Dimensions of Ableism: Educational and Developmental Ability-Expectations

Autor:in - Julia Biermann
Themenbereiche: Kultur, Disability Studies
Textsorte: Zeitschriftenartikel
Releaseinfo: Erschienen in: Zeitschrift für Inklusion, Ausgabe 02/2015 Zeitschrift für Inklusion (02/2015)
Copyright: © Julia Biermann 2015


This paper offers a reflection on results of a case study on inclusive education conducted in Nigeria. It takes up Gregor Wolbring`s (2008, 257) suggestion to look at ability from a broader perspective and thus focuses on the complex relationship between different dimensions of ableism stemming from the construction of special educational groups and needs as well as developing countries. These constructions entail ability-expectations which will be examined by combining Wolbring`s and Fiona Campbell´s approach to ableism and Jan Weisser`s approach to disability. The analysis reveals striking parallels between educational and developmental ableism, which rest on a dichotomy between students groups and a country in need of specialised support, and those able to deliver this support. As a result, the paper suggests to add developmentalism as another dimension of ableism and to reflect on its effects in comparative education research.

1. Introduction

This paper utilizes the concept of ableism to reflect on results drawn from a case study on education in Nigeria. The case study is part of a comparative study on the establishment of inclusive education systems in Nigeria and Germany, under influence of the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD)[1]. The study examines on a discursive level, first, how special needs in education are conceptualized and how learners accordingly get categorized and assigned to segregated, separated or joint learning environments. Secondly, it explores in what ways the UN CRPD has altered respective rules, ideas and norms of both education systems which are, due to the ratification of the UN CRPD, obliged to become inclusive. As ideas, norms and rules regulate access to education and placement in schools, the question is to what extent the UN CRPD`s legislative mandate contributes to alter, reject or preserve knowledge regarding educational exclusion, segregation (in special schools) and separation (in special classes) or inclusion (in the regular classroom). Results derive from the analysis of documents and interviews conducted with representatives of organisations involved in the field of education or disability in both countries.

The analysis of documents and interviews has shown that approaches to inclusive education are tied to special education and challenges in the implementation process are justified with Nigeria being a “developing country” (cf. Biermann 2015a, Biermann 2015b). These approaches stabilise the construction of special students with special needs and developing countries alike. The more I elaborated on these constructions, the more I began to wonder about parallels between them: some groups of students or countries are in need of specialised support, because they are seen as not being able (yet) to achieve certain expectations – in terms of education or development. Therefore, this paper comes as a reflection on logics that sustain these attributions. Both constructions are assessed through asking about inherent ability-expectations that maintain the “sentiment of certain social groups and social structures that value and promote certain abilities” (Wolbring 2008, 253). Accordingly, (the concept of) ableism is deployed as an analytical lens to reflect on knowledge systems that stabilise constructions of special needs and groups in education alongside developing countries in their symbolic, but not material-physical, dimension on a discursive level. The area of investigation is defined as follows: When talking about the education system the focus is exclusively on the field of basic education. Basic Education encompasses nine years of formal schooling (six years primary and three years junior secondary education) as anchored in the compulsory school law, the Universal Basic Education Act from 2004. When talking about development, reference is given to the system of development cooperation, especially organisations and practices within the framework of Official Development Assistance (ODA). Through this system Nigeria becomes eligible to receive aid – in form of financial, technical or personal resources - from so-called donors (OECD 2015). Donors are governments, their executive agencies and international agencies (cf. OECD 2008) as well as non-governmental organisations since there exist “complementary relationships” (Rottenburg 2009, xv).

In the following section, I will outline the conceptual approach of this paper, which combines the work of Disability Studies scholars Gregor Wolbring, Fiona Kumari Campbell and Jan Weisser. Section 3 reflects, based on the analysis of documents, how the constructions of students as special or of countries as developing both disclose ability-expectations that produce experiences of and knowledge about dis/abledness. A comparison then reveals remarkable parallels in terms of ability-expectations implied in these constructions that contribute to the hierarchical positioning of individual needs within the school system and of a country (and its society) in the field of development cooperation. Section 4 concludes that this reflection has revealed a further dimension of ableism, for which the term developmentalism is coined.

