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Improving learning outcomes for out of school children with disabilities in Zambia

LCD and the OU will provide teacher led distance learning opportunities for out of school children with disabilities in Zambia

Photo of Silvia
19 27

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What problem does your idea solve?

Once the initial hurdles of accessing education for children with disabilities are overcome, retention and progression become the most difficult barriers to remove. For girls with disabilities, their schooling experience resembles a revolving door where they experience periods of being in and out of school, with no exposure to education. Our idea proposes to provide an effective and engaging learning experience to disabled children even when they are physically out of school.

Explain your idea

LCD and the OU propose to prototype and test distance learning for out of school children with disabilities. We will take applicable activity based content, previously developed by the OU, and map it to the New Zambian national curriculum; we will then adapt it to be delivered to those learners unable to attend school using digital technologies enabling engagement at a distance. We will also adapt face to face tutorials into online activities, with a focus on rich media to support students and empower teachers to be able to use relevant technologies to deliver these activities for the benefit of the learners. Teachers will be able to take advantage of a wider programme run by the OU ( to support their pedagogical needs. Students will be linked to a class and class teacher and the OU will look to see how the activities that are run by the teacher can draw on peer support, running both synchronously and asynchronously. The model of proposed learning with a balance of self-directed and teacher led methodologies is likely to achieve more success with the upper primary group targeted. In this respect we will work with a few children who are unable to attend school or attend it irregularly and connect them with classrooms and teachers to test how effective this mode of education is for this age group and children with disabilities specifically. The use and development of Open Education Resources will promote sustainability beyond the project.

Who benefits?

Children with disabilities between 10 and 15 years old in rural and urban areas of Lusaka province who have dropped out of school or have intermittent access to education. Teachers will also benefit as they can use the materials to support in school classes and for students to review content at home. We see this as a prototype phase with limited scope of testing with few children in upper primary education, with some level of education and literacy, and a few teachers in one or two schools.

How is your idea unique?

The idea is unique as it is adapting distance learning methodologies to a younger group of learners and promoting inclusion of hard to reach learners in the school environment, through distance education. The idea is also unique as it focuses on how teachers and materials can effectively support learners at a distance. It will also explore peer support and engagement so distance learners will access the wider experience of education, including social integration. The idea will focus on specific relevant subject areas that are key for student progression, so they can be reintegrated into the traditional education system or progress into further education in the future, if that's their choice.

Tell us more about you

This idea is proposed in partnership by Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) and the Open University (OU). LCD has a long history of implementing successful inclusive education programmes in Zambia and across Africa for children with disabilities. The OU is a world leader in online and distance education providing access to education for those excluded from traditional, face-to-face learning. LCD will trial the prototype in country, while the OU will develop the content and technology to be used.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

To what extent will an online or offline solution be appropriate? If we are providing technology to students and/or teachers, how scalable is the solution? To what extent will we need to develop the solution to be relevant to specific disabilities? How do we avoid segregation of disabled children if they access education at home through technology? Digital literacy and overall literacy level – how much work will need to be done in developing students and teachers in these areas? Is there a specific subject area that presents the most need? Do we want to replicate how lessons run in classrooms or change the pedagogy? Which language(s) are the most appropriate to the local context?

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Zambia

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Idea Maturity

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

Through the consultation it became clear that an initiative that uses mobile phones will have a much better chance of success, as the majority of those consulted reported that they used mobiles. Instead of looking at how we might re-develop parts of the curriculum to be delivered in more accessible ways using online / computer based delivery, we will focus on the use of open and distance methodologies to encourage reflective practice, embed learning and develop understanding. Students will study using accessible classroom materials, and where access is limited, we will provide these materials. Mobile phones will be used to connect out of school girls with disabilities to their peers, class teachers and where possible a network of other out of school children. Where computers are available they will be utilised in the same way as mobile phones and if possible loaded with learning materials, enabling the use of more appropriate assistive technologies.

Who will implement this idea?

