Civil society’s voice is vital in advancing inclusion and equity in education
At the Cali forum, some progress is made to advance inclusive education, but it’s not enough.
November 12, 2019 by Doriane Tchamanbe, Africa Network Campaign on Education For All and Mame Codou Dieng Cisse, ANCEFA|

Twenty-five years after the Salamanca Declaration, education sector actors met in Cali, Colombia last September to review progress on inclusion and equity in education.

Organized by UNESCO, the Cali Forum aimed to reflect on the impact of the Salamanca Declaration, discuss next steps to move education forward towards greater equity and inclusion and secure renewed commitment from all stakeholders.

From the outset of the Forum it was apparent there are different interpretations and definitions of inclusive education and inclusion in national frameworks. In most cases, the emphasis is on the recognition of specific groups while others address inclusive education in a broader sense. This diversity of definitions has varying effects on the direction of policies and legal frameworks in different countries.

It is therefore essential to have a comprehensive common understanding of inclusion in order to effectively ensure no learner is left behind and "no one is excluded".
M. Mahamadou Oumarou

Accelerating education for people with disabilities in sub-Saharan Africa

The subject of several discussions was ensuring no one is excluded in education systems and the education for people with disabilities. Oumarou Mahamadou Manou, representing the Chairman of the West African Federation of Persons with Disabilities (WAFOD) and attending on behalf of the FOAPH-ANCEFA-HI consortium, highlighted the importance of developing and implementing inclusive education policies and sector plans as essential policy framework to ensure inclusion and equity in education systems.

He also mentioned the urgent need to make schools more accessible, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where facilities remain poor. The education of people with disabilities is a growing issue and civil society is mobilizing to ensure that inclusive education becomes a reality and that no child is left behind.

Ensuring inclusion through CSO advocacy

Interviewed by ANCEFA during the forum, partners shared their views on how to advance education equity.

Civil society has a role to play...

Community awareness and advocacy has led to improvements at the micro level. More needs to be done to include civil society in political forums and global policy dialogues where education system planning is discussed.

Although efforts have been made to promote quality inclusive education for all, education systems remain far off track from delivering transformational change. In addition to legislation, policies, programs and practices needing to be strengthened, governments must translate principles into action to create inclusive learning environments.

The Cali Forum provided an opportunity for dialogue and exchange to highlight the issue of inclusion and equity in education as part of the Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030, including accelerating progress on SDG 4.

We must step up monitoring

Governments and partners increasingly recognize the expansive definition of inclusive education. As CSOs, we must step up our monitoring and ask for accountability from governments, to ensure no child is left behind and deprived of their right to quality education.

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