the world (about ten percent in any country) experience impairments of various types, approximately eighty percent living in low income countries. Worldwide, disabled persons often have limited access to education and training which reduces their opportunities to access the employment market. As a result, disabled persons tend to be among the poorest of the poor. A high percentage of unemployment is seen as one of the central problems facing disabled people all over the world. Despite this, there is rather limited information available on training and employment opportunities for disabled persons especially in developing countries. Even less information is available on the experiences of disabled persons, particularly persons with learning disabilities, who have participated in training or employment programmes. Given this framework, this thesis explores experiences of vocational training and employment in Zambia. Field studies were conducted in Zambia from 2000 to 2003. Primary data consists of interviews with trainees in three different vocational training colleges offering training for persons with learning disabilities. In addition, graduates from vocational training colleges were interviewed. This data was combined with interviews with other relevant stakeholders such as teachers, parents and employment project personnel. There is limited research concerning this sector in Zambia and hence this thesis provides a much needed focus on a neglected area. It focuses on good practices and possible models for vocational training and employment for persons with learning disabilities. Longitudinal data was also collected through six life stories of graduates in order to learn more about the lives of persons who have been labelled as having learning disabilities. The emphasis is placed on putting oneself in the place of the other person and seeing things from her/his viewpoint. In this, the thesis is informed by symbolic interactionism. An important feature of the research was to add to the knowledge of conducting participatory research. Data was collected in co-operation with two research assistants, both having been labelled as having learning disabilities. Their roles included planning and conducting interviews with trainees and graduates, transcribing and translating recorded interviews, and to some extent, the analysis of interview data. The analysis revealed trainees' high motivation for training. Motivational factors included learning skills for employment. Employment in turn was seen as a way to secure a safer future. Most interviewees had lost several close family members, reducing the availability of the safety net of an extended family. Many viewed training as giving necessary skills for independent living. In contrast with common views on persons with learning disabilities, trainees expressed a high motivation for self-reliance and independence. For most trainees, training had had an empowering and positive impact upon their self-confidence. Concerns with regard to training included the lack of parental support and of training materials, and the introduction of training fees through structural changes that were affecting vocational training colleges at the time of data collection. The analysis of data revealed both opportunities and challenges of using a supported employment model in Zambia. Through this approach more than a hundred graduates had been placed in the open employment market and community projects. Factors affecting graduates' employment opportunities were found to include personal characteristics of the job applicant, location, gender, vocational training course, and the level of support available. Through combining data from different stakeholders relevant to vocational training and employment, recommendations are given for the planning of vocational training and employment for persons with learning disabilities. Finally, the analysis of life stories offered an opportunity to share the life experiences of six persons with the label of learning disability in Zambia. These stories raised important issues that became central to this thesis; empowerment, participation and inclusion.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available