The approach will be implemented in collaboration with LCD (London) , The Open University (OU – Milton Keynes) and a local partner (Lusaka). The technology and learning approach will be developed by the Open University and implemented in country by LCD, local partner and OU. LCD and the OU will provide monitoring at a distance and in country through head office structures and LCD Regional Office in Lusaka. It is expected that 12 staff in total will be supporting the project (part time or less).

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

In both organisations decision making is collaborative and takes place within the departments as well as at the senior level. Both organisations have sought buy in from key decision makers at various stages in the Amplify process to ensure continuing support. The Amplify project is a multi-partner project and decisions have been made collectively. We also consult in country to make sure our ideas respond to the challenges our beneficiaries experience. The OU and LCD understand the importance of learning (including learning from failure), flexibility and change in the design and implementation. Furthermore, as we are agile organisations with strong cultures of learning, we will be able to iterate during the programme implementation to make sure we can achieve impact.

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

We were attracted to apply for Amplify challenge because of its emphasis on innovative solutions and creativity. Tackling educational exclusion for girls with disabilities in areas where there is poverty and weak infrastructure is very challenging. Amplify’s approach enabled our two organisations to work with beneficiaries in a collaborative way to come up with a solution, rather than being constricted by narrow donor mandates.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

At an individual level, our research has shown that infrastructure (including buildings and transport) is not accessible. This means that many children with disabilities are unable to make the journey to school. Even if they are able to make the journey, many children with disabilities have to rely on parents or friends giving them a lift or sometimes even carrying them on foot. This precarious situation means that children with disabilities are often out of school. At the System Level, many children with physical disabilities can be educated at mainstream schools, but in reality many children with disabilities are referred to special schools or are out of school. Schools systems and teachers lack the skills, knowledge and approaches to implement inclusive approaches.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

Impact: By 2022, we aim to have scale-able, sustainable solutions in place within Zambia to reintegrate out of school children with disabilities back into mainstream education – using a mix of high and low tech approaches. This would contribute to LCD’s target of helping 15000 out of school children with disabilities to access education. Question: How to ensure that the government prioritizes the re-integration of children with disabilities back into education when resources are stretched?

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Less than 6 months

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • Under 5 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Above $1,000,000 USD

If your team/idea/organization has a website, please share the URL below.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bob Achgill

Hello Silvia,

Will the free His Hands Reader mother tongue literacy videos with local hand sign support help your remote education needs? The HHR app has a 1742 video hand sign dictionary subtitled in three languages: local mother tongue, local business language and English. Also, video reading primers with word by word hand sign assist. And the app runs on the lowest cost smart phones in Africa... the $30 type.

It only takes 30 hours to add a mother tongue to His Hands Reader system. All 40+ mother tongues of Zambia can easily be accommodated. If all young children will use His Hands Reader videos to learn to read this will produce an atmosphere of inclusion for Deaf and disabled.... Here's why.

Imagine a time when every Hearing and Deaf child can learn to read from the smart phone in their village...hearing and seeing their mother tongue and hand sign on the app?

The time is now!

Do you know someone who would like to volunteer to add their mother tongue or hand signs to the free His Hands Reader literacy system?

The mother tongue literacy videos with hand sign assist opens a path for total inclusion of deaf children among hearing. As hearing children use the mother tongue literacy videos with hand sign assist they naturally learn the means to communicate with deaf playmates.

And don't over look that the mother tongue literacy videos help Hearing children in the Multi lingual Education classroom.

It takes only 30 hours to add your mother tongue. Here are the instructions to volunteer...

Here is an example of the result of volunteers in Jordan who added their local business and mother tongue languages and local hand signs...


Bob Achgill
Helping Deaf and Hearing learn to read so they can read His Word

Here is a little more detail...

