Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Home » Articles » The Legal Framework for Inclusive Education in Nigeria – Emmanuel Nkechiyere

The Legal Framework for Inclusive Education in Nigeria – Emmanuel Nkechiyere

legal framework for inclusive education in Nigeria

The Legal Framework for Inclusive Education in Nigeria

Despite the various laws guaranteeing education to all persons including disabled ones, Nigeria has a staggering amount of disabled children, around 95 percent, who are out of school[1].

Education is an important tool for the development of a person and thus should be made accessible to everyone including those with disabilities. In this article, the legal framework for inclusive education will be considered. To achieve that, inclusive education and it’s benefits, it’s history, laws and policies on it, the challenges facing it and recommendations for dealing with them will be discussed.

The focus on children with special needs started with missionary efforts such as the School for the Blind of Gindiri and the Wesley School for the Deaf in Lagos.[2]

However the government took over the provision of education to special needs persons in the late 1970s and in 1977, the National Policy on Education was passed which included a section dedicated to special needs education[3]. This Policy has been reviewed in 1977, 1981, 1998, 2004, 2007 and 2013.

In 2015 and 2017, the Nation Policy on Special Needs Education and National Policy on Inclusive Education were formulated respectively to provide for more comprehensive guidelines on implementing inclusive education in Nigeria. The need for special needs education has also been recognized in various national instruments such the Constitution[4], the Child Right Act of 2003, and the Discrimination against Person with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act of 2018.

According to UNICEF, inclusive education means ‘all children in the same classrooms, in the same schools.’[5]. It means that ‘each individual’s needs are taken into account and that all learners participate and achieve together.’[6]

It also acknowledges that all children can learn and that every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs and that the educational system should be flexible to meet each.[7]

Also in the National Policy on Inclusive Education, It is defined as a ‘process of addressing all barriers and providing access to quality education to meet the diverse needs of all learners in the same learning environment’.

Importance of Inclusive Education

Benefits of inclusive education have been said to include outcomes such as creating a culture of acceptance among ordinary and special needs persons, fostering an understanding of diversity, increasing self esteem and self confidence especially among special needs persons and developing acceptable social skills as a whole.[8] It also helps in improving academic outputs, enabling students reach their full potential and ensuring easy adjustment to life after school.[9]

The importance of inclusive education can be seen in the fact that it is one of the Social Developmental Goals. Number four of the Goals gives every state the responsibility to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ and one of the targets to meet in doing this is that ‘by 2030, …ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations’ and to ‘build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.’

And thus in Nigeria, inclusive education has been recognized under the law.

Inclusive Education under Nigerian Law

Section 15 of the Child Right Act provides that ‘(1) Every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic education and it shall be the duty of the Government in Nigeria to provide such education.’ However, it is submitted that the provision of subsection 7 of Section 15 which provides that ‘The provisions of this section shall not apply to children with mental disabilities.’ should be deleted as not every mentally disabled person is incapable of learning and it is not in tandem with global best practices.

According to the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, a person with disabilities has an unfettered right to education without discrimination or segregation in any form and such a person is entitled to free education up to secondary school level with the Universal Basic Education Commission providing educational assistive devices.[10]

See also  Trespass to Land: Definition, Scope, Remedies, Defences (NG)

Also under the Act, all public schools shall be inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities by having at least one personnel trained in special needs education and providing necessary facilities for special needs education.[11]

It also provides that Government shall ensure that persons with disabilities are educated in the most appropriate language, mode and means of communication and in environments which will lead to be best academic and social development of such persons.[12]

The provision for the teaching of skills for communicating with persons with disabilities such as braille and sign language in schools[13] is heartwarming as it fosters synergy, understanding and acceptance between ordinary and special needs persons making for a more effective inclusive educational system.

In pursuance of Sec 18 (1) of the Constitution[14] which provides that ‘Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels’, certain policies have been formulated as regards inclusive education in Nigeria.

National Policy on Education

One of such policies is the sixth edition of the National Policy on Education published in 2013,. In the policy, it is provided that special needs persons shall be educated in inclusive educational system where appropriate or otherwise in special needs schools.

Special needs persons in the policy includes persons with visual, hearing, physical and health impairment, intellectual disability, emotional and behavioral disorder, speech and language impairment, learning disabilities, multiple disabilities, the gifted and talented and albinos.

