Including Disabled Children in Learning:Challenges in Developing Countries1. The continuing challenge of including disabled children in education The drive to achieve Education for All (EFA) by 2015 has led to a focus on the barriers toparticipation in basic education for marginalized groups (UNESCO, 2010). In particular, therehas been significant criticism that disability was not mentioned in the United NationsMillennium Development Goals (MDGs)
(Albert et al., 2005): “As the world strives toachieve the MDGs it is important that disability is not treated as a left over” Obeng Asamo(n.d.)
.It is increasingly recognised that the MDGs will not be achieved without the inclusionof disabled children and young people
in education, given the close links between disability,lack of education and poverty (United Nations Secretary General, 2007). Many disabledchildren and young people around the world are denied sustained access to basic education.Some of these disabled children never enter school, others start but make poor progresseventually ‘dropping out’, and it appears that a relatively small proportion are educated in aparallel system of special schools, running alongside mainstream schools. In the terms of theCREATE (Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity) model of zones of exclusion (Lewin, 2007), they are likely to be concentrated in zone 1 (never havingbeen enrolled), zone 2 (having ‘dropped out’ of primary school) or zone 3 (in primary schoolbut with poor achievement and/or attendance and therefore at risk of dropping out beforecompleting the primary cycle). Children and young people are however, also vulnerable toacquiring impairments that affect their access to education at any point in their educationalcareers, for example due to conflict or inadequate access to healthcare. Exclusion fromeducation contributes to further economic exclusion in adult life with many disabled peopleunable to find work (United Nations Enable, 2008).Historically, problems impeding access to education have been seen as being located withinan individual disabled person, who was often medically defined by their impairment. In thisview, disabled children are seen as the ones who must adapt in order to ‘integrate’ intomainstream schooling, or be educated in a separate ‘special’ education system. The work of disabled activists and thinkers as part of the disability movement is however creating anincreased understanding of disability as a social construction with parallels to evolvingunderstandings of gender and race. One achievement of the disability movement is increasingrecognition of disabled people’s rights.The UN (United Nations) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came intoforce in May 2008 and signatories (142 states by September 2009) are charged in article 24with ensuring an ‘inclusive education system at all levels’. The Convention recognises thateducational provision varies around the world, and so requires states to provide ‘an inclusive,quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in 1
For information on the MDGs seehttp://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/bkgd.shtml. 2
Peter Obeng Asamo ( Director, Ghana Association of the Blind)www.includeeverybody.org 3
This paper uses the terms ‘disabled people’ and ‘disabled children and young people’ as these are used by theBritish Council of Disabled People which represents large numbers of disabled people in the country in which itis written. These terms suggest that people are disabled by society - ‘the disability resides in the context not inthe person’ (Broderick et al., 2005:200, see also, Rieser, 2008) - whereas terms such as ‘people with disabilities’are thought to suggest that the ‘disabilities’ are within individuals. It is recognised however that in other contexts‘people with disabilities’ is the preferred term, i.e. ‘people first’ terminology.
Including Disabled Children in...