Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 73-79

Perception and attitude of school teachers toward children with disability in an urban community, Northwest Nigeria

1 Department of Community Medicine, College of Medicine, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria
2 Department of Histopathology, Ausman Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto, Nigeria
3 Department of Community Medicine and Primary Health care, College of Health Sciences, Bingham University, Nasarawa, Nigeria
4 Nigerian Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program, Abuja, Nigeria

Date of Submission14-Apr-2020
Date of Decision26-Mar-2020
Date of Acceptance17-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication11-Sep-2020

Correspondence Address:
Abdulhakeem Abayomi Olorukooba
Fellow, Department of Community Medicine, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jomt.jomt_11_19

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Background: Teachers are known to be possibly the closest observers of school children and can play a contributory role in detecting disabilities early in children. Also attitudes of teachers towards their students play an important role in student’s academic performance. Our study aimed to determine the perception and attitude of school teachers towards children with disabilities. Methods: A cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study was conducted among teachers in schools in Samaru community. Teachers were recruited using a two-stage, multi-stage sampling technique. Attitude was measured using scoring system adapted from the Attitude Towards Disabled Persons (ATDP) scale. Results: The mean age ± SD of respondents was 32.9± 9.2 years. A large proportion; 43 (44.8%) perceived disabled children as children with physical problems only. The mean attitude score±SD was 67.30±14.22. Majority; 73(69.5%) had a positive attitude towards children with disability. There was a statistically significant relationship between attitude of the respondents and frequency of contact with disabled persons (X2 = 6.430, P = 0.011). Conclusion: There is poor understanding of the concept of disability among the teachers studied. However, majority had positive attitude towards children with disability. There is the need to improve the perception and understanding of teachers regarding disability through the LGA school authorities by introduction of pre-service trainings as well as re-trainings which will better prepare them towards attending to children with disabilities.

Keywords: Attitude, disability, perception, school health, school children, teachers

How to cite this article:
Olorukooba AA, Adamu A, Asuke S, Muhammad U, Amadu L, Lawal A. Perception and attitude of school teachers toward children with disability in an urban community, Northwest Nigeria. J Med Trop 2020;22:73-9

How to cite this URL:
Olorukooba AA, Adamu A, Asuke S, Muhammad U, Amadu L, Lawal A. Perception and attitude of school teachers toward children with disability in an urban community, Northwest Nigeria. J Med Trop [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 22];22:73-9. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Many individuals are born with disabilities, while others may acquire disabilities later in life due to a diversity of factors. These factors include infectious diseases, inherited conditions or accidents. Disabilities could also be a consequence of malnutrition, lack of adequate preventive health care, exposure to environmental pollutions or as a result of conflicts.[1]

Disability is an umbrella term, covering impairment, activity limitations, and participation restrictions.[2] An impairment is a problem in body function or structure, an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action while participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in an involvement in life situation.[3] Disability is thus not just a health problem but a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of society in which he or she lives. Overcoming the difficulties faced by people with disabilities requires interventions to remove environmental and social barriers.[3] Also physical and attitudinal barriers, coupled with stereotypes play a large role in shaping public perceptions of persons with special needs.

More than a billion people (15%) in the world today experience disability.[3] People with disability generally have poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rate of poverty than people without disabilities. This is largely due to lack of services available to them and many obstacles they face in their everyday lives.[4] A considerable amount of these obstacles are present right from school age till adulthood. According to best estimates of international agencies, we know that about 98% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend schools.[5] In school, children with disability face a lot of discrimination and unjustly punishment from their teachers compared to their peers. A study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the United States (US) documented hundreds of cases of abuse and even death resulting from restraints and seclusion used in public and private schools and treatment centers over the past 20 years.

