International Day of People with Disabilities, celebrated on December 3rd, is an opportunity to promote the fundamental human rights of people with disabilities which they are too often denied.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) about 15 per cent of the world’s population live with some form of disability; 80 per cent of whom live in lower income countries. This population faces many barriers to inclusion in key aspects of life and society, including education.
If we want to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all - we must urgently transform education and remove barriers for girls and boys with disabilities and special needs, who are too often still left behind.
In Sierra Leone, they are doing just that, by implementing a National Policy on Radical Inclusion in Schools. This policy outlines that schools throughout Sierra Leone are accessible to, and inclusive of, all children – especially those that are typically marginalized or excluded.
That means children like Marie, an ambitious young girl living in Sierra Leone who was born blind. Marie comes from a large family with six sisters and seven brothers. Her parents primarily work as farmers.
In 2008, she moved in with her aunt who supported her to attend a special school for blind children in 2009. Later, she enrolled at a mainstream school alongside children with and without disabilities, in her own home district.
Marie shares: ‘Going to school is something I like doing because I believe that education is the key to success. I have accepted the challenge to be educated; since I am blind, without education, my future would be more difficult.’