[1] The full title of my PhD-study is: "The Influence of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the Development of Inclusive School Systems in Nigeria and Germany".

2. Conceptual Approach

The reflection on ability-expectations and preferences entailed in the fields of education and development cooperation combines the approaches of Wolbring (2008) and Campbell (2008) to ableism with Weisser`s (2007) conceptualisation of disability. To combine these authors’ approaches allows to reflect on dis/abling conditions in and of different social fields, as a conflict between expectations and abilities. Weisser (2007) focuses on situations in which disability is produced through the following experience: something that is expected to work does not work (Weisser 2007, 240) and thus challenges the construction of disability based on alleged specific or solid attributes of humans. Instead, this situational experience causes a conflict between abilities and expectations, what he calls “disability 1”.

For example, a child got access to a school and joins a classroom with other children of his/her age and is correspondingly expected to learn and acquire specific academic and social competences within a particular time frame. The child, however, does not achieve these expectations due to various factors. In this situation of disability 1, expectations; set for example by the curriculum; are not met by the child`s abilities. Another example: A country becomes an independent nation state after being conquered and ruled by colonisers for almost a century. As part of the international community of nation states it is expected - among other things - to maintain a formal school system and run a modern bureaucracy. This social transformation, that follows the former colonisers` pursuit of modernisation as progress, comes with challenges in its implementation. Thus, developmental expectations are not duly met. Thus, in both situations something that is expected to work does not work. What options are now available to handle this irritation? Historically grown knowledge and practices can provide a solution. For example, tracing the first irritation to a student’s individual “deviation” and thus diagnosing the child as learning disabled, in need of special education support delivered by special teachers in special classes or schools, segregated or separated from his former classmates. Or setting up a new kind of international organisational network of development cooperation, whose objective is to support the country`s social and economic development through funding as well as technical and scientific expertise (cf. Rottenburg 2009).

Weisser discusses these conflict resolutions as “disability 2” (2007, 43). The term encompasses historically grown knowledge and practices of a society that can influence conflicts emerging through the non-fulfilment of ability-expectations. More specifically, these conflicts challenge “a priori presumption[s] of compulsory abledness” (Campbell 2008, 156), in terms of education or development. At this point the concept of ableism comes into play, because it embraces “hegemonic ability preferences which inaugurate the norm” (Hutcheon & Wolbring 2012, 1), and which are entailed in the education or development cooperation system. Accordingly, “ableism values certain abilities, which leads to disableism” (Wolbring 2008, 252). Disableism can be summarised as “a set of assumptions and practices promoting the differential or unequal treatment of people because of actual or presumed disabilities” (Campbell 2008, 152). Disableism emerges in education systems when children with disabilities or special needs are separated or segregated in special educational tracks (cf. UN 2013). But disableism can also emerge in the system of development cooperation that facilitates a hierarchy of knowledge and practices and favours those originating in the “developed world” (Rottenburg 2009). The appreciation of certain abilities finally justifies hierarchies, inequalities and discrimination within social fields and among social actors (see Wolbring 2008, 253).

Combining Weisser, Campbell and Wolbring, thus allows studying how ableism is maintained in the fields of education and development cooperation through ability-expectation-conflicts. It is argued that these conflicts facilitate the emergence of special educational groups and developing countries on the discursive level. Therefore, the logical structure on which both constructions rest will be analysed. The overarching question is: What ability-expectations are formulated in documents and interviews, gathered during a six-month research stay in 2012/2013 in Nigeria, that deal with special and inclusive education along with development? Or, to put it more bluntly: Who emerges as abled and who becomes disabled through the norms that maintain the envisaged education and development cooperation systems? To answer this question, I use Weisser`s proposal to ask for two things in order to assess the emergence of dis/abledness: What becomes im/possible to realise and by what means? (2007, 245) This question differentiates between operations and resources and allows analysing the different, but entangled, dimensions of ableism. These are embedded in the discourse about inclusive and special education in Nigeria and embrace tensions between abilities and expectations in relation to education and development.