In Nigeria, for example people and children with disabilities are least cared for, and discrimination against them occurs both within the family and in society in general: “they live on the margins of society, often ignored, neglected, mistreat; they remain target for abuse and exploitation, in their schools and surprisingly, not only by their peer but also by their school teachers”.[6]

The trends in the educational provision for children with disabilities have since the past two and a half decades continued to focus on their education and aims to ensure that all children have access to an appropriate, relevant, affordable and effective education within their community. This means placing children with physical disabilities, behavioral or academic difficulties or social concerns together with regular children in mainstream classrooms.[7] Education in an all-inclusive setting is thus key for a society to function effectively and the school teachers are on the frontline to make this happen. In order for this to be probable, it is important for school teachers to possess the right attitude and perception of disability among their students. Unfortunately, very little is known regarding the current attitude and perception of school teachers, especially in the Northwestern part of Nigeria. This study provides new information as to how school teachers in public primary and secondary school view children with disability and why they have such views. This research was set out to determine the perception and attitude of school teachers toward children with disabilities and the factors that affect teachers’ perception and attitude to children with disability in Samaru community, North-western Nigeria.

  Materials and methods Top

The study was conducted among teachers in primary and secondary schools in Samaru district located in Sabon-Gari LGA situated between Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Basawa and Bomo in Zaria, Kaduna, Southwest Nigeria. It is a growing semi-urban settlement within Zaria located approximately between latitudes 110° 10’ and 110° 11’ N of the Greenwich Meridian and longitude 70 37’ and 70 40’ E of the Equator, at an altitude of 2178 feet above the sea level in the northern guinea savannah zone. It has six (6) government primary and three (3) government secondary schools, with an approximate number of 299 teachers.

This study was a cross-sectional, descriptive study. The study population comprised primary and secondary school teachers in public schools in Samaru. Only teachers that were absent during the period of the study were excluded.

The sample size was obtained using the Fisher’s formula.[8] A standard normal deviate at 95% confidence interval which corresponds to 1.96 was used. A proportion of school teachers that have positive attitude towards disabled student in mainstream class was 0.89 from a previous study.[9] A minimum sample size of 110 was computed after finite population correction (population of school teachers in public schools in Samaru is 299)[10] and adjustment for non-response.

One hundred and ten (110) questionnaires were administered using a 2-stage multi-stage sampling technique. In the first stage, five (5) schools (3 primary and 2 secondary) were selected out of six (6) public primary school and three (3) public secondary schools in Samaru by using simple random sampling by balloting.

In the second stage, the total number of eligible teachers were randomly selected from a list of the teachers in the school (sample frame) which was obtained from their head teacher using balloting. This was done in each of the selected schools until the sample size was reached.

Data was collected using pre-tested, semi-structured, interviewer administered questionnaires with questions adapted from the ATDP scale used in a previous study.[11] Pre-test was done with teachers in one primary and one secondary school outside the study area. Modifications were made after the pre-test. The data collected was entered, cleaned and analyzed using SPSS version 21. Attitude was measured using scoring system from the ATDP scale form O.[11] The ATDP is a six-point Likert scale in which the respondent indicates the extent of his/her agreement or disagreement to each of the questions according to the following scale ranging from +3 (agree very much) to −3 (disagree very much). The 20 questions in the questionnaire gave a total score ranging from −60 to +60. To eliminate negative values, a constant of 60 was added to make all the scores positive. Thus, the resulting score ranged from 0 to 120. Respondents with scores less than 60 were said to have negative attitude while those with ≥ 60 are said to have a positive attitude. Means and standard deviations were used to represent numeric variables, while frequencies and percentage were used to represent categorical variables. Chi squared test and Fisher’s exact test were used to determine the association between Attitude and other categorical independent variables such as sex of teacher and level of education. Level of significance was set at P less than 0.05.