Would you like to volunteer to add your hand signs or mother tongue to

These are the ONLY qualifications needed to add your Mother Tongue language or hand signs to the :
1) Native speaker of your mother tongue or hand signs.
2) Read and write your mother tongue (not needed for adding hand signs)
3) Know English well enough to translate the 1742 basic Words to your MT or hand signs
4) Access to Android phone to use the HHR app to add your language. (1.5GB RAM, 3 GB free space)
5) total 30 hours to add your text with voice or video your hand signs.

Photo of Silvia

-Sometimes in Africa it's really difficult for the families to understand the importance of school and learning process. How do you plan to guarantee that children will be learning?

Within our project we have planned a series of workshops and trainings with parents on the project to ensure their buy in from the beginning of the programme.

We have refined our project since our user map and beneficiary consultation. We now envision that the core content of the curriculum would be delivered using existing processes (made accessible for people with disabilities using LCD expertise) that have been adapted for home learning. Mobile technology would be used to encourage reflective discussion with peers and teachers, and provide an avenue for teachers to support at a distance. We believe that this component is an essential part of learning.

There will be a process of assessment so the teacher, parent and child can keep track of their own progress. LCD has been working in the field of inclusive education in Zambia for the last three years, and has developed strategies to work with parents who may be reluctant to prioritise education for their child. We have managed to achieve a huge amount of success in this area, and in our current programme we have facilitated the access of 500 children with disabilities into school.

Photo of Silvia

Hi All,

We have reviewed the questions below and will respond in comments. As our answers are quite long - I will answer in separate comments.

What do you envision as a 5-8 year plan to educate this girls and enrol them with the society?

The project we have envisioned is designed to reach the most marginalised girls with disabilities within society. Inaccessible infrastructure, poverty and attitudinal barriers all contribute to this exclusion, and projects that seek to tackle this problem must be multifaceted. The girls we are targeting for the pilot are age 11, and have intermittent access to school. For our Amplify project, we are envisioning targeting a small number of girls to ensure that we able to refine and learn from the approach before seeking further funding from additional sources and buy-in from the Government of Zambia . A five year plan to fully educate out of school girls with disabilities (although boys with disabilities would also benefit) and ensure their inclusion would involve the following aspects:

1) Learn from the pilot phase of the project and adapt the approach to be more applicable to a wider audience
2) Ensure that each child targeted by the project has a bespoke plan to re-enrol them back into mainstream school
3) Sensitise Ministry of Education, school management and government on the needs of girls with disabilities and the potential of using other technologies and creative strategies to overcome challenges related to accessibility.
4) Work with the government to tackle the root causes of disability exclusion through campaigning for the full implementation of the UNCRPD.
5) Work with schools and vocational institutes to adopt inclusive practices and to make the most of available technology to involve children with disabilities.
6) Engage with people with disabilities, their families and community members to understand the importance of educating children with disabilities and to tackle negative attitudes relating to disability
7) Engage with tertiary education and employers to ensure that after girls finish secondary school they have viable career options and the ability to move on to tertiary education or employment should they wish to do so

It is LCD’s ambition that the solution proposed to the Amplify Challenge would act as way to re-integrate out of school girls with disabilities back into mainstream schooling, unless there are extenuating circumstances that mean that only option is for the child to learn full time at home. A five to eight year programme for out of school girls with disabilities would involve using a multi stakeholder approach to create the support mechanism necessary to fully or partly integrate children with disabilities back into education. LCD has been implementing an inclusive education project across Zambia for the past three years, and has developed approaches and best practice related to the above.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Silvia and Team,

We’re excited to share with you questions from the Amplify team and an external set of experts. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

-What do you envision as a 5-8 year plan to educate this girls and enroll them with the society?
-Sometimes in Africa it's really difficult for the families to understand the importance of school and learning process. How do you plan to guarantee that children will be learning?
-What kind of equipments will these children need to have at home? Are they able to use the same kind of equipments or the same kind of tutorials/classes?
-Do you have local partners that you intend to collaborate with?
-What hardware technologies will be used (smart-phones, tablets...)? What methods of connectivity will be used? How will these be paid for?
-Is this initiative specifically intended for girls?
-How will out-of-school people with disabilities be encouraged/enabled to participate?
-How will teachers be encouraged to spend the considerable additional time to support such an initiative? Will they be paid extra to do so?