3. Ability-Expectations entailed in Education and Development

This sections asks, “what is expected to work but does not work?” to elaborate on abilityexpectations entailed in the fields of basic education and development cooperation in the Nigerian context. To develop the argument, I will first illustrate educational and developmental expectations enshrined in recent education policies and then highlight their parallels. This is followed by an explanation for the entanglement of educational and developmental abilityexpectations – which determine, sustain and reinforce each other – by referring to the colonial legacies of the models of schooling and development promoted through Official Development Assistance.

The analysis is based on selected documents from a corpus, which in total comprises 62 documents from the 1960s onwards, compiled using Grounded-Theory-Methodology (Strauss & Corbin 2008; in detail Biermann (in press)). The corpus includes documents from the executive, legislative and the judiciary, open-access documents from organisations in the field of education and disability and documents the interviewees referred to. This paper discusses the most recent phase in the development of Nigeria`s formal school system beginning in the late 1990s, characterised by the country`s return to civilian rule and the revitalisation of attempts to secure basic education under the umbrella of international programs (cf. Biermann 2015, 299). The analysis is based on selected policy documents and laws enacted at the federal level and will be substantiated with statistical data.

3.1 Document Analysis

In Nigeria, educational change and development cooperation are interwoven and inextricably dependent, because “serious government policies in Nigeria are driven by international trends, treaties, agreements, manifestos, and directives” (Agunloye 2012, 19). The development of educational policies and laws by the government and its agencies`, in conjunction with international development partners, has increased immensely since return to civilian rule in 1999. Frameworks such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA) guide the engagement of international development partners, who support the development of education financially, while the UN and bilateral agencies have “focused on capacity building, technical assistance, experimental initiatives and research” (Federal Ministry of Education 2005, 227).

The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act[2], Nigeria`s compulsory school law, was enacted in 2004 to meet the MDG and EFA goals. Remarkably, the distinction between basic education and universal basic education is tied to the notion of special groups (see UBE Act 2004, Part IV, 15.). While basic education refers to early childhood care and education as well as nine years of formal schooling, universal basic education additionally encompasses adult literacy, non-formal education, skills acquisition programmes and the education of special groups. These “special groups” are: “nomads and migrants, girl-child and women, almajiri [qur’anic students, J.B.], street children and disabled groups”, vulnerable to exclusion from and/or marginalisation within the formal school system and thus confronted with multiple inequalities and reduced learning opportunities.

However, there`s a difference between special groups and groups eligible for special education. Not all special groups are prone to special education, which is meant for children with special educational needs. The National Policy on Education (NPE, 4th Edition 2004)[3] refers to three groups with “special needs” for whom special education is envisaged: the disabled, the disadvantaged, and the gifted and talented (see also Federal Ministry of Education 2008). “The Disadvantaged” are children from nomadic and migrant communities “who due to their lifestyles (…) are unable to have access to conventional education provisions”; the same is true for “The Gifted and Talented”, who “find themselves insufficiently challenged by the regular school”. A specific group of children with special needs are those with a disability (see also Mba 2002 [1991]), who are overly excluded and stigmatised; they are, as one interviewee said, “the less privileged among the less privileged” (N_1116). “The Disabled” are, according to the NPE, people with visual, hearing, speech or physical and health impairments, learning disabilities, multiple handicaps or who face mental or emotional challenges. Special Education Section 10 of the NPE demands for these groups that: “All necessary facilities that would ensure easy access to education shall be provided, e.g. inclusive education or integration of special classes and units into ordinary/public schools under the UBE scheme” (Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004, 49). Similarly, the yet-to-be-passed Disability Bill mandates: “All (public) schools (...) shall be run to be inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities, accordingly every school shall have – (….) (b) special facilities for the effective education of persons with disabilities” (The Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria 2013, 23 (1)). Inclusive education complements the path to universal basic education (nine years of schooling) and is tied to the growth of special education settings and expertise.