The aims of special needs education is to ensure that every person, irrespective of their disabilities, are provided with equal and adequate education in an inclusive setting so that they can deliver their own quota to national development and provide opportunities for the gifted  to develop their talents at their own pace in the interest of the nation. It also aims to design a diversified and appropriate curriculum each category of persons.

To achieve this aims, the Federal Ministry of Education has the duty of contributing to and sourcing funds for special needs education, formulating policies, coordinating special needs educational programmes and collating data on special needs persons.

It will also, in conjunction with the state ministries of education and other appropriate bodies, undertake the identification and admission of special needs persons, provide all necessary learning facilities, equipment and materials.

Teachers will also be given all necessary training needed to educate persons with various disabilities and school physical structures and facilities will be designed to accommodate persons with disabilities.

Lastly schools will also be required to conduct regular screening assessments to identify persons with special needs.

National Policy on Special Needs Education in Nigeria

Another policy that deals with inclusive education in Nigeria is the National Policy on Special Needs Education in Nigeria which was formulated in 2015 to bring the practice of special needs education in tandem with global best practices with emphasis on total inclusion and a least restrictive environment. As such it adds to makes some additional provisions to what obtains under the National Policy on Education.

It extends the definition of special needs persons to include persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders and children at risk such as children of nomads, migrant farmers and fishers and the almajiri etc.

It provides that the teacher-pupil ratio in inclusive classrooms shall be one teacher to five to ten learners and such inclusive educational centers should be equipped with special needs laboratories, clinics, resource centres and virtual learning resources and made disability friendly in general.

The policy also provides that education of children with special needs  be free at all levels and  provides for the development of personnel, both teaching and non teaching, involved in delivering special needs education.

National Policy on Inclusive Education

Through mobilization by civil societies, the National Policy on Inclusive Education was developed in 2016 and approved in 2017[15] ‘in order to have a holistic approach, with a unified system in which formal, non-formal, segregated and mainstream are harnessed.’

See also  Fundamental Human Rights Under the Nigerian 1999 Constitution - Inioluwa Olaposi

Under the policy, the category of  was expanded to include, those on the streets, those with emotional and social challenges, those from minority cultures and religions, those experiencing barriers to learning generally among others.

It is noteworthy to point out that while the objectives and targets of the policy echoes those of the previous two, the new policy provides for specific and practical strategies, and key activities to engage in for each strategy, to achieve its targets.

It also provides for monitoring the implementation of the policy at all levels right from the Federal Ministry of Education down to school heads and inspectors.

In addition, unlike the others, it has a guideline for the implementation of the policy. It also states clearly the roles and responsibilities of each of the stakeholders such as the Federal Ministry of Education, The Universal Basic Education Commission, State Universal Basic Education Board, Nigerian Education Research and Development Council, Federal Ministry of Information/Media, State Ministries Of Education, Local Government Education Authority, School Based Management Committees, Community Based Management Committees, Parents & Teachers Associations, Civil Society Organizations, private schools’ proprietors, Legislature, Schools, Head Teachers, Teachers, National Universities Commission, National Commission for Colleges of Education and National Teachers’ Institute.

Unaddressed Challenges

This policies has however not translated into access to special needs education because of certain challenges, some of which were mentioned in the National Policy on Special Needs Education in Nigeria but still continue to exist today.

Such as no full implementation of policies, obsolete or inadequate learning materials and facilities, lack of knowledge of special needs education and special needs educational gadgets by teachers, absence of means of identification, inadequate data, stigmatization, low funding, absence of synergy between stakeholders, inadequate number of inclusive educational centres especially in rural areas, lack of knowledge by parents and guardians about the availability of special needs educational centres, poverty among others.[16]


To combat this challenges, it is recommended that, first and foremost, government should commit to upgrading and implementing all relevant laws and policies relevant to inclusive education especially as regards to funding, training of teachers, provision of learning materials and facilities, redesigning the curriculum, identification of special needs persons, gathering data on special needs persons employment of other necessary professionals and monitoring of the system.[17]

There should also be an orientation of the Nigerian people on the innumerable potentials in special needs persons and the availability of special needs education especially through the media.[18]

Educational technology should also be infused into the education of special needs persons as it offers an opportunity for more personalized education and monitoring.[19]

Inclusive culture and practices such as normalizing diversity, teamwork, focusing on personal strengths, scaffolding, behavior management plan, visualisation, teaching of life skills and the Universal Design for Learning educational framework which focuses on children individual needs should be adopted in schools.[20]

Parents, guardians and caregivers should also be empowered financially and with the relevant information to care for and provide education to special needs persons.[21]

The community should also be involved in supporting government and other stakeholders in activities such funding, provision of learning materials and facilities and monitoring. They should also, along with other relevant stakeholders such as NGOs, demand for special needs education centres and inclusive schools in their communities.

