•  
  •  
 

Abstract

This article explores similarities and differences in Botswana and Zimbabwe elementary school principals’ understanding of what inclusive education involves. Using a cross-site case study research design, fifteen principals in the two countries’ urban, semi-urban and rural areas were interviewed while naturalistic observations were also carried out at each school. Findings indicate no differences between the two countries as the principals were familiar with the concept of inclusive education and were favourable towards including learners with disabilities. However the increased visibility of students with disabilities in primary schools seems to overshadow other learners with various vulnerabilities. Inclusion seemed to present more complex challenges for the rural principals. Infrastructure in under-resourced rural and semi-urban schools was said to be denying children with disabilities access to learning. The principals, whether urban or rural, preferred to include learners with mild disabling conditions for whom they still expected greater social than academic inclusion.