The study was approved by the ethics committee of the Kaduna State Ministry of Health. Permission was also obtained from the Local Government Education Area (LGEA) office of Sabon Gari LGA and also from the district school officer of Samaru. Informed verbal consent was also sought from individual teachers before questionnaires were administered, and they were assured of confidentiality of any information they give. Data that was collected was stored in a password protected computer and the data file was encrypted to ensure data security

  Results Top

The majority of the respondents; 78 (74.3%) were less than 40 years of age with a mean ± SD of 32.9± 9.2 years. Most of the respondents were Hausa (56.2%) and they were also predominantly married Muslim males with a University degree. The majority of the respondents (78.8%) were full-time teachers [Table 1]. Seventy-seven (73.3%) perceived physical impairment as a form of disability [Table 2]. Less than half; 43 (44.8%) defined disabled children as children with physical problems only, while 68.6% perceived physical accidents as a cause of disability [Table 3]. The majority of the respondents; 83 (78.1%) perceived that disability in children can be prevented. The mean attitude score was 67.30±14.22. Majority; 73 (69.5%) had a positive attitude towards children with disability. There was a statistically significant relationship between attitude of the respondents and frequency of contact with disabled persons (X2 = 6.430, P = 0.011) [Table 4]. However, no statistically significant relationship was observed between attitude of respondents and age, sex, educational status, religion as well as ethnicity of the respondents in the study.
Table 1: Socio-demographic characteristics of the study participants

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Table 2: Study participants perception of forms and causes of disabilities that can exist in children

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Table 3: Attitude towards children with disability among study participants.

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Table 4: Relationship between sociodemographic characteristics and attitude toward disabled children among teachers

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  Discussion Top

A scrutiny of teacher’s perception towards people with disabilities across cultures suggests that societal perceptions and treatment of persons with disabilities are neither homogeneous nor static.[12] In this study, more than two thirds of the respondents perceived physical impairment as a major form of disability. This is also evident in the various ways in which they defined disability where most thought that it is only related to children with physical problems. Some even referred to them as “children with no body parts”. It then means that the respondents viewed disabled children as only individuals with structural abnormalities thus suggesting that their understanding of disability is limited to only its physical forms that is visibility of impairment is an important variable that affect their understanding, reactions and hence their perception on children with special needs. The implication of this finding is that those children with non-physical (intellectual/psychiatric and sensory) disabilities are likely be missed thus limiting the chances of children receiving appropriate interventions or even leading to the children being maltreated with no due considerations. The findings in this study are similar to what was reported by Sindh and Baluchistan,[13] in Pakistan that most of the respondents (86%) viewed physical functional limitations and absence of any functional body parts as disability.

Using the attitude toward disabled persons (ATDP) scale, we found that more than a third of the respondents had a negative attitude toward children with disability. This has a great implication on public health because the behavior as well as the reaction of these particular teachers may affect the disabled children, thus not getting the particular attention needed in the mainstream classrooms. This could severely affect their learning. Negative attitude creates misunderstandings and can lead to discrimination and ultimately to the denial of rights and resources that should be afforded to all citizens. This also means that the disabled children will not get the best out of their teachers in the schools which can eventually affect their future. The United States government accountability office reported hundreds of cases of abuse and even death from restrain and seclusion used in public and private schools and treatment centers in children with disability.[14] The findings of our study, however, are lower than what was obtained in a study carried out in the united Arab Emirates where a negative attitude of 79% on ATDP scale was reported among the teachers.[15] However, our finding is higher than a study conducted in Namibia were fewer of the respondents (10.3%) showed negative attitude towards disability.[9] It is generally agreed that with intellectual and developmental disabilities despite their lack of adaptive behavior, disabled children can still gain maximally in an educational setting.[9] In the Namibian study, many of the disabled children go to school and are seen in mainstream classrooms, thus, contact of disabled children with their teachers is high, which may explain the relatively low negative attitude among the teachers. This is contrast to what is seen in Northwestern Nigeria were this research was conducted were majority of the disabled are not in school.[16] Other studies investigating the attitude of teachers towards student with special needs in south western Nigeria, also reported negative attitude only among less than a third of teachers.[17] It is not surprising though, due to the fact that their study included both regular and special teachers (who are expected, because of their specialty in dealing with disabled children, to have more positive attitude to the disabled students) in contrast to our study were the respondents were regular classroom teachers.