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - June 4 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Have questions? Email us at

Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of Imogen

Hi. We are interested in your idea, as we (ChildFund New Zealand and local partners the Luangwa Child Development Agency) are also looking at how to reach disabled children in remote areas of Zambia. We are seeking to address the access issue through providing outreach education and therapy services using a mobile classroom. It would be great to collaborate somehow as I think the using distance learning, potentially with new technologies, is exciting and could link very well with our work and ideas.

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Silvia,

Very excited to learn more about your work in this next phase of the Challenge!

Any chance you could find an image to go along with your submission? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there.

Photo of Silvia

Dear Ashley,

I would like to upload a picture but I don't see any Edit Contribution button, maybe because in this phase applicants are not allowed to edit their ideas?



Photo of Shivaram S Deshpande

Introducing technology into the distance learning mode is very innovative. When the formal education system is not accessible and affordable for CWDs/AWDs  the choice remains distance mode education. It is a great concept. This mode of education is highly reachable and accessible to all which is affordable as well to all CWDs/ PWDs. It allows CWDs/ PWDs to explore ICT to use the optimal extent to be educated.

Photo of Tim

[Implementing partner] Yes this is true, although i think we always need to be mindful of the level of access to ICTs and the associated digital literacy in order to maximise the benefits.

Photo of Jamie

Hi Silvia,
I think it would be really interesting to have a further conversation about how to use technology in the Zambian context. Literacy across Zambia is very low, as is smartphone penetration so as someone working in mobile technology, we have seen that it is really important to meet your beneficiaries with the technologies they already have at home. Otherwise you may end up wasting resources pushing tools onto households that may not fit the setting (think tablets or smart phones where people don't have electricity and would have to pay to charge the device all the time). Would love to talk further and see how we might be able to advise on best practices or even offer some viable tools to enhance your solution!

Photo of Tim

Hi Jamie
(Implementing partner) I agree completely about going where the technology is not trying to push new technologies all the time. Part of this next phase is an analysis of this area. If you have any thoughts or information on this it would be great to hear them.

Photo of Nigel

A great plan that could work very well.

Photo of Gordon

Sounds like a well considered and appropriate initiative from two respected organisations who, when combined, will be capable of great things

Photo of Claire

Sounds a very positive step to enable many more disabled people to have an education

Photo of Trust Mutekwa

I respect empowerment of children with disabilities through education. Keep going.

Photo of Silvia

Thanks for commenting on our idea.
The "Tell more about you" section has only two characters left so I am not able to add anything. Can I add on the key factors of successful implementation of inclusive education programmes in a comment box instead?

As for the image, unfortunately I cannot upload any as senior people in my organisation who need to sign off on external communication are not in the office this week.

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Silvia, adding to the comment box works just fine, excited to learn more!

Photo of Silvia

The key factors of successful implementation of our Inclusive Education programmes in Africa can be found in our model itself.
Leonard Cheshire Disability has a holistic approach to inclusive education of children with disabilities which puts children at the centre of the approach but also engages with the relevant actors that have a stake in the education of children and can make a difference to the inclusiveness of education.
We therefore work with teachers, training them to promote the use of inclusive teaching methods in the classroom; we work with parents of children with disabilities facilitating the creation of parents’ groups to share experiences; and we engage the wider communities of the children we support by organising awareness raising sessions which aim to change the attitude towards disability, increasing understanding and acceptance.

Because of this approach, the communities we work with have the ownership of the inclusive education intervention and directly contribute to make change happen in the lives of children with disabilities making our interventions successful.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Silvia, thanks so much for sharing! In the 'Tell us more about you" section can you share a little more about what some of the key factors have allowed you to implement successful inclusive education programs?

Also, any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.