World Disability Day: Education is a Human Right

32 million children with disabilities are still out of school

On World Disability Day 2017, global disability advocates call on the international community to wake up to the human rights scandal of up to 32 million of children with disabilities out of school worldwide. The problem is most pressing in low and middle income countries where up to 90% of children with disabilities do not receive an education. Light for the World supports inclusive education programmes around the globe. Inclusive education allows students with and without disabilities to learn together. Even in challenging environments with extremely limited resources, inclusive schools allow children with disabilities to take part in a quality education system which helps everyone achieve their full potential.  


Tom Shakespeare

Chair of Light for the World in the UK (UK)

Photo: Tom Shakespeare

“I think all children with disabilities should go to their local school, alongside their peers.  I want them to be able to learn, to attend all their classes, to go to the toilet when they need to.  It’s not much to ask, and it’s not hard to do.  Education makes all the difference to disabled children – it repays the investment many times over.  There’s no excuse to exclude!”


Elie Bagbila

Country Representative of Light for the World in Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso)

 Photo: Elie Bagbila

“Education for me is like the polar star guiding a lost shepherd in the vast dunes of the desert. Access to quality inclusive education for the person with disability is an expression of a vital and fundamental right. To support inclusive Education means to repair an injustice of access to knowledge.“


François Carbonez

Policy Officer at Light for the World (Belgium)

Photo: Francois Carbonez

“Without education, I would never have been able to contribute positively and participate fully in society. Education also gave me the opportunity to show people in my community that persons with disabilities are just that: persons! And that they can achieve just as much as anyone else if given the chance.“

“In the context of low-income countries, inclusive education is even more vital, as access to education will greatly facilitate access to decent employment, and ensure persons with disabilities’ livelihoods. It will also benefit the entire society, as unrealized potential of persons with disabilities is a huge loss, human and financial – who knows how many scientific breakthroughs, how many masterpieces we missed out on because of lack of education?“

“Everyone should support this cause, because of the benefit to society. Because they themselves went to school, their children went or go to school, and they know how important that is, how it empowered them, now all they have to do is make sure everyone can get that chance. Because it’s the right thing to do.


Nafisa Baboo

Senior Advisor for Inclusive Education at Light for the World (South Africa)

Photo: Nafisa Baboo

“I owe my independence and success to the education I received and my parent’s sacrifices to ensuring that I had the best education possible.  We were definitely the poorest family in our neighbourhood. It was instilled in us that by progressing through education we could have a better life. My father who is blind and taught at a special school for the blind where he was once a student, wanted me to grow up learning the skills needed to negotiate the real world.  He insisted that I am no different than others and I have my unique talents and abilities.  He never accepted excuses and stressed that I had to be solution-orientated.  My school motto was ‘perseverance is the key to success’, something I took to heart and my teachers modelled too.”

"Inclusive education is a wise and worthy investment. The right to education is central to achieving all other rights – health, political representation and employment. Not being in school steals away from them all the possibilities and dreams for the future that other children can take for granted; the ability to make friends, to learn how to read and write, and to master the skills that are crucial for future employment.”


Yetnebersh Nigussie

Senior Inclusion Advisor Light for the World International

“I became blind at the age of five, which saved me from an early marriage. In the village I grew up in, a person with a disability wasn’t seen as a fit husband or wife. However, this granted me a huge opportunity in life: education. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today, if I hadn’t been educated. Everyone has a right to education and it is a tragedy that more than 32 million children in developing countries are denied this right. 

“I am a strong advocate for inclusive education, where all children with and without disabilities, are taught in the same classroom. Next to having social and economic benefits as well as being more cost-effective than segregated schools, it also tackles discrimination and prejudice. A generation who has played and learned together will not have a problem living together. That’s why inclusive education is so important. Inclusion must start at childhood, so there are no questions at adulthood!”


Ambrose Murangira

Disability Inclusion Advisor Light for the World (Uganda)

Photo: Ambrose Murangira

“There is a saying: „If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”: Could I have accepted to be “Deaf and ignorant”? No! That is why I went for an expensive education – expensive in that my Mum had to pay twice: My school fees and salary for my sign language interpreter. In addition, I had to forego some leisure activities to catch up with others (copying notes from friends). We need to remove such barriers to ensure that children with disabilities are able to access quality and inclusive education. Inclusive education is cheaper and makes them full members in their communities. We will not achieve SDG 4 when children with disabilities are left behind.“


Griet Hoet

Paralympic cycler and ambassador for Light for the World Belgium

Photo: Griet Hoet

"Education is important! It is an important part of your development. In primary school you easily record an study all sorts of things. Higher education helps you in your general development. Educations helps you to find out who you are, what your talent is, broadens your social network."


Ronald McCallum

Light for the World Ambassador (Australia)

Photo: Ron McCallum 

“Having been blind since birth, without access to education I would have been confined to home and menial employment. Education enabled me to be the first totally blind person to be appointed as a full professor in any field at any Australian or New Zealand university. Education enabled me to Chair the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities from 2010 to 2013. I wish that all children with disabilities, especially in developing countries, are able to access the education which was available to me. It is the duty of all governments to educate all children within their territory.”


Gulamussene Amelia Tirano Murenco

Light for the World Intern (Mozambique)

Photo: Gulamussene Amelia Tirano Murenco

“If it were not for education, it would be difficult for me to live in the community and communicate with others. Education helped me to overcome many barriers in my life. Education helps us open the doors to more opportunities to progress in life, and I am living it due to my education.”