Dr Patrick Businge

Department: Graduate School of Education
Discipline: Education
Research Centre/Unit: Special Educational Needs and Disability

Project Summary

Thesis title:

Education, disability and armed conflict: A theory of Africanising Education in Uganda


Education in conflict settings is a new field of inquiry and there is a paucity of research about this topic as regards the education of children with disabilities. This qualitative study set out to gain insight into how children with disabilities are educated in the conflict setting of Uganda and how it could be improved.

This study used a critical, constructivist and grounded research style to generate data. It was critical because its aims and questions focused on addressing the injustices experienced by children with disabilities. It was constructivist as both the participants and myself co-constructed knowledge. It also had some grounded theory features such as emergence and iteration in its methods and tools. For instance, it had three distinct but interrelated stages. The first stage involved an exploratory study which used online methods to gather data from 27 participants who had lived or worked in Uganda. The second stage was an experiential study in two sites in Uganda which used observation and interview methods to collect data from 35 participants. The third and final stage synthesised significant codes and memos constructed from the exploratory and experiential stages into a theory of education.

There were four main findings in this study. First, it revealed the nature and extent of the challenges faced by all children living in conflict settings: forced displacement, dehumanisation, rampant poverty and weakened leadership. Second, it discovered that disabled people experienced rejection in their communities and invisibility in the provision of services such as education. Whilst these practices prevailed in non-conflict situations, they were intensified in conflict settings and were counter to the African beliefs on what it meant to be human and live in a community. Third, education in Uganda was likened to disabled people and considered ‘creeping’ or ‘crippled’ because of demotivated teachers, disengaged parents, ailing infrastructure and decreasing quality.  Fourth and last, participants had visions of educational change which involved modifying it and transforming it into an education that develops conscience in children, reinforces hope and widens opportunities.

This research made the following original contributions: generating original data, conceptualising Africanised interviews, and constructing a theory of Africanising education. According to my knowledge I could claim originality to this study in that by 2012, no other study had generated original data on the interfaces between education, disability and conflict in Northern Uganda using a critical, constructivist, and grounded research style. In addition, this research style led to the emergence of Africanised interviews: interviews embedded in the customs and practices of the African people. Importantly, this study led to the construction of a theory which contained critical knowledge on how Africanisation could be thought of and brought about in the setting. Africanisation was understood as the process of using African philosophies such as ‘ubuntu’ and communalism to transform the ‘creeping’ education system, reform the colonial curriculum, renew teacher professionalism, mend communities, and re-humanise the relationships between disabled and non-disabled people.  Africanisation also entailed decolonising scholarship and this involved quoting African scholars and exposing their philosophies which had been marginalised by Western scholars. 

To read my full doctoral thesis, search etheses at Exeter University.

Supervisory Team


Dr Hannah Anglin-Jaffe and Professor Brahm Norwich


Professor Clive Harber and Professor Jane Seale

Wider Research Interests

Equality, disability, rights and identity