Access to education in public schools is foremost tied to region, socio-economic status, gender, and dis/ability (NPC/RTI International 2011; Federal Ministry of Education 2009).[4] In total numbers, 10.5 million children are not in school (UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office 2014, 32), the highest number worldwide which has increased over the last decade (EFA GMR 2012). In the last decade, the rural-urban divide in terms of access to schooling and primary educational attainment among the poorest households has even got worse (UNESCO 2015, 81, 83). More than 70 per cent of women in the northern Nigeria have never attended school, compared to less than 20 per cent in the south; the rates for males differ from around 50 per cent in the north to less than 10 per cent in the South (NPC/RTI International 2011, 12). Boys from the north who attend qu’ranic schools (so-called almajiris), however, constitute a highly stigmatised group among the out-of-school children (see Hoechner 2011). The majority of persons with disabilities (52.6 per cent) is not covered by any form of education (Federal Republic of Nigeria 2011, 99); only few public and some private schools, founded and maintained by churches, philanthropic organisations or parents, cater to students with disabilities, mainly with sensory impairments (cf. Agunloye 2012, 18).[5] Statistically, the three prevailing reasons for school abstention for almost half of primary-school-age children are “distance to school, child labour, and monetary costs” (NPC/RTI International 2011, 91). Even though UBE guarantees free education, financial burdens arise from expense for school uniforms, learning materials, transportation, examination fees and contributions to so-called Parent-Teachers-Associations. Therefore, the current public school system complicates access, attendance and completion of schooling for children, especially from poorer households, due to substantial financial burdens, unfavourable distances and timeframes.[6] As a result, only one group emerges as not being special: urban, school-aged, able-bodied males from families with a high socio-economic background. For them, the completion of primary education is a reality since 1998. Contrary, this will not become a reality for boys from the poorest households until 2060 (cf. UNESCO 2014a, 10). Accordingly, it is not surprising that the highest attendance rates are also recorded for this group (see NPC/RTI International 2011).

This data proves empirically that only one group benefits from the current school system - and thus emerges not as special. The main challenge for Nigeria`s formal school system, in terms developmental expectations, is thus to provide access and equity for excluded, marginalised and vulnerable groups, among which children with disabilities are their most vivid expression. Consequently, being in or not in school brings about the overarching moment of differentiation that determines the emergence of special groups in education. Special education, on the other hand, aims at a specific group among these, i.e. those with special needs, especially deriving from disabilities.

3.2 Reflections on Educational and Developmental Ability-Expectations

Using a perspective from ableism to confront both constructions brings us back to the question: What is expected to work but does not work (Weisser 2007, 240)? Based on the analysis so far, the answer to this question is as follows: Nigeria is expected to provide universal access to education in a formal school system for all children. However, a considerable proportion of children, especially with disabilities, are largely excluded from education in public schools. Thus, Nigeria will not meet the internationally set education benchmarks as anchored in the MDG and EFA frameworks. Therefore, not reaching this goal (among others) precludes the country`s socioeconomic development and progress. The analysis` next step is to elaborate on inherent abilityexpectation covered in the construction of, firstly, the special educational group of students with disabilities and, secondly, that of a “developing” country.

Especially children with disabilities are seen as different “from average physical, sociopsychological and mental behaviours to such extent that they cannot profitably benefit from regular educational programmes” (Oladejo & Oladejo 2011, 128). Because “their basic learning needs cannot be addressed or met easily using regular school practice (…) they require special practices to meet their basic learning needs” (Andzayi 2002, 10). This assessment has an irritation at its core and revolves around the non-fulfilment of expectations of this group of students. Expectations about average individual, social and bodily abilities and needs, for which regular schools can provide for, construct the “regular student”. However, this is not specific for the Nigerian case but characteristic for discourses on special education, when they form a separate educational track in hierarchical formal school systems (for Germany see Pfahl 2011, Biermann & Powell 2014). The irritation – that regular schools cannot provide for the needs of all children, especially those with disabilities – does not emerge as a questioning of barriers inherent in the system. These barriers can be enshrined in geographical, gender, age and ability related expectations and in the lack of support services at regular schools. The irritation is hardly discussed in relation to disabling conditions, but re-enters the discursive arena through defining these groups as special or in need of special education. Therefore, the child that does not fit becomes special and eligible for special education – thus knowledge and practices are provided on how to handle the irritation. However, “many Nigerians have not benefited from special education” which has “remained rudimentary in its operation and limited in its functionality” (Obiakor et al. 2012, 24, 34).

