This paper engages with the impacts of disability on the formal education of disabled people in poor rural areas. Reporting on qualitative ethnographic work in Guatemala, adults with a physical impairment provided retrospective accounts of their educational trajectories. Findings highlight multidimensional and dynamic barriers to education confronted by all poor people, but which often intensified for disabled people. These met a host of disability-specific barriers cutting across social, physical, economic, political and personal spheres. Findings report how in the face of more persistent basic needs and costs, education had a high opportunity cost, and often could not be sustained. Disabled parents also came to prioritise the education of their children translating into limited or no school re-entry for these parents. The paper concludes that engagement with temporal and context specific (but fluid) spaces of poverty is necessary, because it is within these spaces that disability and education are constructed and lived, and within and through which barriers emerge. Cross-sectoral efforts are needed, addressing educational barriers for all poor people indiscriminately, while targeting families to remove obstacles to other basic needs competing with education. Critically, efforts are needed to ensure that educational outcomes are linked to immediate contributions to the family economy and welfare through work.
Disability and the Global South (DGS), 2014, Vol. 1 No. 1