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Back to school

School remains a dream for 32 million children with disabilities in developing countries
Photo: Inclusive classroom run by Light for the World partner CEFISE, Burkina Faso

As children all across the world head back to school today, Light for the World calls on governments and donors to increase support for children in developing countries where education still remains a dream for 32 million children with disabilities. 

According to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report, the completion rate of primary school children is 48 % for low income countries, whereas 95 % finish primary school in middle income countries. Children with disabilities are far less likely to complete primary school. Across 14 out of 15 low and middle income countries, people of working age with disabilities were a third less likely to have completed primary school. In most African countries, having a disability more than doubles your chances of not attending school

Nafisa Baboo, Senior Education Advisor for Light for the World, said: “Inclusive education is a right. Practising inclusive education drastically reduces out-of-school rates, tackles discrimination in society and reduces unemployment. And if that’s not enough of a reason, it’s also considerably cheaper than segregated education. 

“On days like today when you see all the smiling faces of children on their way to school, we really need to open our eyes to the fact that millions of children in developing countries, especially those with disabilities, won’t be heading to the school gates. This extremely vulnerable group is being denied the ability to make friends, learn how to read and write, and to master skills that are crucial for future employment. Every child, no matter where they live, should have the opportunity of receiving quality education.

Light for the World is working to ensure that no one is left behind in our pursuit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030. Not only are most children with disabilities denied the human right for education, but those that are being educated mostly go to segregated or ‘special’ schools that are seldom resourced and able to develop the child’s full social, academic and physical potential. Inclusive education calls for schooling the vast majority of children within a mainstream setting, where all children, including those with disabilities, are given the opportunity and support to learn together in the same classroom. Working with and strengthening the community, disability organisations, parents and the government is paramount for developing an inclusive education system.

The recently released #CostingEquity report, developed by the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) led by Light for the World and supported by the Open Society Foundation and other international NGOs revealed that there is a lack of technical and financial resources to deliver on inclusive education. 

Nafisa Baboo added: “This can be turned around by making the approval for education funding on disability inclusion easier and by earmarking funds for disability inclusive education.  In this way, we can redress the neglect of the past and enable girls and boys with disabilities to benefit from current initiatives to improve the learning outcomes and quality of education for all. 

“Making disability inclusion mandatory will ensure that children with disabilities can enjoy the same success and traction that girls education has had over the past decade.”

Stats and figures

  • An estimated 150 million children worldwide live with one or more disabilities.
  • 80% live in developing countries. Most live in poverty and have limited or no access to basic services.
  • An estimated 90% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school.
  • More than 57.2 million children globally continue to be denied the right to primary education. 23 % of them have attended school but dropped out.
  • One-half of the world’s out of school children live in sub-Saharan Africa. More than one in five (22 %) primary school-age children in the region have either never attended school or left before completing primary school. 
  • 40,431 children with disabilities reached with support by Light for the World in 2016
  • 9,139 children with disabilities received school education with our support in 2016

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