The benefits of schooling - as promised under the umbrella of “global speak” supported through donor funding (Steiner-Khamsi 2010, 331) - have hardly become a reality for the majority of children and youths until now (cf. UNESCO 2015). The country is even more expected to meet certain expectations and norms of socio-economic development as enshrined in international development agendas and goals, including universal access to education for all children. In recent years, the international education agenda has moved to inclusive education, a goal to which Nigeria has subscribed by ratifying the UN CRPD.[7] Universal access to an inclusive education system, however, has not become a reality yet, because the public school system only provides educational attainment for some students. Not fulfilling these expectations, conversely, proofs the need for further support. Accordingly, one interviewee, working in an international organisation on educational change, believes “that Nigeria is more a type of society that need a lot of knowledge, and information is to flow into the system, so that it can influence behaviour, it can influence government and all this” (N_0111). In contrast, another interviewee, working for a national agency, states: “what is preached today is inclusive education (...) But in our own part of the world we are trying to encourage it, but I know that it has challenges. Everywhere, the, your own countries or other countries who claim to be developed they still have the challenges“ (N_1205).In Nigeria, these expectations arenegotiated through the development apparatus, apart from challenges to meet these expectations all over the globe but not framed as a project of development (see Biermann & Powell 2014). The development apparatus provides knowledge and practices on the premise “that Western industrialized democracies not only have the highest standard of living, but also the most advanced knowledge” which they “can and must make available” (Rottenburg 2009, 174). Thus, expectations derive from this benchmark, from which a categorisation of countries as developing can emerge. The construction of countries as developing is hence captured as the result of a comparison for which a certain norm is deployed – anchored and legitimated through the system of development cooperation with its main objective to promote “economic development and welfare of developing countries” (OECD 2008).[8] Development cooperation thus provides “people with resources they lack: loans, technologies, and expertise” (Rottenburg 2009, 174). This system became the inevitable benchmark for development that constantly reinforces its objective and thus stabilises the construction of developing countries. This construction encapsulates an irritation stemming from ruptures in implementing the international model of (inclusive) schooling – whose usefulness in contributing to national, social and individual aspirations, nevertheless, remains contentious.

Both constructions – special students with special needs and developing countries – capture irritations that challenge expectations. The solutions conveyed through these constructions rest on a dichotomy between groups and countries that are seen as in need of specialised support, and groups that are seen as able to deliver this support.

3.3 Parallels between Educational and Developmental Ability-Expectations

The following table compares the logic and dichotomy embedded in the construction of special needs and developing countries using Weisser`s question: What becomes im/possible to realise (operation) and by what means (resources)? To develop the argument more clearly, the focus will be on the group of children with special needs, especially those with disabilities, in terms of education.


Students with Special Needs

Developing Country

Form of Support

Special Education

Development Cooperation

Receiver of Support

Students with disabilities

Developing country

Provider of Support

Special Teachers


Underlying Logic

Aid to Education

Education to Aid


Educational Ableism

Developmental Ableism

The table presents the following answer: Children and youth with a disability, who are excluded, marginalised or vulnerable in regular schools, are seen as having special needs. As the regular school cannot provide for their needs or cope with their abilities, they qualify for specialised support. In conclusion, it is hardly possible to educate children with disabilities in regular schools (operation). Instead, their special needs require special education delivered from special teachers who provide the necessary aid to enable the education of children with special needs and disabilities (resources). Developing countries, on the other hand, are in need of donor support in order to meet internationally set development goals. To develop as a country and society means (among other things) to maintain a formal education system that produces workers and citizens who can contribute to national progress. Accordingly, education supports and thus aids national socio-economic development. In conclusion, it is not possible to achieve the EFA and MDG goal of providing universal access to education (operation) without donor support that comes as funding or knowledge transfer (resource). As a result, those students or countries that do not fulfil a certain norm, hence do not meet educational or developmental ability-expectations, appear as not-abled and thus qualify as eligible for support delivered through professional experts. These experts, then, are defined through the clientele, which they assist in their needs.