Majority of the respondents have had contact with disabled children in the past but this did not seem to have had any significant impact on their attitudes towards disabled children, as there was no statistically significant relationship between contact with disabled children and the attitude of these school teachers towards them. This is contrary to the findings reported by Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, which revealed that persons who had experienced contact with physically disabled persons held more positive attitudes towards them and therefore can be said to be generally more accepting of the physically disabled person than subjects who had no such contact.[18],[19] However, majority of the contact the teachers had was with children they were related with meaning that they actually knew the disabled children and this could have influenced their attitude towards these children.

The findings of a study looking into the attitude of teachers based on their age showed that young teachers (20–39 years) had more positive attitudes towards persons with disabilities compared to middle aged teachers (40–50 years).[20] In our study however, there was no statistically significant relationship between the ages of teacher and their attitudes towards disabled children. A possible reason for this discrepancy could be as a result of the difference in characteristics of our respondents compared as our study was done among teachers in public schools in a small urban community in Kaduna state, while theirs was done among teachers in schools in the city of Mumbai in India. Their study most likely gave a better representation due to a larger sample size and inclusion of more diverse teachers from various schools in the city.

In our study, there was no statistically significant relationship between gender and the attitudes of school teachers towards disabled children. Our finding is in conformity with that of Oluremi[21] and Jenkinson[22] who also noted no significant difference in the attitude of male and female teachers to students with special needs. However, other studies have showed that females respond more favorably than males to disabled persons.[23],[24] This difference could be due to a more representative sample that was used by the latter studies. For instance, our study was limited to schools in Samaru community while the study by Olufemi et al. was done in selected schools in Nigeria which would more likely give a better representation of the true situation in Nigeria.There was also no statistically significant relationship between the attitudes of school teachers to disabled children with their level of education, this is contrary to a study which reported that subjects in the higher educational levels tended to be more accepting of physically disabled persons than subjects in the lower educational level.[18] The reason for this difference could be as a result of the different study subjects used because while we used school teachers, their study used students from primary, secondary and tertiary schools as respondents which would more likely show difference in their attitudes at different educational levels. One limitation of our study here is that our study did not obtain information regarding whether the teachers had special qualifications for teaching children with disabilities e.g. BEd special. This information would have been useful in identifying confounders in the relationship between the attitude of teachers and other characteristics.

This study showed that there is poor perception of the concept of disability among the teachers, as the majority of them understood disability to be basically a physically impairment. However, most of the school teachers had positive attitude towards children with physical disability. There is the need to improve the understanding of teachers regarding disability. This can be achieved through the LGA school authorities by pre-service training of school teachers including providing training courses which will prepare the minds of these trainee towards children with disability.


We like to acknowledge the support provided by the school teachers in Samaru who despite their tight schedules and took time to fill the questionnaires. The authors would like to thank the research assistants and authorities of the schools for granting permission to carry out this study.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Emad M, Alghazo EM. Educators’ attitudes toward persons with disabilities: factors affecting inclusion. Journal of Faculty of Education 2002;17:27-44.  Back to cited text no. 15
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Fareo D. Attitude of teachers to student with special needs in mainstream public secondary schools in Southwestern Nigeria: the needs for a change. Eur Sci J 2015;11:194.  Back to cited text no. 17
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Parasuram K. Variables that effect teachers’ attitudes toward disability and inclusive education in Mumbai, India. Disabil Soc 2006;21:232-42.  Back to cited text no. 20
Oluremi FD. Attitude of teachers to students with special needs in mainstreamed public secondary schools in southwestern nigeria: the need for a change. Eur Sci J. 2015;11(10).  Back to cited text no. 21
Jenkinson JC. Mainstream or special?: Educating students with disabilities. Psychology Press;1997.  Back to cited text no. 22
Harper D. Social psychology of difference: stigma, spread and stereotypes in childhood. Rehabil Psychol 1999;44:131-44.  Back to cited text no. 23
Olufemi F, Adeniyi S, Adeyinka T. Attitude of teachers towards the inclusion of special needs children in general education classroom: the case of teachers in some selected schools in Nigeria. Int Electron J Elem Educ 2009;1.  Back to cited text no. 24


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]


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