State governments are also enjoined to formulate and implement their own inclusive education policies like what obtains in Lagos, Kaduna and Kwara State as they are more capable of addressing special needs education especially at the grassroots level.[22]


Although Nigeria laws support inclusive education, challenges such as lack of implementation of policies and law by the government, inadequate funding, inadequate materials and facilities, stigmatization, poverty, inadequate qualified teachers and relevant non teaching professionals, lack of reliable data for planning among others hinder it’s realization.

Addressing these issues require implementing inclusive policies, fostering inclusive cultures and prioritizing inclusive practices at all levels.[23]


Laws and Policies

  • The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999
  • Child Rights Act 2003
  • Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018
  • National Policy on Education 2013
  • National Policy on Special Needs Education in Nigeria 2015
  • National Policy on Inclusive Education 2017
See also  Employment Lawyer Miami: Your Guide to Workplace Legal Issues




[1] Godsgift Onyedinefu ‘Majority of children with disabilities in Nigeria are not schooled – experts’ BusinessDay (17 February 2022) <> accessed 17 August 2023

[2]  Khadija Thabit, ‘How Special Education Began in Nigeria’ Legit (27 October 2022) <> accessed 17 August 2023

[3] Ibid

[4] Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999

[5] UNICEF, ‘Inclusive Education’ <> accessed 17 August 2023

[6] UNESCO, ‘What You Need to Know About Inclusion in Education’ <>  accessed 17 August 2023

[7] Ibid

[8] Mark Llego, ‘Benefits of Inclusive Education for All Students’ <> accessed 17 August 2023

[9] Ibid

[10] DAPD 2018, s17

[11] DAPD 2018, s18(1)

[12] DAPD 2018, s20

[13] DAPD 2018, s18(2)

[14] CRFN, 1999

[15] Helen Pinnock, Inclusive Education in Nigeria: Policy Progress Weakened By Financing (UNESCO 2020) <> accessed 17 August 2023

[16] Suleiman Lawal and Isah Mfr and Isah Mfr, ’Implementation of Inclusive Education in Nigerian Schools: Challenges and Way Forward’ [2022] International Journal of Formal Education (Vol.1(3)) <> accessed 17 August 2023; Suleiman Isah, ‘The Possibility of Implementing Inclusive Education in Nigeria’ [2010] A Journal of Contemporary Research (Vol.7(3)) <> accessed 17 August 2023

[17] Suleiman Lawal and Isah Mfr and Isah Mfr, ’Implementation of Inclusive Education in Nigerian Schools: Challenges and Way Forward’ [2022] International Journal of Formal Education (Vol.1(3)) <> accessed 17 August 2023

[18] Ibid; Banku Obi and Mary Ashi, ‘Inclusive Education in Nigeria: Access and Equity’ [2016] Journal of Education and Practice (Vol.7(5)) <> accessed 17 August 2023

[19] National Open University of Nigeria, Special Education Course Guide <> accessed 17 August 2023

[20] Inclusive Solutions, ‘8 Effective Teaching Practices for Students in Inclusive Classrooms <> accessed 17 August 2023

[21] Suleiman Lawal and Isah Mfr, op. cit.

[22] Helen Pinnock, op. cit.

[23] Niki Alexaki  and Xanthippi Foulidi  and Evangelos Papakitsos, ‘The Three Dimensions of Inclusive Education in the Attempt for Educational Change: Cultures, Policies and Practices’ [2022] Journal of Research Initiatives (Vol.6(1)) <> accessed 17 August 2023

About Author

Emmanuel Praise Nkechiyere is a final year student of the faculty of law, Obafemi Awolowo University and an educational law enthusiasts. She believes that law is an important tool in the revitalization of the educational system and the achievement of quality education (SDG 4). She is also a teacher and the author of  ‘HOW TO TEACH A CLASS: A PRACTICAL GUIDE’. She enjoys reading, sewing and talking to people, especially students.

More Posts


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

LawGlobal Hub is your innovative global resource of law and more. We ensure easy accessibility to the laws of countries around the world, among others