Subsequently, these constructions maintain the same logic to react on the conflict between expectations and abilities arising from institutionalised norms of bodies, minds and development. Both constructions thus display remarkable parallels: They capture the irritation of institutionalised ability-expectations and offer at the same time a set of knowledge and practices for circumventing emerging conflicts. For that reason, they embrace different dimensions of ableism. Developmental ableism is based on the logic of “Education to Aid”, i.e. donors support the country in its attempt to realise universal access to formal education by providing aid, so that the country and its society can finally develop. Educational ableism, on the other hand, deploys the logic of “Aid to Education” where children with disabilities and special needs are eligible to special support that aids their education; often in separated or segregated learning environments. Thus, both constructions rest on normative standards, which stabilise institutional practices of special education and development cooperation and enable the construction of “special needs” and “developing countries” in the first place. As such, they perpetuate a hierarchy of needs and knowledge.

3.4 Colonial Legacies

In order to contextualise the parallels between educational and developmental ableism, the analysis includes wider (historical) processes that facilitated the institutionalisation of formal education and development cooperation. Such an endeavour ultimately leads to colonialism, not as a metaphor but a historical reality (cf. Grech 2015). Both the introductions of formal (special) schooling as well as the birth of Nigeria as a nation state[9], which become independent in the process of decolonization, are a historical product of colonialism (see Imam 2012, Ige 2014). The process of introducing formal schooling in the colonial endeavour, however, did not occur without conflicts (Fafunwa 1991, 92). Many communities “were ambivalent towards the expansion of Christian missionaries and their schools”, because missionary education “functioned foremost as a means of conversion and evangelisation” and was limited “to rudimentary reading and writing skills” (Falola & Heaton 2010, 126f.). The missionaries’ influence was basically limited to the Southern part, whereas their advancement to the Northern part, where an Islamic education system was introduced in the 14th century, was opposed and restricted (Fafunwa 1991, Imam 2012). It has also been the missionaries and voluntary agencies that initiated the advent of special education, which “began informally with the care of physically handicapped children” (Mba 2002 [1991], 23) but was also perceived as “foreign, and organized differently from how elders and parents educated their children earlier” (Obiakor & Offor 2011, 15). The influence and contributions of missionaries are therefore assessed quite differently (cf. Grech 2015 in contrast to Nwazuoke 2007). While education during colonial times basically meant “literacy for a few”, it nowadays has become a force of development under the umbrella of the MDGs and EFA which, however, only provides “schooling for some”.[10] Because there exists an “important connection between the decline of the colonial order and the rise of development” (Escobar 2012 [1995], 26), the colonial discourse has “historically shaped the pursuit of "development"” (Dei & Anamuah- Mensah 2014, 28; see Ziai 2006) – and with it also the pursuit of formal education. [11] Brock- Utne (2000), for example, elaborates on Education for All under the headline “recolonization of the African mind”. As a result, colonial legacies can be found in the historical context that shaped the mutually dependent models of education (as formal schooling) and development (as progress) in Nigeria. Both enable comparisons based on (western) expectations that inaugurate the norm for comparisons. Thus, educational and developmental ability-expectations are inextricably entangled, complementary and, ultimately, reinforce each other. For that reason, their emergence and representation on the discursive level needs to be critically accessed and will be considered in the further comparative analysis.

[2] One year before passage of the UBE Act, the Child Rights Act (2003) stated the right to free compulsory universal basic education as well.

[3] Further, the NPE states that the coordination of special education is in the hands of the Federal Ministry of Education and occurs in collaboration with relevant Ministries and non-governmental organizations and international agencies (UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, WHO).

[4] Several commissions were established to enable their education, some with exclusive focus on marginalized groups or topics such as the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-Formal Education, National Commission for Nomadic Education, or the Universal Basic Education Commission.

[5] I haven`t found data on the number of children with disabilities in (special) schools and different structures. But noteworthy, 52,4 per cent of persons with disabilities in schools were not aware of any discrimination being practiced against them (Federal Republic of Nigeria 2011, 144).

[6] Härmä (2013) illustrates how low-cost private schools become an alternative to circumvent the public school system.

