Universal Education Cannot be Achieved without Including Children with Disabilities
Inclusive quality education is a right for each and every child
On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I celebrated with 6 year old Majlinda from Kosovo. Majlinda has Down’s syndrome but this doesn’t stop her from getting an education. She attends an inclusive kindergarten in her hometown Gjilan, exploring and learning new things every day together with her classmates.
Unfortunately, not all children with disabilities are as lucky as Majlinda.
Most children with disabilities are still excluded from education. Even those who have access to education are often forced to either learn in special schools or classrooms separated from their peers or in regular schools but without adequate teacher support or appropriate materials. As a result, they are not able to develop to their potential.
On this important day, and looking forward to 2015, a year by which we pledged to have achieved universal primary education, it is high time we ask ourselves if we are doing enough to tackle the barriers to education that children with disabilities face.
We need a step-change in attitudes and approaches.
As professionals in the education sector, our final aim is that all children can learn the skills and knowledge they need to thrive and develop to their full potential. This goal will never be achieved if we don’t make conscious and significant efforts to develop inclusive education systems, which are able to accommodate every child and respond positively to their specific needs and talents.
Innovative tools and methodologies to support children with special needs
In Sri Lanka we have worked with experts in the field of learning disabilities to design innovative assessment tools that enable teachers to identify children’s specific needs and adjust their teaching styles and methods accordingly.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina we engaged children, parents and school staff in the use of a participatory methodology, the Index for Inclusion, to assess and enhance the inclusiveness of their schools.
In Ethiopia we have built the capacity of the government on how to integrate children with disabilities. Thanks to our advocacy efforts the government has now adopted guidelines for providing education to children with disabilities in inclusive settings.
Let’s take action!
Learning from our own experience at Save the Children, we recognize the importance of acting in four areas to make progress towards fully inclusive education systems:
Address attitudes by providing a platform for children with disabilities to have their voices heard and be the ambassadors for their needs, aspirations, requests and proposals;
Remove barriers to school access and learning through building on existing evidence and experience as well as introducing new and innovative approaches and tools;
Develop or improve policies to ensure they facilitate inclusion of all children and can become drivers of sustainable system-level changes;
Build partnerships among all relevant stakeholders to foster exchange, sharing and collaborations.
Investing in inclusive education is essential – more than that, it is urgent. Majlinda and many other children with disabilities are calling for it; they need it.
Let’s celebrate all children with disabilities who enjoy going to school with their peers and are fully supported in their learning and development.
And let’s take action for the many children with disabilities that are still excluded from education and are unable to participate in society like everyone else.