[7] The new UN-development agenda, called Post-2015, is about to implicate the future education goal of ensuring equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030 (Muscat Agreement, UNESCO 2014b). In addition, the Post-2015 agenda also increasingly constructs disability as a separate domain of development policy, demanding the integration of disability in development indicators including education (cf. UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on Disability and Development September 2013). But, Power (2001) points out that to “add disability to a development agenda as if it was some kind of cumulative list of needs means that the underlying ableist assumptions of development remain unchallenged“. Instead, the consolidated link between development and disability supports the notion of “disabled people in the global South (…) as `victims´of unsophisticated culture and beliefs, while development and aid agencies run awareness workshops with representatives of the `savages´”(Meekosha & Soldatic 2011, 1389).

[8] In contrast, an adjoining approach defines development as a “process and practice informed by home-grown, locally-informed and locally-driven human initiatives to satisfy local needs and aspirations through self-reliance, resource autonomy and ecological sustainability while respecting the fundamental freedoms and rights of all peoples and including collectives” (Asabere-Ameyaw et al. 2014, 3).

[9] Nigeria came into being through the amalgamation of several territories that were given the name Nigeria. The name was allegedly chosen by Flora Lugard, the wife of the “1st Governor- General of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria” Frederick Lugard.

[10] For more information on the historical development of Nigeria`s formal school system see Fafunwa 1991, Ige 2014, Biermann 2015.

[11] Interestingly, Campbell (2008) deploys examples from the development discourse (152) as well as the figure of the “colonizer” (156) in her attempt to think through ableism using Critical Race Theory, however without explicating these example.

4. Conclusion

The aim of this paper was to reflect constructions of special students groups with special needs and that of a developing country – two concepts used in documents and by interviewees when talking about the implementation of inclusive education in the Nigerian context. Instead of taking these constructions as attributes inherent to individuals, groups, societies or nations, the approach was to reflect on inherent ability-expectations, which eventually sustain the normative basis of the education and development cooperation system. In both fields, those actors appear as not able, who do not meet institutionalised ability-expectations – which means either possessing average abilities and needs or meeting international development goals. Accordingly, historically grown knowledge and practices differentiate between those in need of specialised support and those professional experts who have the special knowledge to deliver this kind of support. This dichotomy facilitates hierarchies of needs and hierarchies of knowledge – entailed in the logics of “Aid to Education” for disabled students and “Education to Aid” the development of countries. Based on this analysis, I suggest to add one dimension to the debate on ableism, which in Wolbring`s words (2008, 253) defines as an “umbrella ism” not only “other isms such as racism, sexism, casteism, ageism” but also that of developmentalism. Developmentalism preserves abilityexpectations relating to the metanarrative of development as progress in economic, political, social and educational terms which is based on Western, now international, norms that appear as universal (cf. Rottenburg 2009). Development-centred ableism favours certain norms implied in Western ways of socially, politically and economically organising societies and nation states. Developmentalism values one way of education as formal schooling and one way of socioeconomic development.

A comprehensive understanding of educational ableism in the Nigerian school system requires to include the developmental dimension of ableism in the analysis. Such an approach demands to ask about processes in which the international model of formal schooling, its objectives, related myths and expectations as well as the agenda of inclusive education are used to facilitate developmentbased hierarchies. Thus, comparative education research should examine the effects of hierarchies maintained through the narrative of “development” first, in the inclusive education discourse and second, in terms of (scientific) knowledge production. For the latter, these effects can emerge as development-centricity, overgeneralisations, context-insensitivity or in the application of double standardswhile collecting and interpreting data or disseminating findings (see Biermann 2015b). As a result, the further analysis within this PhD-project tries to elaborate on the role of both constructions, special students with special needs and that of a developing country, in processes of appropriating the international model of formal (inclusive) schooling in a post-colonial state.

5. References

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Julia Biermann: Dimensions of Ableism:Educational and Devolpmental Ability-Expectations Erschienen in Inklusion, Ausgabe, 02/2015, https://www.inklusion-online.net/index.php/inklusion-online/article/view/271/254 , ISSN 1862-5088

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